The IDC Herzliya Difference
“Professor Reichman built this place 25 year ago because he felt there was a need for an alternative innovative academic option in Israeli higher education,” says Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya, and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati Internation al School. Tanned, relaxed, and looking far younge than his seventy years, Davis explains the IDC differ ence, in his office on campus.
“Professor Reichman wanted to build an academic institution that stands for humanistic Zionism, and a the same time not to be afraid to say that we believe in striving for excellence in academia and nurturing future leaders. It is a Zionism, says Davis, that respect minorities within the framework of a Jewish and dem ocratic state, and is the Zionism of the Jewish democ racy of Israel – “a Zionism of being human to each other, based on the philosophy of Herzl, Jabotinsky Ben Gurion and Begin.
That, explains Davis, is the spirit of IDC Herzliya It is expressed in many different ways at the institu tition; from the exemption of psychometric exam granted to IDF combat officers, to the two hours o elective academic credits awarded for serving eleven days of army reserve duty, to the annual barbeque hosted by the school for students who serve in miluim (army reserves).
Founded in 1994 by Professor Uriel Reichman, a noted Israeli legal scholar, IDC Herzliya is a private educational institution entity which is not subsidized by the government and is dedicated to the pursuit o excellence in education and research. Davis heads the International School, which includes 2,000 student from 90 different countries. Overall, the university boasts an enrollment of more than 7,000 students.
The International program encompasses full under graduate and graduate degrees, all taught in English from Psychology, Entrepreneurship and Business to Computer Science, Government, Sustainability and Communications. While the majority of foreign stu dents come from North America, there are a signifi cant number of students who hail from Europe and Latin America, China, and Africa. The university also has a special program that brings students from Afri can countries such as Rwanda, Somalia, and South Su dan, whose families were persecuted and even killed This, explains Davis, is another example of the hu manistic form of Zionism practiced at IDC.
Davis says that 60% of the School’s internationa students make Aliyah, and he adds, “It’s an unconven tional Zionist tool to make Israel a better country.” He
as high hopes for those who remain in Israel permaently, and says, “We want the 60% that stay here to ecome productive citizens. Let them become memers of the Knesset. Let them change things in this ountry and help make it a better place.” Those who eturn to their communities overseas, he says, can beome great ambassadors for Israel regardless of their eligion or creed. “A 3-year degree in Israel,” says Dais, “where a student has the opportunity to weigh the luses and minuses of Israel, is an experience that is ar greater than a short 2-month program.” Davis points out that the gathering of students from round the world, both in formal educational settings s well as informal ones provides a useful educational dvantage. “One of the really great benefits for stuents and professors is that they can learn from each ther and understand the national character of peole who come from these different countries. People rom different national backgrounds have different pproaches to psychology, economics, and other subects. “To a great extent,” he says, “the professors are n a situation where they can learn things that they ouldn’t learn from textbooks.”
Davis reveals that one of the secrets of the success f IDC’s International School is the level of care and oncern provided by the school’s administration. It’s TLC – tender loving care,” he says. “We have a ull-time person whose job is to take the person by he hand to solve all of the bureaucratic problems of srael that the student might face when they come ere alone.” Davis’s staff is fluent in many languags, including English, French, German, and Spanish, nd, he adds, they are sympathetic to needs of foreign tudents. “Our staff feels the soul of the students and dentifies with them.” Davis says that surveys taken ach year have consistently shown that IDC’s interperonal relations between students and staff are among he highest of universities in Israel. This is epitomized y the fact that IDC does not have a faculty club on ampus, where professors eat apart from the students. There is one cafeteria, and students stand in line with rays together with the professors. The student is our artner.”
Davis, a native Californian, came to Israel in 1969 o study on a one-year program at Hebrew University while a student at Columbia University, stayed, and ompleted his degree in Israel. He was a lone soldier, erved in the army for three years in a paratrooper reonnaissance unit in the Yom Kippur War, as well as in he First Lebanon War. Davis presently serves as a Lt. olonel Reserves, and is proud of that fact that the inernational students have served under his command n reserve duty. His desire and interest in helping forign students undoubtedly stems from the difficult onditions that he faced, as a single immigrant in the arly 1970s. “I’ve come full circle,” he says. “I have fun oing what I do.”
In addition to the Raphael Recanati Internationl School, IDC Herzliya encompasses ten different chools with a variety of undergraduate and gradute programs. MA programs are offered in Business, nglish, Health Management, Diplomacy, Countr-terrorism, and numerous other subjects. The Harry adzyner Law School is offering a new Master’s proram in Law, technology, and business innovation, which is the first of its kind in Israel. The Abba Eban nstitute for International Diplomacy is revolutionizing Israel’s foreign policy while strengthening its international image. IDC, says Davis, provides its students with a practical toolbox of skills that they can put to use in their work lives. As examples, he cites the school’s entrepreneurship club, which helps startup students develop practical skills, and the debating team, which teaches students to communicate and state positions in a normative, civil fashion. “One of the differences between us and other universities,” says, Davis, “is that we want our students to hit the ground running when they finish, in order to get a practical approach to life. We have a startup and entrepreneurial approach.” Participation of the students in the annual Herzliya and counter-terrorism conferences also provde a great experience for the students and introduces them to the movers and shakers of Israel. Hundreds of IDC Herzliya graduates, says Davis, are doing graduate work at top schools around the world, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, and at leading institutions in Europe, such as Oxford and Cambridge. IDC also offers exchange programs with 120 universities around the world, and third-year students can spend a semester overseas. IDC is certified by the Council of Higher Education in Israel, and the Council has authorized IDC Herzliya to award PhD degrees, which will make it the first private university in Israel.
Students come from throughout Israel, from the Galil, Negev, and Israel’s center, as well as from the periphery. Davis adds that IDC offers special scholarships to students from economically deprived homes, as well as the Ray of Light program which enables highly motivated young people with great academic potential, who come from a weaker socioeconomic background, to acquire an academic degree in computer science, accounting, or Economics and Entrepreneurship. It also offers scholarships and monthly stipends to over 50 Ethiopian students in the Israel at Heart program. Another vision of Prof. Reichman to always keep ahead of the game is the development of an Innovation Center, where Neuroscience, Computer science, Communications, Psychology, AI, Big Data, Media lab, high-tech, and industry will sit under one roof and work with students and faculty.
Undergraduate or graduate, international or local, IDC’s goals for its students are the same, says Davis. “Our job is to make the students into the best of the best for the benefit of the state of Israel. We are here to do good for the country.” Twenty-five years and 27,000 alumni later, the country agrees. ■
600 Raphael Recanati International Students visit the grave of Ben Gurion
Professor Reichman and Jonathan Davis with a number of the 60 italian students on campus.
JD in the Negev with RRIS staff and students.