Israeli Professor Elected President of European Nuclear Research Group CERN

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Prof. Eliezer Rabinovich in Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, in 2007.
Prof. Eliezer Rabinovich in Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, in 2007.Credit: David Bachar

Prof. Eliezer Rabinovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was elected on Friday as the council president of CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research.

This is the first time that an Israeli researcher has been appointed to such a senior post at CERN, the world’s leading organization researching high-energy physics. Rabinovich’s one-year term begins on January 1 and is renewable for two additional terms.

CERN, which was founded in 1954, has a staff of thousands of physicists from around the world engaged in experiments on particle accelerators and the basic building blocks of matter. Particle accelerators use electromagnetic fields to speed up charged particles in a beam that is then used to research the nature of matter. Israel is the only one of the 23 member countries of CERN that is not in Europe.

“The fact that we have become full members of CERN, despite the fact that in the view of many, we aren’t a European country, as well as my selection, are an indication of the quality of Israeli science and the contribution of generations of Israeli physicists to CERN,” Rabinoivich told Haaretz after he was tapped as head of the CERN council. The next several years are expected to be crucial for CERN in charting the organization’s path for decades to come, Rabinovich added.

Rabinovich is a theoretical physicist who received his doctorate in high energy physics from the Weizmann Institute in 1974 and directed Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics from 1995 to 1997. In 2014, he was involved in the complex process of getting Israel accepted as a full member of CERN and was council vice president of the Geneva-based organization from 2016 to 2018. He was also involved in the establishment of the SESAME particle accelerator in Jordan, in which scientists from all around the Middle East participated, including Palestinians and Iranians.

Prof. Yoram Rozen, a high energy physicist at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, said Rabinovich’s latest appointment at CERN was not done to honor Israel but because he is the best person for the job. “This is someone who moves mountains, who walks through walls,” Rozen quipped.

“And in addition, he’s a genuine human being. [Regarding] what Rabinovich has done at SESAME, calling it a miracle would be an understatement,” he said. “During one of the rounds of fighting at the time, he brought Israel, the Arab countries and the Iranians to the table. He’s outstanding, and that’s why CERN chose him.”

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