Sunday, October 16, 2011

Israel Joins CERN

         Israel is joining the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, home to the world’s biggest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider. The country has become an associate member of the lab near Geneva, Switzerland, and in 2 years will likely become CERN’s 21st member nation. Since 1991, Israel had been an “observer state,” able to attend and address meetings of the governing CERN council, but not to vote. Membership would require Israel to contribute to CERN’s roughly $1.15 billion annual budget.
         The move could prove controversial: Some academics in the United Kingdom and South Africa have called for boycotting collaboration with Israel in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But relations between Israelis and Palestinians at the lab have been constructive, says Eliezer Rabinovici, a theoretical physicist from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel’s representative to the CERN council. Israeli scientists have brought Palestinian graduate students to the lab, he notes. “To me, CERN is a better United Nations than the United Nations,” he says. Rabinovici says he hopes Israel’s move will inspire Arab nations to join CERN, too.



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