Senior Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson attended a a cornerstone-laying ceremony on Wednesday for a medical school at the Ariel University, located in one of the largest West Bank settlements.
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Adelson and his wife Miriam attended the ceremony days after Israel Police questioned them concerning the ongoing investigation into whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yediot Aharonoth publisher Arnon Mozes discussed providing favorable coverage to Netanyahu in exchange for efforts on his part to pass legislation favorable to Yediot. Education Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman also attended the ceremony.
Bennett announced the medical school during his speech at the event, thanking the Adelsons for their donation and presented them with an ancient coin. "I'd like to offer a benediction for and dream of the day when we come to the graduation ceremony of the students and Torah [also learning] come out from here," he said.
Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu said "Sara [his wife] and I are very moved to be here, because we simply love Ariel, and love the University of Ariel." He thanked the Adelsons for their contribution and called them "great patriots of the Jewish nation." He added that "We are on the one hand driven by a universal calling to help and heal, and on the other hand, we will continue to fight terrorism and lead the fight against international terrorism. The medical school that will be built here will leave a great mark, it will be a center of real excellence, it will bring more excellent doctors, and will draw to it the best of forces. It will train generations of students."
Adelson thanked Netanyahu and Bennett. He criticized the fact that Israeli students are forced to travel abroad in order to learn medicine, adding that the decision to donate the funds for the establishment of the medical school was "a very easy one."
Despite the fanfare, the university's medical school program, will be named the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson School of Medicine, is still pending Education Ministry authorization. The university said that Bennett has expressed support for the plan but that the ministry has yet to sign off on it. The university hopes to inaugurate its medical school in the school year beginning in October 2018.
The university currently offers a three-year life sciences degree. This doesn't include the clinical and advanced studies needed for a medical degree.