An oasis of learning and culture in Raanana
While driving north on Route 4 between the southern and northern junctions of Raanana one might be forgiven for overlooking the rather unpretentious grey building on the left. This building camouflages one of the most beautiful and impressive university campuses in Israel. The Open University of Israel was founded in the early 1970s and was established by the Rothschild Foundation and the government of Israel. The campus was originally situated in Ramat Aviv, but as the university grew, temporary buildings were added and accommodation was rented in other areas. In order to combine all the facilities on one campus it became necessary to acquire a larger site. After unsuccessfully trying for thirteen years to obtain a permit for expansion in Ramat Aviv, it was agreed to search for a new location. In l995 the decision was finally made to build the new campus in Raanana.
Ada Karmi-Melamed, one of Israel’s most illustrious architects, was asked to design the campus. Walking through her creation of gardens, cloistered courtyard and open pathways connecting the impressive academic buildings one is transported into another world far from everyday life. If the term ‘the halls of academia’ could be applied anywhere it must surely be most relevant to this university. Every corridor, every corner that one turns and every room is designed to be in harmony with the senses and to imbue the visitor with a desire to see more, understand more and to learn more. This, of course, is the main objective of the Open University - that all who seek knowledge and wish to advance their education, irrespective of age, gender or educational background, are provided with the means of achieving that goal. The Open University is the only university that offers this kind of opportunity for continuing education and is now the largest university in Israel with a student intake of 43,000.
Another objective of the university is to become an integral part of the local community. By utilizing the excellent facilities of the university it is possible to provide many and varied cultural activities. The central courtyard is a perfect venue for outdoor concerts and there is always a large or small auditorium available for lectures and conferences. In order to provide a cultural center for the large number of English speakers in Raanana and neighboring towns, the English Department is now embarking on the development of programs especially designed for this purpose. Wishing to gauge the public’s response, the department recently organized an afternoon of three lectures on the theme “The Power of Language in Literature and Music”. Sitting in the very comfortable, well-appointed auditorium, my mood was one of relaxed anticipation. To say that I was not disappointed is an understatement; the lectures were excellent, of an extremely high academic standard and presented in an enjoyable and stimulating manner which elicited intelligent and perceptive questions from the audience. Taking place in one of the smaller auditoria created a more intimate atmosphere than is usual on such occasions and allowed interaction between the audience and lecturers. If there had been any doubt that the university needs to provide the local English speaking community with access to cultural and educational activities, it was soon banished by the overwhelming response and enthusiasm displayed by those present. On the basis of this success, the English Department has promised that we can look forward to a full and varied program of similar events in the future.
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