700-plus engineers enter Israeli workforce at fateful crossroads for high-tech sector

Afeka Academic College of Engineering produced its largest-ever graduating class despite the significant disruptions of the Iron Swords War.

Professor Ami Moyal, president of Afeka Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, addresses graduates of the class of 2023-24 on June 19, 2024. Photo by Ronen Topelberg.
Professor Ami Moyal, president of Afeka Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, addresses graduates of the class of 2023-24 on June 19, 2024. Photo by Ronen Topelberg.

Defying the odds in an academic year when the highest rate of students have been called up to reserve duty in the Israel Defense Forces after the Oct. 7 attacks, more than 700 engineers have now entered the Israeli workforce and stand ready to provide much-needed support for Israel’s increasingly important high-tech sector.

The students receiving diplomas from Afeka Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv last week—earning Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in engineering and computer science—comprise the college’s largest graduating class to date. This milestone comes despite the disruptions caused by the Iron Swords War. More than 40% of Afeka’s students were immediately called to military service, among them those who were on the cusp of completing their degree. But these young engineers, the likes of whom will be the minds behind the next game-changing Israeli defense innovations such as the Iron Dome, managed to persevere and graduate on time. 

“I look at you and see the future—the future of the high-tech industry, the future of the Israeli economy, the future of society, the future of the country,” the president of Afeka College, professor Ami Moyal, told the graduates during last week’s ceremony. “For us, you represent a significant part of the ‘victory picture’ for this country. I am filled with pride for each and every one of you.”

In response to this profound impact that war had on its students, Afeka developed a comprehensive support package to address their diverse needs. With the academic year beginning two and a half months late, Afeka began teaching all courses through its synchronous hybrid model. This innovative approach allows students who are able to attend in-person classes to do so, while those who cannot be physically present can participate remotely. The support package also provides additional course sections and summer courses so that students don’t fall behind their classmates, as well as academic counseling and tutoring, financial aid and mental-health services. The college’s approach keeps every one of its students on a path toward filling a vital role in Israel’s engineering industry and contributing to the Jewish state’s crucial high-tech sector.

To secure the resources that will enable the college to maintain this comprehensive student support package, Afeka recently launched the “AsOne” campaign, whose initial goal is to raise NIS 15 million ($4 million). The college has committed NIS 5 million ($1.35 million) from internal resources to the student-support initiative, and it is now seeking external donations to fund various initiatives under the AsOne campaign.

“We firmly committed ourselves to ensuring that every student completes the academic year successfully and on time—zero dropout due to the war—and we are doing everything within our power to achieve this goal,” Moyal said. “For those who have answered the call to service with profound willingness, we must provide unwavering support and assistance to help them navigate the completion of their studies, out of concern for their future and without compromising the quality of their education.”

During the graduation ceremony, Afeka also revealed this year’s Honorary Fellows, a title awarded annually to reputable individuals in their fields, who have made significant contributions to science, technology, the country or society. This year, the Afeka Honorary Titles Committee chose to elect four IDF officers who made remarkable contributions to the security of Israel during their service in the Iron Swords War while demonstrating exceptional values of selflessness, loyalty, personal example, and leadership. These include:

  • Lt. Col. Avishag Sabag Reuven, head of the IDF Reserves Planning Division, in recognition of her exemplary work during the Iron Swords War, demonstrating exceptional leadership and management skills in organizing the largest reserve mobilization in the country’s history, for being an inspiring motivator and leader during crisis, and for her outstanding contribution to the security of the State of Israel.
  • Lt. Col. (res.) Erez Saadon, commander of the “Phoenix” Armored Unit, in recognition of his exceptional work in demonstrating innovative problem-solving skills and creative use of technologies, significantly enhancing armored combat capabilities, for his visionary leadership in establishing and commanding the “Phoenix” reserve unit during the Iron Swords War, and for his invaluable contribution to the security of the State of Israel.
  • Lt. Col. Revital Barzani, commander of the Israeli Air Force 66th Battalion, in recognition of her pioneering and inspirational leadership as a commander of an air-defense battalion during the Iron Swords War, for exemplifying exceptional initiative and guiding skilled operators in critical air defense missions while upholding the highest standards of excellence, and for her significant contribution to the security of the State of Israel.
  • Col. Benny Aharon, commander of the 401st Brigade, in recognition of his extraordinary actions during the Iron Swords War—his unwavering fortitude, initiative, leadership, determination, and heroism, which exemplify the exceptional human spirit of our nation, for serving as a beacon of inspiration to the younger generation, and for his profound contribution to the security of the State of Israel.

Alongside excitement for the graduating 2023-24 class, the ceremony was colored by feelings of grief for the six Afeka students and alumni who were either murdered on Oct. 7 or killed in combat, including Akiva Yasinky, who was meant to receive his diploma at this year’s ceremony. Additionally, Afeka alumnae Maya Shmiel, whose cousins, Yair and Eitan Horen, are being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, gave an emotional plea to the crowd to act towards making sure all hostages are brought home.

Yet ultimately, the milestone graduation was defined by hope for the future of Israel—a country whose only resource is its human capital, which notably includes the engineers who received their diploma from Afeka and who will now take part in ensuring Israel’s recovery, growth, resilience and sustainability during and after the war.

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The Afeka Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv ranks among Israel’s leading academic institutions of engineering and science, and is accredited by the Council for Higher Education. The college was founded in 1996, and has since graduated over 8,000 bachelor’s and master’s engineering and science alumni. Afeka alumni have taken on key industry roles in the Israeli and global fields of high tech, research and development, defense, electronics, software, medicine, machinery, and management, and have gone on to advanced master’s and doctoral studies at academic institutions in Israel and abroad.
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