By Anav Silverman
An honorary Commander of the British Empire in the name of Queen Elizabeth II was conferred upon the President of Ben Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi yesterday. Carmi was honored by Buckingham Palace for her significant work in deepening academic and scientific links between the United Kingdom and Israel.
Professor Carmi, who is a stem cell scientist, was presented with the medal and scroll personally signed by Queen Elizabeth II at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Ramat Gan on Monday, June 9.
“Rivka is an outstanding leader whom I hold in high esteem,” said British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who presented Carmi with the honor.
“She is also an outstanding and wonderful friend and partner in the mission to build scientific links between the UK and Israel. She has invested huge amounts of time to make it happen, and I could not have hoped for a better partner,” said Ambassador Gould.
Both Ambassador Gould and Professor Carmi have been the founding co-chairs of the UK Israel Science Council, which was established five years ago to improve science collaboration between both countries. The UK Israel Science Council, a body of some 20 leading UK and Israeli scientists, was launched by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in November 2010. Hague has described Britain and Israel as “scientific superpowers.”
“The brainchild of Matthew [Gould], the UK-Israel Life Sciences council brought together the scientific powers of our two countries in order to increase collaboration and to promote peace through science and it is for my small part in this project, that I, an Israeli – today become a Commander of the British Empire!” exclaimed Professor Carmi. “Never in my wildest dreams!”
Carmi also thanked her colleagues in the council. “As co-chairperson of this council, I am fortunate to have the most outstanding Israeli scientists in my group and so fortunate to have as partner Professor Raymond Dwek of Oxford, who co-chairs for the UK and his British group of equally distinguished scientists.”
“I am truly honored to accept this award,” added Carmi. “In the past weeks since the announcement I have received many messages of congratulations and I have answered them all thus – I accept this not for myself but for Ben Gurion University and for Israel, both of which I am proud and pleased to serve.”
The Israeli professor also commented on the current BDS campaign against Israel, saying that she was both “disgusted and worried” by its momentum. “However, I believe absolutely that this is a lot of unpleasant noise made by a few ignorant individuals and that the amazing success of our joint Sciences Council is proof that I am right, and the best response.”
“At universities across Israel and the UK, including Ben Gurion University and Oxford, we will not be halted in our endeavors to use the great talent of our scientists to conduct cutting edge research and to bring new solutions to global issues –and to truly improve the life of people regardless of race, color or religion,” she concluded.