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Rhodes scholarship places now open to Israelis

    (Rhodes House)

    The names of the first two Israeli Rhodes Scholars are to be announced next week, following a campaign for Israel to join the list of participating countries.

    The drive for Israeli students to be eligible for the prestigious scholarship has been going on behind the scenes for many years.

    Gary Pickholz, chairman of the Weird Science Lab at Oxford University, who has long campaigned for the inclusion of Israel on the list of candidate countries, said the announcement was encouraging for Israeli research and academia.

    “We are ecstatic at the decision to include Israel in the most prestigious scholarship awarded,” said Mr Pickholz. “We are also delighted that Israel will become a regular annual candidate country. This should significantly assist the UK’s academic research at the most elite level.” 

    The Israeli scholars will begin their study at Oxford University in September, at the same time as the first Rhodes Scholars from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.

    When it was established in 1902 the Rhodes Trust awarded scholarships to students from English-speaking British colonies, the United States and Germany.  The programme has since expanded to other commonwealth countries and more recently China, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and West Africa, among others.

    The campaign for Israel to be included on the list has reportedly met with resistance from the boycott, divest, sanction movement (BDS) which argued that Israel should be ineligible due to its settlements in the West Bank.

    One of those involved in the campaign to include Israel, who preferred not to be named said:  "This was a Herculean effort by many, and represents a truly significant accomplishment in pushing back against academic BDS."

    Among previous Rhodes Scholars are the former US president Bill Clinton, the current Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a former Canadian prime minister and a former Pakistani president.

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