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Other Institutions
The Final Hurdle for the Ariel University Faculty of Medicine



Editorial Note


After years of development, Ariel University announced that it opens the School of Medicine in the fall of 2019. However, In December 2018, the university had to put its plans on hold. Dina Silber, the Deputy Attorney General, ruled that a conflict of interest involving one member of the Council for Higher Education (CHE) Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC) rendered invalid her vote in favor of opening the medical school. However, in February, when IAM reported on "Ariel University Medical Faculty: The Battle between the Government and Universities is Coming to a Head," the CHE in Judea and Samaria overturned the decision by the PBC which blocked the establishment of the Medical Faculty.  

Another moment of doubts came on Monday, when the High Court of Justice heard a petition submitted by two scholars, Prof. David Harel of the Weizmann Institute, vice president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and Prof. Alon Harel of the Hebrew University, claiming conflict of interest in the decision-making process of the establishment of the medical school.   The petitioners claimed that Ariel decision was casting a "heavy shadow on the decision making process in higher education." Alon Harel stated that the petition is "against the corrupt process by which it was decided to establish the faculty of medicine in Ariel. My interest in petitioning the Court in this case is to protect the council of High education (Malag) from political pressures imposed by the Minister of Education, Naftali Bennet". 


Responding to the petition, the High Court ruled that since the CHE approved the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine on April 11, 2019, it is at the hands of the PBC to deal with the budgetary issues at the latest by July 2019. The High Court ruled to delete the petition but urged Ariel University to notify students that the budgeting for the actual operation of the Faculty has not yet been allocated.


The same day, a team of researchers from Ariel University won praises for their research.  Professor Shiri Navon-Venezia, from the Molecular Biology Department, presented a research at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease in Amsterdam, which found that petting zoos could be a breeding ground for drug-resistant superbugs. The results of the study were quoted by the international media. Petting zoos are very popular in the West where there is also a growing awareness of superbugs. 


Now the question is if Ariel University Faculty of Medicine is about to overcome the final hurdle. 

Petting zoos a breeding ground for drug-resistant superbugs, study finds
‘Petting zoos can result in shedding and transmission of multi-drug resistant pathogens that may cause illness for human visitors, even when the animals appear healthy’

Alex Matthews-King Health Correspondent
Petting zoos could be a breeding ground for drug-resistant superbugs after a study found more than one in 10 animals carrying at least one strain of bacteria capable of withstanding multiple important antibiotics.

Israeli researchers collected samples from 228 animals across eight randomly chosen petting zoos, and concluded they were “reservoirs” for microbes that could easily spread from children to vulnerable relatives.

Antibiotic resistance has been dubbed a global health emergency which the UK’s chief medical officer has said could push medicine back to the “dark ages” – when even minor cuts or surgery raised the prospect of lethal infections.

The team, from the Ariel University in an illegal West Bank settlement, were looking for bacteria able to inactivate or evade beta-lactam antibiotics, a major group of vital drugs which includes penicillin, cephalosporin and carbapenems.

They found 35 drug-resistant species in all, while 12 per cent of the animals had at least one species of drug-resistant bacteria, and a quarter had two or more.

“Our findings demonstrate that animals in petting zoos can result in shedding and transmission of multi-drug-resistant pathogens that may cause illness for human visitors, even when the animals appear healthy,” said Professor Shiri Navon-Venezia, presenting the research at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease in Amsterdam on Saturday.

Bacteria found included highly infectious strains of drug resistant E coli, which cause diarrhoea if ingested as well and urinary tract infections.

While healthy immune systems can contend with these invaders, they can turn serious in young children and older people, and may also pose risks to women who are pregnant or people whose immune systems are compromised.

Bacteria are also adept at passing on genes to other species, so once they spread into a new environment other species can rapidly develop resistance.

While inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans – such as prescriptions for viral colds where they will have no effect – is part of the issue, overuse of antibiotics in farming is another major problem.

In many countries, antibiotics are used as a growth promoter in meat production and this creates more pressure on bacteria to develop resistance. Antibiotic residues in wastewater also spread this pressure into streams and other environments.

The report found that drug-resistant strains were particularly abundant in animals that had been treated with antibiotics, and said zoo owners should ensure these animals are not allowed to be petted.

“We recognise the high educational and emotional value of petting zoos for children,” Professor Navon-Venezia said. “Therefore, we strongly recommend that petting zoo management teams implement a strict hygiene and infection control policy, together with rationalised antibiotic policy, in order to reduce the risk of transmission between animals and visitors.”

Other measures include prohibiting food and drink being consumed near the animals and regular hand-washing stations. However, another recent study suggested that in hospitals some superbugs are starting to resist even powerful alcohol hand sanitisers.


Med School in West Bank Settlement Gets Green Light Pending High Court Appeal
Council for Higher Education votes 13 to 3 in favor, but High Court of Justice will hear petition claiming conflict of interest in decision making process

Shira Kadari-Ovadia   
Apr 11, 2019 8:33 PM
The Council for Higher Education in Israel approved the establishment of a new medical school at Ariel University on Thursday. The Council voted in favor of the new medical faculty at the university in the West Bank Jewish settlement with 13 voting in favor and 5 voting against.

The vote was to officially approve a decision to found the new medical school made by the Council for Higher Education of Judea and Samaria, made the day before this West Bank council was dissolved and its responsibilities handed over to the Israeli council in February.

On Monday, the High Court of Justice will hear a petition submitted by two academics against the establishment of the medical school, based on the claim that the approval “casts a heavy shadow on the decision making process in higher education.” The two petitioners are the vice president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Prof. David Harel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, and Prof. Alon Harel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit allowed the West Bank council to make the decision just hours before it dissolved but recommended at the time for the matter to be voted on by the national Council for Higher Education again. Mendelblit also said the discussion should take place within two months, so that the university, its lecturers and the medical school’s applicants would have adequate time to prepare for the next academic year.

In February,the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee voted 3-2 to reject Ariel University’s request to open a medical school, reversing a decision from July 2019. The committee held the second vote after it was determined that one council member, Rivka Wadmany Shauman, had conflict of interest as she was vying for a professorship at the Ariel University when she voted to support plans for the medical school.

Mendelblit had ordered the Planning and Budgeting Committee to hold the second vote without Shauman being present, and without the presence of another member of the committee, Zvi Hauser, who later joined the Kahol Lavan party and will serve in the new Knesset. Nonetheless, the full Council now voted in favor of the plan to open the new medical school.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman expressed satisfaction with the CHE’s decision to approve the new medical school. “I am happy about the process and the final decision on the matter,” he said. “I want to thank Education Minister Naftali Bennett for not easing up on the matter. The medical school in Ariel is a crucial and important step for the benefit of the entire medical system and it will be a leading school for studying medicine.”

Bennett said after the CHE voted in favor that the two-year campaign to found the medical school ended in a large victory. “The members of the Council for Higher Education made the right decision for the good of Israel, which is suffering from a serious shortage of doctors,” said Bennett. “This is a victory of common sense over narrow interests, and I am proud of it.”

The director general of the Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, said the health system needs more medical students who have studied and trained in Israel. “The new medical school will be a central pillar in the future training of a generation of doctors in Israel.” Bar Siman Tov thanked everyone involved in the completion of the long process of establishing the new faculty.


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