Canadian-Israeli Sylvan Adams pledges $100m ‘to strengthen Israel’s south’

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Canadian-Israeli Sylvan Adams pledges $100m ‘to strengthen Israel’s south’

Gift will go to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which has a significant presence in a region badly shaken by the attacks of 7 October

An aerial view of Midreshet Sde Boker in Israel's Negev desert region
An aerial view of Midreshet Sde Boker in Israel's Negev desert region

A Canadian-Israeli philanthropist has pledged one of the largest donations of its kind to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) “to strengthen Israel’s south”.

Sylvan Adams, a cycling enthusiast, is donating $100m to the university, which lost 82 students, staff, faculty, and their family members during the 7 October attacks along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.

Announcing the money in Toronto, Adams said that after the massacre of civilians by Hamas terrorists “it is crucial that we strengthen Israel’s south to ensure that Israelis feel safe and secure to rebuild their lives in the Negev”.

Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had a vision “of making the desert bloom,” said Adams. “He [Ben-Gurion] understood that the Negev is the beating heart of Israel, the growth and future of the country. We are telling our enemies and the world at large that we are here to stay.

“As such, the imperative to inject life into the Negev, is more important now than ever. We must make sure that the desert remains the launching point of Israel’s future, despite the pogrom that our people endured.”

BGU has campuses in Be’er Sheva, Sde Boker, and Eilat. With 20,000 students, it is the largest employer in Israel’s large desert region, with 6,700 staff. The money is for “an extensive plan aimed at advancing education and campus life”.

BGU Canada’s incoming chief executive Andrea Freedman described the money as an “incredible transformational gift, at a time of unprecedented need in Israel”.

At the ceremony, BGU president Prof Danny Chamovitz identified six key areas of impact, including the future of the Negev and Israel, technologies for the future, climate change, sustainability and the environment, and global health.

BGU Canada president Mitchell Oelbaum said the university “has been a catalyst for economic and social development for over 50 years in this area of Israel”, adding: “In recent months, our students, staff, and faculty persevered in the face of one of our country’s darkest moments. This gift comes at the perfect time for renewal.”

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