Three Hebrew University Professors Attend Academic Conclave in China

Three Hebrew University faculty members have recently returned from attending international conferences in the People’s Republic of China — a rarity for Israeli academics.

The three are Prof. Dan Yaalon of the Department of Geology in the Institute of Earth Sciences, Dr. Doron Mendels of the Department of History, and Philip Barak of the Department of Soil and Water Sciences in the Faculty of Agriculture.

Yaalon, who is an expert on loess soil, was invited to participate in an international conference on loess research held in Xian, which is in the center of a region of loess soil in China. A number of experts on loess from China and other nations participated. Yaalon said that all of the participants were aware that he was from Israel and knew that he had difficulties in obtaining a visa.

He contrasted this with the atmosphere in the Soviet Union, where he also has visited. He noted that, unlike the Soviet Union, the stores in China have a good selection of goods and there are no lines to purchase items, although prices tend to be quite high. He also was impressed by the readiness of the Chinese to talk about their country and especially to criticize the “cultural revolution.”

The Chinese have many joint projects with other countries, said Yaalon, and there was even some discussion during his stay there about a possible joint project in which he would be involved, although it was made clear that this could not be done directly but would have to be channeled through another country, possibly Switzerland. Yaalon said he would make every effort to try to bring over to Israel a doctoral student from China.

INTERESTED IN ISRAELI EDUCATION

Mendels was invited to participate in a conference in China organized by the City University of New York. It was held in the city of Tayuan, located 300 kilometers southwest of Bejing, and dealt with teaching methods in higher education. According to Mendels, the Chinese were quite interested about the status of education in Israel. The participants in the conference were aware that he was from Israel, although this was not particularly stressed, Mendels said.

He said that in his conversations with political figures, he sensed a certain hesitation at first on their part, but after making known their political views they tended to open up a bit and they also revealed some knowledge about Israel. Mendels added that he got the impression that the Chinese would be interested in progamatic ties with Israel, which they view as a model of a developing country.

Journalists he met in China stressed that economic and cultural ties between Israel and China would have to precede formal diplomatic ties. Mendels said that despite the large Moslem population in China, he did not get the feeling that the Middle East conflict particularly interested the Chinese.

NEXT STORY