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Nobel winner Shechtman stresses education, entrepreneurship

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Accepting his Nobel Prize, Israel’s Dan Shechtman encouraged entrepreneurship among the young.

Shechtman, of the Haifa Technion, became the 10th Israeli to win the world’s most prestigious prize at Saturday’s annual Nobel ceremony in Stockholm.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman’s discovery of quasicrystals, long ridiculed by colleagues, "has created a new cross-disciplinary branch of science, drawing from, and enriching, chemistry, physics and mathematics. This is in itself of the greatest importance."

"It has also given us a reminder of how little we really know and perhaps even taught us some humility," said academy professor Sven Lidin.

Addressing the Nobel banquet, Shechtman said scientists have a duty "to promote education, rational thinking and tolerance."

"We should also encourage our educated youth to become technological entrepreneurs. Those countries that nurture this knowhow will survive future financial and social crises. Let us advance science to create a better world for all," he said.

Interviewed Sunday, Shechtman, 70, made clear he worried about education in Israel — specifically that of the haredi Orthodox sector, which sometimes places more a premium on religious studies than on core secular subjects.

"You can pray to the heavens, but it doesn’t put bread on the table or provide defense for the country," he told Israel Radio.

Shechtman called for state funds to be denied to schools that neglect the core curriculum and for parents who deprive their children of a rounded education to be "punished under law."

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