The University of Haifa Receives a $7 Million Grant from the Prestigious Helmsley Charitable Trust to Establish the Mediterranean Sea Research Center

“It is a vote of confidence by one of the world’s leading charitable trusts in the University of Haifa’s excellence in the field of Mediterranean Sea research” says Amos Shapira, University of Haifa President.

The University of Haifa was awarded a $7 million grant from the prestigious Helmsley Charitable Trust to establish the Helmsley Mediterranean Sea Research Center, a field that was recently thrust into the spotlight following the discovery of gas and oil off the coast of Haifa.

“The grant expresses a vote of confidence by one of the world’s leading charitable trusts in the excellence of the University of Haifa, and further emphasizes the fact that the University of Haifa leads the field of Mediterranean Sea research in Israel,” said University President Amos Shapira.

“The establishment of the Center will enable the University to expand its marine research, and, thereby, strategically strengthen Israel as a whole, through the building of new laboratories for shallow-water and deep-sea research; purchasing advanced underwater research equipment; recruiting world-class returning scientists in the field of marine science; recruiting graduate students, and more,”

Mediterranean Sea research at the University of Haifa began seven years ago, before the gas discoveries, thanks to the vision and support of Leon Charney and the establishment of the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences. The University’s leadership role in this field was strengthened when the State of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee awarded the University leadership of a national marine research initiative after the Israeli government determined that Israel suffers from a lack of a research and academic expertise in light of the gas and natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel.

The University will lead a consortium of six Israeli universities and two governmental research agencies (the Geological Survey of Israel and the Israel Oceanographic & Limnological Research Institute). Helmsley Charitable Trust funds will be used both to outfit the marine research initiative for the benefit of scholars across Israel, and to support the expansion of the Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in a variety of selected program areas. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grantmaking, it has committed more than $1 billion to a wide range of charitable organizations. The Trust’s grantmaking program in Israel supports leading institutions and initiatives that seek to strengthen the nation’s leadership in scientific, technological and medical research, its health care preparedness, and its standing in the world. The current grant to the University of Haifa is for a three-year period.

“This grant is the perfect embodiment of one of the Helmsley Trust’s core missions: to support and strengthen Israel’s leading research institutions for the benefit of all Israelis and for global progress generally,” said Sandy Frankel, a Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “We are delighted that this effort will further establish the University of Haifa as one of region’s leading marine research facilities and provide an invaluable resource for scholars and scientists throughout Israel. And we look forward to the many advances in marine science, energy development and other related subject areas that will emanate from the new Center for years to come.”

Marine research is a strategically important field for Israel that has gained new interest following the gas and natural gas discoveries in recent years. It encompasses a range of studies including marine geology and geophysics, marine biology, maritime law, maritime civilizations, underwater archeology, and maritime strategy. Given the State of Israel’s small landmass, the Sea holds an important key to Israel’s future.

The Helmsley Center will be outfitted with the most modern technologies for deep-sea research, will significantly increase knowledge, and will help shape Israeli policy regarding energy development in the Mediterranean Sea.

Professor Zvi Ben-Avraham, Israeli’s leading marine researcher and recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize, will be leading the new Helmsley Mediterranean Sea Research Center. As Head of the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences and the Mediterranean Sea Research Center of Israel, Professor Ben-Avraham is well positioned to ensure that the work of the Helmsley Center complements and enhances the preeminent marine research initiatives currently taking place in Israel.

The grant will enable the University to establish a shallow-water coastal monitoring station at S’dot Yam to ensure long-term environmental monitoring. In addition, funding will provide for a new control room and coastal facilities for developing and maintenance of deep-sea research technologies. The Center’s research efforts will be enhanced by building autonomous and remotely operated underwater research vehicles, underwater imaging and acoustic laboratories, marine engineering workshops, coastal water monitoring systems, student scholarships, and more.

The grant will also support expanded international research ties by attracting outstanding graduate students to its academic programs, strengthening ongoing scientific collaborations efforts, and forging new academic partnerships. Currently, the University works closely with the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) and with leading marine research institutes around the world including those in the United States, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, and Spain.

“The new Helmsley Center will advance interdisciplinary research associated with the energy discoveries off the coast of Israel in a variety of fields,” summed up Shapira, “from marine geophysics and marine biology, to environmental studies and maritime law.”

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