Two years after Israel became a full member of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland and home to the world’s largest particle accelerator, three Israeli scientists have been appointed to senior positions in the center.
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And the end of last week, CERN’s council approved the appointment of Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici as vice president of the institution. Rabinovici, on the faculty of the Racah Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as chairman of the Israeli Academy of Science’s National Committee for High Energy Physics, has served for years as Israel’s representative to CERN and has worked extensively to strengthen Israel’s scientific ties with the organization.
His appointment at this time is not sealed, because representatives of the 21 countries on the council must approve the appointment. “I regard this as recognition of Israel’s scientific importance, especially in a period that is not easy for Israel in Europe,” Rabinovici told Haaretz. The two other Israelis appointed to senior positions are Prof. Yossi Nir and Eli Marzel.
Nir, who is dean of the Physics Faculty and head of the Center for Experimental Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, was appointed a member of CERN’s scientific committee. Marzel, who is director general of the state comptroller’s office, was appointed a member of CERN’s oversight committee.
Neither of the latter two positions are salaried.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the Foreign Ministry on his Facebook page for the appointments, saying that “the hard work of quiet diplomacy” had let to the three appointments.
Dozens of Israeli scientists are involved in particle acceleration experiments in Israel, but this is the first time Israelis have been appointed to official positions at CERN.
Israel was accepted as a member of CERN in December 2013 with wall-to-wall support by the member countries, among other reasons due to behind-the-scenes diplomacy. It thus became the 21st member of the council and the first one outside Europe. In January 2014, CERN held a ceremony at which the Israeli flag was raised alongside those of the 20 European member countries. This marked the culmination of efforts that began as far back as the early 1980s.
The change in Israel’s status costs Israel some 50 million shekels (about $13 million) but it brings with it quite a few advantages, from prestige and scientific recognition to greater access to the most advanced research facilities and greater access for Israeli firms.