Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild (1914-1999) was a biologist, trained at the Sorbonne, Paris and at Columbia University, New York. She worked for a while at the Pasteur Institute, Paris. During World War II, she joined the Free French Movement at its office in New York and volunteered for its armed forces. Assigned to London, she landed in Normandy during the Allied invasion, eventually reaching Paris, where she served as liaison between the French and the United States military forces.
As a frequent visitor to the young State of Israel in the 1950s, she met with Prof. Ephraim Katzir (Weizmann Institute) and Prof. Alex Keynan (Hebrew University), who convinced her of the acute need to support basic research in Israel. She established the fund bearing her name, which she personally headed with great devotion until her last days.
Following Operation "Kadesh" (the Sinai Campaign), at the end of 1956, Batsheva de Rothschild became the only one ever, from her legendary family, to settle in Israel and became active in public life. Science and the arts were the two loves of this exceptional woman. In 1989 she was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for her many contributions to Israeli society, among them the founding of Israel’s Batsheva and Bat Dor Dance Companies.
The Batsheva Fund was established as a private endowment fund, first in 1958 in New York City and afterwards, in 1965, in Israel. In 1993 she generously transferred the Fund to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
The Fund's purpose is to further Science in Israel for the people of Israel. It operates through a five-member Directorate. A Panel of Advisors, comprised of Israeli scientists of several disciplines, is appointed to guide its scientific activity. The Vice President of the Academy serves as its President.
From its onset, the Fund was a uniquely flexible and proactive one, constantly shifting to meet the emerging needs of Israeli science, laying the groundwork for others to follow. Starting with large applied projects in medicine and agriculture, it later funded small research grants for young scientists and was one of the first to address the subsequent large immigration of Russian scientists.
The Fund supports various scientific activities with emphasis on new frontiers of science. It provides seed money to help catalyze special (and subsequently large) Israeli projects involving human genomics, high energy physics and the applications of synchrotron radiation. It furthers research fields such as evolution and micro-electromechanic systems. From 2002 to 2007, it funded an innovative Researcher-Physician Fellowships program to promote clinical research. As of the summer of 2011, the Fund embarked on a new, 3-year project to provide support for basic research in the Earth Sciences.
The Fund furthers research in Israel in the following ways:
From the beginning, the Fund has supported annual Batsheva Seminars in cutting-edge areas of science, involving leading experts from Israel and abroad. Over the last 40 years, over 10,000 (mostly young) scientists have participated. Current interests have included evolution, MEMS and clinical research. Anticipating future trends, the Batsheva Seminars have had a marked impact on the development of new fields of basic science in Israel.
Several Batsheva Interdisciplinary Workshops are supported yearly, to allow fruitful interchanges among young scientists of various disciplines, clarifying scientific problems from various aspects and furthering collaboration among scientists.
The Batsheva Fellows Program brings world-renowned scientists from abroad, to meet with young Israeli researchers at Israel's universities and enhance and broaden their horizons.
Aharon and Ephraim Katzir Fellowships:
Since its inception, the Batsheva Fund has provided yearly support for the Aharon Katzir Fellowship Program at the Aharon Katzir Center of the Weizmann Institute, enabling MSc and PhD students to participate in scientific conferences abroad.
In 2011 the new Aharon and Ephraim Katzir Fellowship Program was initiated, supporting extended studies in research and the study of new methods at leading laboratories worldwide. This program is operated directly by the Batsheva Fund of the Academy.