Teenager Gets A Math Book,
Her Ticket To A Better Life
HE Open University of Israel has
embarked on what its president describes as a "revolutionary"
course for high school students. Typically, Israeli students
complete their high school, enter military service for several
years, then enter the job market.
The president, Hagit Messer-Yaron,
described a new program whereby the young people are able to
enter the economy much sooner.
"Our university courses have replaced
some high school courses in Israel," Messer-Yaron told guests at
the Open University Foundation dinner recently at the Pierre
Hotel in New York.
‘The most brilliant students can
graduate high school and university before they go into the
army. They are thus able to go into the economy at an earlier
age. This will be a huge change in Israeli society," she
The president introduced Gillat Kol
as a typical product of this revolutionary program. Gillat said
she grew up in a tough neighborhood, with four younger siblings,
and her parents, after paying for food and rent, had no money
left for college tuition.
"I always loved math," she said. "I
was a geeky kid."
Someone believed in her and got her a
scholarship donated by an Open U. supporter in the U.S. "I was
surprised," she said. "Why would someone from a faraway country
care about me?"
She was 14 when she received her first
math book from the university. Her mother said, "This book is
your ticket for everything we cannot give you—a ticket to a
Gillat graduated summa cum laude, and
taught at the Open University for a while. "In the same
classroom I had a bunch of 16-year-olds, and a 75-year-old man,
plus students in their 20s and 30s, some with jobs and kids.
They came to class after work, called to say goodnight to their
children during the breaks. They were trying to get ahead and
give their families better lives. The Open University’s books
were their tickets."
Having graduated college early, Gillat
was able to have a productive army service in one of Israel’s
elite intelligence forces. After four years of service, she
enrolled in a master’s program at the Weizmann Institute.
Elie Wiesel and wife Marion with Ira
At the same time she helped her
siblings acquire their own tickets to a better life. Her bother
became a software engineer for a high-tech company; a sister is
pursuing her Ph.D. in education; another sister is an economics
major; and the youngest is in the army and soon to graduate from
At 29 Gillat is not married, but she’s
"in a relationship." She expects to receive her Ph.D. in
computer science at the Weizmann Institute.
"My parents never graduated from high
school," Gillat said. "I was given the chance my parents never
Gillat got a standing ovation by the
300 dinner guests including Ingeborg and Ira Leon
Rennert, Marion and Elie Wiesel, Karen Lehmann
Eisner, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, Lenore Kreitman, Gail Propp,
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, Malcolm Hoenlein, Dr.
William and Bernice Schwartz, and Dr. Philip
and Florence Felig.
Ingeborg Rennert, president of the
Open University Foundation, presented the Young Leadership Award
to David Sutton, a Beirut native who, at age 24, founded
Middlegate Securities brokerage firm in Manhattan; the Max Rowe
Award to Galia Maor, who was president and CEO of Bank
Leumi from 1995 to 2012; and the Yigal Allon Award to Sen.
Joseph Lieberman who is retiring after 24 years as a U.S.
senator from Connecticut.
The event raised a record $700,000 to
help those in low socio-economic groups "acquire education and
achieve a productive professional life," said Ms. Maor, a member
of the Open University of Israel Council for 24 years.