65 Years of Fulbright Israel: Excellence and Resilience

65 Years of Fulbright Israel: Excellence and Resilience

By Joe Wierichs, Counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of the United States


2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Fulbright Program as well as the 65th anniversary of Fulbright Israel. That these twin anniversaries occur as we continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic serves as an apt reminder that in an interconnected and ever-changing world, Fulbright’s mission is more meaningful and relevant than ever.  

Since its inception in 1946, over 400,000 people—recent graduates, teachers, scientists and researchers, artists, and more—have participated in the Fulbright Program worldwide, to help better understand and advance ideas in the world we share. The Fulbright Program now operates in 160 countries and provides individuals of all backgrounds and in all fields a prestigious opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to complex global challenges.  Fulbright Alumni—including 60 Nobel Laureates and nearly 40 heads of state—carry this spirit into their academic and professional lives.  It is this spirit, and the creativity and dedication of Fulbright Israel and our individual fellows, which have carried us through a difficult and unpredictable year.   

Last spring, the COVID-19 outbreak threatened to force American postdoctoral fellows to return to the United States and suspend or terminate research into which they had invested tremendous time and effort.  Fulbright Israel and the U.S. Embassy worked together to find a solution that would avoid the financial and professional disruption the sudden termination would have caused.  Our then Ambassador convinced a skeptical Washington leadership that these fellows could safely shelter in place in Israel, and, as a result the fellows continued their research. The Ambassador’s personal intervention on behalf of the people of Fulbright demonstrates the value the U.S. Embassy places on this flagship academic exchange program and in the binational U.S.-Israel support that this program receives at the highest levels.  

The Fulbright “brand” is strong because it means more than academic excellence, innovation, and groundbreaking scholarship; it is also about an ever-growing community of service. Fulbright alumni in Israel and across the world are fostering a climate of diversity and inclusion and working to confront global challenges like climate change.  Closer to home, alumni share the gift of mentorship by sponsoring the next generation of Fulbrighters.  In its first 65 years Fulbright Israel has built a still growing legacy of excellence.  And, in the sometimes difficult year behind us, Fulbright Israel and its American and Israeli fellows have matched that excellence with a toughness and resilience born of a commitment to Fulbright’s founding mission.