Grandpa Gabi Earns University of Haifa Doctorate at 90

May 28, 2019

3 min read

At the recent annual graduation ceremony for Ph.D. graduates at the University of Haifa recently, Gabi Barashi seemed a bit out of place. Dressed in black robes and a mortarboard cap among students in their 20s and 30s, he was old enough to be their grandfather.

Barashi – 90 – earned his doctoral degree from the university’s Bible Department and graduated in the framework of the university’s 47th Board of Governors meeting.

Dr. Barashi, a father of three and a grandfather of three is a former officer of the Israel Defense Forces, in which he served as commander of the 12th Golani Brigade. He left the military with the rank of colonel, after which he started to analyze political issues in the Bible.

The white-haired graduate is a member of the minority in more ways than one. This year saw a record number of 180 new Ph. Ds from the University of Haifa in 2019, but the men – 69 – were far outnumbered by the women –111.

In 2007, Barashi turned to the head of the university’s Bible Department, Prof. Meir Malul and asked him for help in turning the material he collected into a book. Instead, the professor suggested that he begin his doctorate. After a short period of time, Barashi chose to start his Ph.D. studies under the direction of Prof. Gershon Galil, who was interested in a reexamination of poetry about the individual in the Book of Psalms.

He is the oldest graduate from the University of Haifa and probably one of the oldest university graduates in the country’s history. “This is one of the most exciting days in my life,” said Barashi. “I took a day off from my work in the garden. My children, including my son who came especially from the US – were at the ceremony. When you have a goal, it gives you the strength to go on with your life,” he noted.

According to Barshi, memorization and repetition of the material was not easy for him, but on the other hand, there were cases in which his age gave him an advantage. “The young students remembered better than I, but in terms of understanding things, I was better off,” he said. “Students of the German language frequently asked me for help.”

Another difficulty that Barashi had to cope with during his studies was technology: He is not very adept with computers. “At one point, I had to present my research proposal to the class. All the other students, of course, presented advanced presentations with Microsoft Excel, but I told them that when I first studied, such technological toys didn’t exist, so I don’t use them. I presented them orally with details of my thesis. ‘Listen carefully to what I say,’ I told them. Of course, they responded with a broad smile.”

Although the newly minted doctor has already begun to receive proposals about doing post-doctoral work, at this stage he has already announced that he will take a break from his studies and try to focus on publishing his book, which started the entire process. He is dedicating the volume to his wife, Batsheva, who passed away a few years ago during the writing of his thesis. She worked hard, sacrificed things for me but was very proud.”

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