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Issues of the Day With a New Israeli Nobel Prize Winner, Celebration and Concern

There is now a tenth Israeli Nobelist, Daniel Shechtman, distinguished professor of chemistry at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, who has won the 2011 prize for chemistry for his work on quasi-crystals, a radical but now established concept upending the conventional view of crystals as composed of symmetrical configurations of atoms.

Shechtman's work has already had concrete, practical applications. He persisted in asserting his unconventional view of the fundamentals of modern chemistry despite pressure from peers. In breaking with the conventional  paradigm, Shechtman follows in the tradition of Jewish revolutionary thinkers, Marx, Freud, Einstein and others who bucked the prevailing intellectual strictures, offering immense insight into the workings of the universe.

Prof. Shechtman's achievement is a cause for celebration among Israelis and its supporters. However, the success represented by the awarding of the Nobel Prize to ten Israelis since 1966 (when the first Israeli Nobelist, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, won the award for literature), may not be sustained. This concern derives from the decline in the country's educational achievements and deficiencies in the educational system.

Largely responsible for this decline, is the poor standing of teachers in the school system as represented by the levels of remuneration they receive. I also believe that the society's shift to materialistic and technical mores over the past decades also plays a role in this decline.
In any case, we are honored by Daniel Schechtman's achievement and civilization is undoubtedly the richer for it.     

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