April 16, 2016

Prime Minister of Singapore Begins Official Visit to Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hebrew University signs agreements with leading academic institutions from the Republic of Singapore, and confers honorary doctorate upon Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, arrived in Israel today on the first prime ministerial visit since Singapore’s independence 51 years ago and diplomatic relations were established in 1969.

The Prime Minister's first official stop was at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he witnessed the signing of three agreements with the Hebrew University, and where the university conferred upon him an honorary doctorate.

The President of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, and the Rector, Prof. Asher Cohen, presented the Prime Minister with an honorary doctorate, the Hebrew University’s highest honor. The award recognizes the Prime Minister's longstanding leadership as a champion of economic and civil reform, notably through his commitment to create a competitive economy and inclusive society; his investment in education, infrastructure, research and development; his encouragement of the longstanding friendship between Israel and Singapore, which is based upon shared values and ongoing cooperation  in areas such as biomedicine and trade; and his warm support for the Jewish community in Singapore.

The agreements that were signed call for the Hebrew University and the Government of the Republic of Singapore, represented by the National Research Foundation, to continue existing collaborations on joint research and development and educational activities of mutual interest, together with Singapore’s universities and research institutions; and for the Hebrew University, together with National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), to pursue and promote collaboration on joint research and development and educational activities of mutual interest.

As part of the first agreement, the Hebrew University and Singapore's National Research Foundation committed to establish a Hebrew University research and innovation center in Singapore. The Singapore-Hebrew University Alliance for Research and Enterprise (SHARE) will advance and strengthen research collaborations between the countries, and serve as an intellectual hub for research, scholarship, entrepreneurship and postgraduate/postdoctoral training. As a transcontinental research center, it will foster a scientific, cultural and economic background with unique opportunities for students, staff and faculty from both countries.

"The SHARE alliance will strengthen scientific cooperation between the Hebrew University and the Republic of Singapore. This will position the Hebrew University among the select few universities cooperating with Singapore at this level, and pave the way for a collaboration that delivers dramatic scientific results and a dramatic increase in scientific output," said Prof. Isaiah (Shy) Arkin, Vice President for Research and Development at the Hebrew University.

The Hebrew University is already engaged in successful scientific cooperation with partners in Singapore, such as the “Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms for Inflammation” program the National University of Singapore and the “Nanomaterials for Energy and Water Management” program with Nanyang Technological University, both of which are funded by Singapore's National Research Foundation under NRF’s Campus for Research, Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) program.

Upon receiving the honorary doctorate, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said:

“In August 1965, when Singapore unexpectedly became independent, the Israel Defense Forces helped us to develop the Singapore Armed Forces. We asked a number of countries, but only Israel responded to us, and it did so very promptly. Weeks after independence, our Defence Minister Dr. Goh Keng Swee flew to Bangkok to meet the Israeli Ambassador there, Mordecai Kidron. Within a few months, a team of IDF advisors had come to Singapore. Within less than 2 years, by July 1967, guided by the IDF team, the SAF commissioned our first batch of officers from the officer cadet course. This was a decisive step in building up a credible and professional defense force for Singapore. Without the IDF, the SAF could not have grown its capabilities, deterred threats, defended our island, and reassured Singaporeans and investors that Singapore was secure, and had a future. Dr. Goh would later say that, ‘In retrospect, it’s a minor miracle that we ever got off the ground... without the Israelis, we could not have done it.' We will always be grateful that Israel helped us and stood by us at our time of great need.

“Over the years, our relations have expanded much further beyond defense and security, although those security ties remain. Our companies are very active in exploring opportunities in both countries. We collaborate in technology and in R&D. The Singapore‐Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation (SIIRD) has funded about 150 projects over the last 20 years, providing US$170 million in funding. Our universities and research institutes have regular exchanges, including with the Hebrew University. We have just witnessed the signing of three agreements – one with the National Research Foundation to manage Hebrew University’s research in Singapore, one with National University of Singapore, and one with Nanyang Technological University, reaffirming the parties’ commitment to deepen research collaboration. I hope we can build on these foundations to grow our relations further.

“I am especially honored that the award comes from a renowned university with outstanding strengths in research and innovation. You have a constellation of outstanding alumni: eight Nobel Prize winners, numerous Israeli Presidents and Prime Ministers, leaders in every field. You reflect the remarkable human talent, and the indomitable spirit to overcome overwhelming odds, that is the signature of Israel. Whether it is irrigating the desert to make the sand green and agriculture possible, or making revolutionary advances in medical technology, or creating outstanding art, music and architecture, that is the spirit of Israel, and Singapore looks to you and admires you, and we count our similarities…

“I read a recent interview by Shimon Peres, and was moved by his vision, which he has long held, of Israel in 2048, 100 years after its founding. He was convinced that 2048 will be much better for Israel and also for the Middle East: Borders will become less relevant, science and technology will transform societies and connect peoples, and force people to become more open‐minded to the world. It’s an optimistic view from a person who has lived a long life and seen many things. Today, such a Middle East looks a long way off – perhaps more distant even than 2048. But I sincerely hope that one day, Mr. Peres’s vision will be realized: Swords will be turned to ploughshares, Israel and your neighbors will live side‐by‐side in peace and prosperity. And your friends in Singapore and around the world will rejoice with you too."

For more information please visit