Minister of Finance, Member of Knesset / B.A., Philosophy, 1984; M.A., Philosophy, 1988
Studying philosophy at the Hebrew University in the 1980s was an amazing intellectual adventure. Not only was I privileged to have wonderful teachers, including the late Professor Yeshaiahu Leibowitz, but I also benefited from their wisdom in welcoming my tendency to debate them incessantly at every turn. During my master’s studies, some of them even encouraged me to publish my first academic articles and my first book, Invitation to Philosophy, which immediately became a bestseller. That I finally learned how to learn — having been thrown out of high school by teachers who were intolerant of my endless philosophical debates — was mainly thanks to these Hebrew University teachers. I completed my B.A. and M.A. degrees (with honors) during the 1980s, and then earned my Ph.D. in Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.
My life and that of my extended family are inextricably tied to the Hebrew University. As a student, I taught philosophy at the University’s Joseph Meyerhoff Youth Center for Advanced Studies. Good fortune led me to meet Gila Kanfi, my future wife, who was then a student at the University’s Faculty of Law and today is a judge in the Jerusalem District Court. My aunts, two of my sisters and my late mother count among University alumnae, and Professor Noam Nisan of the Benin School of Engineering and Computer Science is my brother-in-law. Several Steinitz family members were among the first researchers at the Faculty of Science — the University’s H. Steinitz Marine Biological Laboratory in Eilat, today part of the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences, was named after one of them.
Our first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, noted presciently in the 1950s that Israel must compensate for its enormous quantitative inferiority vis-à-vis its hostile neighborhood by means of a significant qualitative edge. Clearly this edge is needed today — not just in order to enhance Israel’s national security, but also to bolster its economic growth and to attract Jewish immigration. It is time to understand that there can be no qualitative superiority without an excellent system of higher education as exemplified by the continuation of the Hebrew University’s pivotal role in Israel’s scientific and intellectual life.