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25 Jan 2013 16:28 Age: 6 yrs
Category: News Update, Kadima Mada

Top Israeli official praises World ORT's contribution to disadvantaged regions

There are people who like their work, there are those who are passionate about it – and then there are people like Orna Hozman Bechor. So devoted is she to her mission serving Israel that she has spent the past four years as Director-General of the Ministry for Development of the Negev and Galilee AND Director-General for the Ministry of Regional Cooperation – the first person in Israel to have headed two ministries concurrently.


Orna Hozman Bechor, left, with World ORT Chief Operating Officer Sonia Gomes de Mesquita and Director General and CEO Robert Singer at ORT House, London.

With this week’s election Ms Bechor ends her tenure at the ministries. Where she will be next she doesn’t know but she does intend to continue to work to reduce the socio-economic gap between Israel’s periphery and the country’s central conurbation.

“Minimising the gap is one of the main ideas of every leader of every party in the election. There is a national consensus on the issue. People recognise that you can’t do everything in Tel Aviv; you have to include the Negev and the Galilee – it’s more important than ever,” Ms Bechor said during a visit to World ORT’s offices in London.

“Wherever I am I want to continue to influence the reduction of the gap so that Israeli children can have the opportunities they deserve no matter where they’re born.”

Over the past four years she has seen unprecedented advances on this issue with a major contribution made by the 100 million NIS ($27 million) Schulich Canada Smart Classroom Initiative, which has made World ORT the largest partner of the Ministry for Development of the Negev and Galilee.

Launched in 2010, World ORT’s program is well on the way to its objective of installing 1,000 Smart Classes and ancillary equipment in schools throughout Israel’s disadvantaged northern and southern regions, and providing teachers with the necessary training to use them effectively.

“It was the right project, the right people at the right time,” said Ms Bechor, noting that it was the personal vision and commitment of her Be’er Sheva-born Minister, Silvan Shalom, which ensured that it rose to such prominence. “It was one of the projects which made a real change. On this challenge of minimising the gap between the centre and the periphery, we and World ORT were on the same wavelength.”

“World ORT has been a great partner,” she added. “Out of all our partners, World ORT was the best in every aspect: professionalism, reliability and from a financial point of view.”

The Schulich Initiative was so innovative, so groundbreaking, she said, that it led the way for many more IT projects sponsored both by the Ministry of Education and local authorities.

Together with World ORT’s Centres of Excellence in Nahariya, Tsfat, Nazareth, Dimona and Kiryat Gat (where educators from renowned tertiary institutions like the Technion, Weizmann Institute and Shenkar College of Engineering and Design help teenagers to explore science and technology through quality extra-curricular activities) and the on-going development of two ‘smart schools’, the Schulich Initiative has become firmly embedded in the Ministry’s working plan.

“I believe it will continue [under a new government],” Ms Bechor said. “World ORT is a great partner and I would like to cooperate with them in other ministries. I wish them the best of luck in whatever they do in the future.”