On the second day of the University of Michigan School of Public Health trip to Israel, we traveled south to Ben Gurion University of the Negev, which extended an invitation to U-M SPH to visit their campus and speak with individuals who work within the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Negev is a desert region located in southern Israel, which comprises about 60% of Israel’s landmass but only 8% of Israel’s population.
Ben Gurion University, which is located in the town of Be’er Sheva, was specifically instituted to bring Israelis to the south to create a more prosperous and successful community for its citizens. A number of environmental and social challenges have historically been present in the Negev region: bombardment and shelling in the town of Sderot, sand storms, intense heat, air pollution, and the presence of a growing number of indigenous populations who face unique health challenges and health disparities. Michael Friger, who serves as the head of Public Health at the university, explained that part of the community’s resiliency in the face of challenge has been to handle it with science. As United States Assistant Secretary for Health Philip Lee once said, “The orientation of this school … provides the rest of the world with an extraordinary model for research, education and service. [It] brings a realism into the health and education system that we sorely lack in the United States.”
Each faculty member who was present from the U-M as well as a number of faculty members from the Ben Gurion Faculty of Health Sciences, gave brief introductions to the work of their respective departments and to their own ongoing research projects. This small research seminar highlighted potential research areas in which collaboration could strengthen research initiatives at both universities and demonstrated complimentary strengths both schools can offer one another.