The President of the State of Israel, Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate and delivered a keynote address at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s annual Convocation over the weekend. 277 Hebrew University students were awarded Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the festive event, which took place at the Rothberg Amphitheatre of the Mount Scopus campus.

The President surprised the audience by joining fellow Honorary Doctorate recipient Miki Gavrielov to sing the popular Israeli song “Ani v’Attah” (“You and I Will Change the World”). The internationally acclaimed song, a collaboration between Gabrielov and the late Israeli musician Arik Einstein, was recorded over 40 years ago as an anthem celebrating youth and the promise to change the world.

In his keynote address, President Rivlin said:

“Within a polarized Israeli society, with separate education systems, academia is the educational place whereby first meetings take place between the four Israeli tribes; secular, ultra-Orthodox, religious, Arab. This is the reason why academia has such an essential role in shaping the future of Israeli society.

“I especially admire the Hebrew University, which takes care to view the value in the composition of society — and in particular the growth of the ultra-Orthodox public and Arab society in Israel — as an opportunity to enrich academic excellence, and not as a threat to excellence. I thank the Hebrew University and its leaders, for taking the lead in building a joint and equal Israel, for which we thirst today, from within the academic world, and for looking at society as a whole. We still have a lot of shared work ahead of us in promoting this topic, where the challenges of Israeli society converge with the love of truth.

“The truth is vital for our soundness as a society and nation, but no less essential is trust. Despite the political pitfalls, striving to expand the government is correct and justified, even if it gathers objections, as the last elections show that the Israeli public has made its choice. I hope and believe that all governments will act cautiously, responsibly, and with consideration for the benefit of all the citizens of Israel. A national ethical vision, a public consciousness to serve, striving to realize the public interest, and above all an internal and public truth: these are the conditions without which the public may lose confidence not only in its elected officials, but in democracy itself. The public trust is our truth, and it is to them that we must be devoted.”

Regarding the Hebrew University, President Rivlin added:

“For many years, the Hebrew University was a real home for me. As a child, I remember my father – may he rest in peace – Professor Yosef Yoel Rivlin, was a member of the Oriental Studies Faculty in the nascent university. When I grew up and had completed my military service, I acquired my law degree from Hebrew University…. The University was my ‘Alma Mater’, a maternal institution, and also, by virtue of my father’s work, a paternal institution.

“Many years have gone by and today the Hebrew University is a beacon of Israeli excellence whose light radiates to all corners of the globe. University graduates, teachers and research faculty have received and continue to receive prestigious awards; Nobel, Fields, Turing, and others. Its researchers are pioneers in inventions and research, it’s students are proud to be associated with it. Year after year, the University develops academic elite – an elite which serves, which is dedicated, mobilized for the sake of this place, and for people who live in it.”

President Rivlin was among eleven distinguished personalities awarded Honorary Doctorates in recognition of their contributions to society, including: Prof. Winslow R. Briggs; Prof. Lorraine Daston; Mr. Patrick Drahi; Mr. Miki Gavrielov; Prof. Francesco Iachello; Mr. Joseph Lebovic; Prof. Michael Sherraden; Mr. Stuart Silbert OAM; The Hon. Mrs. Laura Wolfson Townsley, and Mr. Mortimer B. Zuckerman.

The Convocation is the high point of the 79th Meeting of the Hebrew University’s International Board of Governors, taking place from May 27 to June 1.

Addressing the graduates, the President of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, said: “For many it is convenient to engage with the Jerusalem of yesterday — full of years, people, events, romance, violence, holiness and politics. Yesterday is so etched in the physical and human landscape of Jerusalem, that few can remain indifferent to the city and its yesterday. But our tomorrow is renewed thanks to you, our dear scholars, students and leaders. My request to you, is to carry far and wide the good name of your city, Jerusalem. We all share in this mission, to carry forth throughout all the regions of our country, and across the seas, the word of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, its spirit, and its vision.”

The 2016 Solomon Bublick Prize was awarded to Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, alumnus and former President of the Hebrew University, Professor Emeritus of theoretical physics, and the Andre Aisenstadt Chair in theoretical physics. As the Academic Director of the Einstein Center and the Albert Einstein Archives, he is the University’s appointee responsible for Einstein’s intellectual property. He has held many academic and administrative positions at the University, and currently heads the executive committee of the Israel Science Foundation and is the chairperson of the “Basha’ar – Academic Community for Israeli Society” association.

The 2016 Samuel Rothberg Prize was awarded to Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, founder and Executive Director of the National Council for the Child, who is retiring after 30 years. As Executive Director, he has elevated the issue of children at risk to the center of public discourse and debate in Israel. For three decades he has devoted his life to promoting the welfare and rights of children in Israel, to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of children.