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The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the President’s Residence Hold the First Session of the Science and Knowledge Series Entitled “Researching the Human Genome: Risks and Opportunities”

02/11/2022
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities held the first session of the Science and Knowledge series at the President’s Residence on October 31, 2022.
 
The series is a joint initiative of Prof. David Harel, president of The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the President of Israel, Mr. Isaac Herzog. The topic of the meeting was research on the human genome and the risks and opportunities posed by such research. Hundreds of guests attended, including students from five academic institutions in the Future Scientists Center’s Alpha and Odyssey programs and outstanding students from Tayibe, Beit Berl College, and Jerusalem. The session was livestreamed to hundreds of viewers via the Academy’s website and YouTube channel.
 
“This is an important initiative because it reflects the enormous value of science to our lives, and also because it outlines a way to address the great challenge of introducing the public to research that is profound, rich, and so relevant to us all,” ,President of Israel, Mr. Isaac Herzog, said in his opening remarks. “We are very proud to host the best minds of the State of Israel – brilliant researchers who look at our world, see it years ahead, and take it years ahead. Once again, I thank all of you for this welcome gathering.”
 
President of Israel Mr. Isaac Herzog in his opening greeting. 
 
Academy President Prof. David Harel said: “There seems to be no better moment, amid all the general commotion, to unite around science and raise it aloft. In science, unlike in politics, there are no opinions in either direction, but rather absolute truth based on facts, empirical data, and solid logic.” He added: “In recent years, we have witnessed time and again how science has been a steadfast anchor of stability and level-headedness in turbulent times. This is particularly true in the context of the climate crisis, as well as during the disturbing COVID-19 pandemic, which still raises its head every so often. We devote much thought at the Israel Academy to the climate crisis, and so does the President’s Residence, which has placed addressing it high on its agenda, and for good reason. We take pride in this, and we would like to express our gratitude to the President for his enthusiastic response to our initiative to establish the Information and Knowledge series and for hosting its meetings, which will focus upon various issues in all the sciences: natural science and the exact sciences, as well as the humanities and social sciences.”
 
Academy President Prof. David Harel in his opening greeting. 
 
Prof. Harel expressed his hope that the subsequent meetings in the series, planned for 2023, will take place as scheduled and that one of them will be held in an educational institution in Israel’s periphery.
 
Academy Member Prof. Yossi Shiloh of Tel Aviv University gave the main lecture. He discussed the mental well-being brought about by the development of genomic research, along with a series of ethical dilemmas relating to the genetic information given to people about their family members. His lecture also touched upon questions of genetic choice, the early detection of defects in fetuses and the high cost of gene therapy.
 
From L-R: Salah Abu Amsha, Noga Beinish, Ran Reznik, Prof. Batsheva Kerem, Prof. Yossi Shiloh.
 
Responding to Prof. Shiloh’s lecture were Professor Batsheva Kerem, a researcher from the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and journalist Ran Reznik, senior health commentator at Israel Hayom. They shed light on the ethical issues in genome research from the research and public perspectives that they have encountered in their work.
 
The meeting concluded with questions from two of the students who had been invited to attend: Noga Beinish, a high-school senior participating in the Alpha program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Salah Abu Amsha, a junior from the Amal Achva Yousef Shaheen Multidisciplinary High School in Tayibe, who raised philosophical and religious questions about the development of genome research.
 
From L-R: Salah Abu Amsha, Noga Beinish, Prof. David Harel, Mr. Isaac Herzog, Ran Reznik, Prof. Batsheva Kerem, Prof. Yossi Shiloh.
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