An acquaintance connected with the UK’s UIJA (United Israel Jewish Appeal) suggested that I write an article about the Western Galilee College for the AJR Journal (Association of Jewish Refugees), for which I write a monthly column entitled ‘Letter from Israel.’ The college, situated just outside the ancient city of Acre (Akko) in the north of Israel, was happy to set up a meeting for me with members of the administration and some of the students involved in special outreach projects, and so on a sunny winter’s day my OH and I set out on the two-hour drive to the north, passing emerald-green fields, pastures and hills that had benefited from this year’s bountiful rains.
After our meeting in Akko our personal inclination took us across the verdant countryside to another college, the Kinneret Academic College, which is situated in eastern Galilee and is where our grandson Gil is currently studying for his B.Sc. in Energy Engineering. After trying courses in Civil Engineering at other institutions, Gil settled for the innovative degree course in Energy Engineering that has recently been established at the Kinneret Academic College.
Gil had arranged an interview with the President of the college, Professor Shimon Gepstein, who has retired from his post as Professor of Biology at the Haifa Technion. The Kinneret college is certainly worthy of an article of its own, and I hope that in the not-too-distant future I’ll be able to write a report that does that institution justice.
In our meeting Professor Gepstein told us that many of the academic staff at the college are in fact retired academics from other institutions, and in this day and age it is important to find useful employment for people who are experts in their field and are eager to impart knowledge to the younger generation of students.
It was thrilling to be shown around the campus by Gil, and especially to visit its magnificent library (listed as one of the ten most beautiful buildings in Israel). It would be hard to find a setting more enchanting than the vista overlooking the Lake of Galilee. The college library, which was inaugurated in 2010, is built with windows that set off the view to perfection while letting in the light that irradiates the building’s open, wood-lined interior. Sponge mattresses have been placed along one interior wall on some of the wide wooden steps inside the building that go up to the top level, enabling students to take a rest when studying gets too much for them. If only I’d had something like that when I was at university! The ultra-modern library contains many thousands of volumes as well as an array of computers providing access to virtually all the academic research being conducted anywhere in the world.
Gil had also arranged for us to stay overnight in the guest house of Kibbutz Degania Bet, one of the first kibbutzim to be established in Israel, and we were accommodated in a comfortable room that was as spacious and well-equipped as any fancy hotel anywhere in the world. For dinner we had booked a table at the kibbutz restaurant named 1910 (the year the kibbutz was founded). Contrary to traditional kibbutz communal dining, this was a very elegant establishment with a menu based largely on the most exquisite Italian cuisine. For Gil and me it was a culinary delight, although my OH had difficulties finding a meal without cheese or cream that met his dietary requirements.
The time we spent with Gil was extremely enjoyable, including the nice things said to us about him by some of his colleagues and associates in the kibbutz and the college, where he works on a part-time basis.
As we drove home we felt elated at the thought that Gil is about to embark on a career in a field that is at the forefront of one the most pressing concerns of our modern world, one that is assuming ever-increasing importance. As the world finally wakes up to the fact that the subject of energy is one that will continue to preoccupy humankind in order to guarantee our future and that of our planet, it is becoming increasingly important to apply our minds and capabilities to overcoming the problems we are facing. I salute the Kinneret Academic College for focusing on one of the most crucial topics of our time.