Israel is building in Ariel, and it will always remain a part of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged in the settlement on Wednesday during the cornerstone-laying ceremony for a new medical center at Ariel University.
Netanyahu said the center, named after the donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, will attract the “best teachers and researchers, and will train generations of students who will add prestige to Israeli medicine, and add to Israel’s prestige in the world.”
Netanyahu praised Adelson for his numerous contributions – from Yad Vashem, to Birthright, to Jewish education around the world, and to medical research.
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were questioned earlier this week by police regarding the ongoing investigation into Netanyahu’s contacts with Arnon Mozes, the publisher Yediot Aharonot.
The cornerstone-laying event took place amid reports that the relationship between Netanyahu and Adelson is not as close as it once was, and that the American billionaire is getting closer to Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, who also attended the ceremony.
Ariel University, Netanyahu said, is an open and pluralistic institution where Jews and non-Jews study together in tolerance and mutual respect. “That is the true spirit of Israel,” he said.
Adelson, who has a medical research foundation, said at the ceremony that the number of Israeli medical schools “is woefully inadequate.”
Adelson said that he has Israeli friends who have gone to study medicine in Italy, Hungary, Romania and other European nations. “I’m asking, the Jewish people are supposed to be some of the smartest people in the world, why are they going to European countries?” he said. “It doesn’t go so easy because they have to learn another language before they can even study medicine.”
Adelson said that when the idea of establishing a medical school in Ariel came up, “it was a very easy decision.”
“Can you imagine a loved one, a sister, a parent, a child, a sibling needs medical care, and there are no doctors,” he said. “I can’t imagine that after thousands of years of reaching out be first-class citizens, we finally achieved it in our country here in Israel, and we have to go elsewhere to learn about medicine. It didn’t suit me right.”
Bennett said that the medical school will “heal the open wounds in Israeli society, and between us and our neighbors. This is a place for Israelis of all backgrounds to meet and interact. Secular and religious; Jews and Arabs; rich and poor.”
Like Netanyahu, Bennett praised Adelson. “Sheldon and Miri Adelson, you are investing in our present, but you are also investing in the future of the Jewish people, and the future of our education,” he said. “Thank you very much.”