Israeli Philanthropy: Planned Galilee Medical School May Change the Way We Think About Giving to Israel


It’s Israel’s academic version of “Survivor” and there can only be one winner.

In Israel, the stakes are high for the establishment of a new medical school in the Galilee with Bar Ilan University and the University of Haifa competing for sponsorship.

But there’s more– the new medical school will likely be created in tandem with a university town, introducing Israeli philanthropy to an unprecedented marriage of academia, business, and entrepreneurship.

BarIlanUniversity Logo

All sources place Bar Ilan as the front runner for its public relations campaign and potential donors. Neither Bar Ilan or the University of Haifa have medical schools, although Haifa and the Technion have a prestigious nursing partnership. Bar Ilan, the University of Haifa, and the Weizmann Institute are the only three public universities in Israel without medical schools.

Why a New Medical School?

The impetus for the new medical school sources from the estimate that by 2015, Israel will be facing a shortage of doctors. In recent years, Israel’s medical profession has been buoyed by Russian immigration, with a high percentage of new immigrants arriving as licensed doctors in their own countries.

While the existing university medical schools claim that there is no need for another one– which they say would create unnecessary competition and tax medical resources– this argument appears laughable when you look at the loud evidence to the contrary.

The Ministry of Health recommends doubling the number of new medical professionals entering the field each year, increasing the number to 600 doctors and 800 nurses. Gabi Ben Nun, Director General of the Ministry of Health states, “It takes seven years to fully train a physician and four to train a nurse, that is why we must take action now.”

Why the Galilee?

A recent report by the Galilee Conference found that those living in the Galilee had some of the lowest incomes of any region in Israel.

The Ministry of Health reports that medical school interns eschew Israel’s periphery, preferring to study in the country’s center where resources are most concentrated. Says one intern: “As a new doctor, I want to be exposed to the maximum amount of knowledge, instruments and advanced technologies. Most of my friends prefer to do their internships at one of the hospitals in the center.”

Dr. Shimon Scharf of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center comments, “It’s a problem for the entire periphery. There is a shortage of doctors, and here it’s most acute. Interns could do a hell of a job here.”

But medical students go where they perceive they will get the best experience. That means, staying in the country’s center– unless something can tempt them elsewhere.

MosheKaveh BIU

Bar Ilan President Moshe Kaveh explains, “There is dramatic emigration each year from the Galilee, and medical care is a big part of that. The chances of survival for a person with heart attack complications is 50 percent lower in the Galilee than in the country’s center.”

Photo by YNet News

Potential Donors

Who are the potential donors to the new medical school? Bar Ilan tells us that they have lined up American real estate entrepreneur Bob Stark with a potential pledge of $500 million.

Stark’s vision is to create a university town around the medical school, complete with shopping center, restaurants, entertainment, and a yeshiva hesdar for student-soldiers. The town would be created near Tsfat.

Stark would lead a group of donors in attempting to raise a significant portion of the estimated $3 to $4 billion needed to create the medical school complex.

Although the Israeli government will be responsible for footing the costs of the medical school’s establishment and operating budget, it is safe to say that major donors will be needed to make the school fully functional and nationally competitive.

Kaveh and Stark will team to raise a minimum of $500 million in initial funding that will go toward getting current Galilee hospitals up to teaching standards, building the medical school and medical research center, and constructing student dormitories.

A Note Trends in Jewish Philanthropy

Bar Ilan’s establishment of a new medical school is interesting in and of itself, but there are a number of trends that we should be aware of here in our study of Jewish philanthropy.

  • Bob Stark is an observant Jew. Bar Ilan University is a religious school, the only public university in Israel that has a religious bent. Note that many of the most active and generous donors in Israeli philanthropy tend to be religious Jews– this is a growing trend. Watch for more on religious Jews and Jewish philanthropy in the upcoming Israeli billionaires series
  • Stark is the head of Stark Enterprises, a major real estate firm in Cleveland that specializes in designing planned communities. This project will clearly take expertise in real estate and city planning, feeding directly into Stark’s professional experience
  • If Bar Ilan wins the bid for sponsorship, Stark’s donation will be the first in the history of Israeli philanthropy to combine academic and business ventures

HaifaLet me also add my personal belief that in the next decade we will see a growing trend of Israeli universities partnering with cities and businesses to promote regional economic growth.

Haifa is the ripest example of where this could occur with the University of Haifa, the Technion, and a major hi-tech market all located within the city.



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    7 Responses to Israeli Philanthropy: Planned Galilee Medical School May Change the Way We Think About Giving to Israel

    1. thenewjew says:

      That’s so funny. I will be posting on that tonight. It definitely does interest me. What’s your opinion (or do you want to save it for the actual post)?

      Now I have to go find you. 🙂


    2. Shai says:

      I like the idea. I love it when people with vision take a chance on Israel. I just hope that we don’t tire him out like the long list of other foreign real estate developers that tried to make a go of it here, starting in the early to mid 1990’s.

      Do you remember reading about the turn of the previous century philanthropic ventures called by Cecil Rhodes “philanthropy at 5%”? There was a flood of such ventures at the time, of projects that helped their sponsors “do well by doing good” (which by the way is the motto of James Rouse, a founding member of the Urban Land Institute and a major American real estate developer).

      The idea was to develop projects that helped people, but had a return on investment that was competititve (5%).

      I see that here. I don’t think it’s bad – but Israel isn’t America. In some ways 21st century Israel has the worst of all worlds. We pay taxes like socialists, and get benefits like capitalists, because we’re transitioning from the former to the latter. There are a lot of people profiting on the par between those two ideas, and they are not always happy to share with outsiders. There are lots of people who would like to see the idea succeed, but others who will want to stop it if they can’t have a part of it (could be political credit, could be profit, partnership of some kind). Israeli bureaucrats are in the habit of showing how much power they have by stopping you from achieving something, not by showing how they can enable you. A possible resource is Shimon Peres, at the end of his political career, now president, who in the past had the ministry in charge of developing the periphery. That will go a long way, but there will be those in the Israel Land Administration who are going to want to look real carefully at the donation of land for institutional use, and the proposals for how that will spin off value for other land for businesses and residences. The ILA does not let these sorts of things happen generally unless they’re sure they can capture the wealth of the land resource for the national coffer. There going to want to have bids for all the non-institutional lands. If Mr. Stark is looking for a Tefen Model, whereby he gets to build a new city on free state land, I wonder if they’ll still do it (Tefen I believe was built ~25 years ago – a different era). To see more about how Stef Wertheimer, the founder of Tefen, does well by doing good, see The Stark approach seems very similar – identify a national need, and use it as a launching point for mutually beneficial business ventures (public/private partnerships).

      THe problem with the ILA’s approach, if they take it, is that it significantly restricts the free-flow of entrepreneurship. It’s reasonable, I think, that a developer who builds a college campus and medical school that the country benefits from might have built in a revenue side to the concept, too. I just wonder aloud whether the bureacrats can get used to this kind of idea.

      By the way, I had an idea that I was commissioned to develop by the Ministry of National Infrastructure a few years back, for affordable housing. It called for what I described as “development franchises” where developers compete for the right to a region of about 10 to 15 years worth of land (referring to absorption rate of land with houses, etc.). Very little money is paid for up front for the land – it’s paid out as the land is developed and individual components purchased. They then research, build, market and sell the development in competition with other franchises. An idea like that could probably allow Stark to achieve the “philanthropy at 5%” objective, while giving the state confidence that they’ll make their money, that the timing terms are manageable, AND that the state will benefit from the institutional development.

    3. thenewjew says:

      Update with excerpted text below.
      An article from the Jerusalem Post from Thursday, Dec. 20th: “Too few hospital beds but Treasury unmoved.”

      The Health Ministry admits to a continuing decline in the number of general hospital beds – despite the growth and ageing of Israel’s population – in a report it has issued on hospitalization trends in 2006.

      Hospital crowding is due to intensify because the Treasury has not allowed the Health Ministry to even think of allowing the construction of more facilities until 2010.

      The report showed that in 2006, the number of beds in general hospitals dropped by 25 to 14,582. The number in psychiatric institutions significantly declined, while the number in hospitals offering long-term care for the elderly and others with chronic diseases increased.

      The general hospitals had an average occupancy rate of 95 percent – among the highest in the developed world – and even more crowding in internal medicine, acute geriatrics, oncology, bone marrow transplant, pediatric intensive care, gynecology and obstetrics. The average patient is hospitalized for an average of 4.1 days, which, due to the lack of beds, is shorter than in most other developed countries The number of hospitalization days in general hospitals was 5.1 million in 2006. A fifth of general hospital patients were over the age of 75 last year, compared to only 17% a decade before…

      Of all general hospital beds, 46% are owned by the government, 30.4% by Clalit Health Services, 6% by the Hadassah Medical Organization and the rest private, public or other health funds. Some 22,000 people died in general hospitals last year…

      There were also 22,283 beds in long-term institutions for the elderly and chronically ill and 987 beds in rehabilitation institutions. Of these, 72% are in complex nursing departments or for the demented, while the minority were for less serious cases. More geriatric hospitals have opened in the northern and southern districts.

      Most hospital beds in the country are in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with fewer proportionally in the North and South. The rate of beds per population is decreasing in all districts except Tel Aviv…


    4. […] “Israeli Philanthropy: Planned Galilee Medical School May Change the Way We Think About Giving… — of interest for the Center/Periphery perspective […]

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