Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has been given a $100 million new donation by philanthropist Sylvan Adams.
The funds are to be “allocated for an extensive plan aimed at advancing education and campus life at BGU while rebuilding and strengthening the south,” according to a press release from BGU Canada, the university’s fundraising arm in the country.
“This gift will help guide the way forward for our community as we look to rebuild an even stronger Negev, together. We enter this next stage with a focus on six key areas of impact, among them: the future of the Negev and Israel, technologies for the future, climate change, sustainability and the environment, and global health,” said BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz.
“After the October 7th massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas, it is crucial that we strengthen Israel’s south to ensure that Israelis feel safe and secure to rebuild their lives in the Negev. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had a vision: he understood that the Negev is the beating heart of Israel, the growth and future of the country… We must make sure that the desert remains the launching point of Israel’s future, despite the pogrom that our people endured there only 58 days ago. Ben-Gurion University, located in the capital of the Negev, has brought to life David Ben-Gurion’s vision – a vision of making the desert bloom, and I am proud to make this gift to BGU, an important pillar of our country,” donor Sylvan Adams said in a statement.
Adams, a Canadian billionaire who moved to Israel several years ago, is a noted philanthropist involved in causes relating to Israeli economic, diplomatic and cultural needs and was present at the signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington, DC, in 2020. He is also an avid competitive cyclist and created the Israel Premier Tech cycling team, with whom he won the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in the 65-69 age bracket.
Ben-Gurion University, located in Beersheba with satellite campuses in Eilat and Sde Boker, has some 20,000 students and is the largest employer in the Negev. During the October 7 assault by Hamas against Israel’s southern border communities, the extended university community lost 82 people.
Since the Israel-Hamas war began, the BGU campuses have turned toward helping the war effort and are being used as logistical centers, temporary housing, schools for evacuees, and other war-related purposes.
Originally slated to begin on October 15, the fall semester for Israeli universities is currently set to open on December 24, contingent on a release of the IDF reservists. About 30 percent of all university students and thousands of faculty and staff are currently serving in the IDF, part of the massive, 360,000-person call-up implemented for the war.
Sylvan Adams was born and raised in Quebec City, Canada. He served for close to 25 years as president and CEO of Iberville Developments, one of Canada’s largest real-estate development companies founded by his father, Marcel. At the end of 2015, he emigrated to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv.
Adams donates money for many sports and educational activities. He established the Margaret and Sylvan Adams Family Foundation to support educational and medical projects in Israel and Canada.
The foundation offers doctoral scholarships at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The “Bonei Zion Prize” is given every year with his name by Nefesh b’Nefesh.
The award recognizes immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries who have impacted Israel in the fields of science and medicine, education and nonprofit work, national service, business, technology and culture, and arts and sports. It was established in 2013 with Adams assistance and offers each recipient with a $10,000 prize.
In 2018, he donated $5 million to SpaceIL, the non-profit organization that is working to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. In 2019, Adams was reported to be funding the cost of a performance by Madonna at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.
In 2019 he donated 100 million NIS for a new emergency medicine wing at the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He also donated money for a new children’s hospital at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
In 2023 he was chosen to light a torch at the beacon lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl on the 75th year of the State of Israel.
Adams is passionate about cycling, taking it up only in his 40s. In November 2017, he won the World Masters Championship in Manchester, England and has been a world time-trial champion many times.
He is co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy (ICA). The team was founded in 2015 as a UCI Pro Continental team and made the jump up to UCI World Tour level in 2020. The team is now known as Israel–Premier Tech.
In 2017 the first institute for sport’s excellency in Israel was established in Tel Aviv University and is called the Sylvan Adams Cycling Network.
He also donated money along with KKL-JNF Canada and others for the Sylvan Adams Commuter Path, a biking path that connects Tel Aviv with surrounding areas to allow people to commute to work by bicycle more quickly and safely.
In May 2018, he established the first indoor velodrome in Israel and the Middle East. He also donated $2m for the redevelopment of the Bromont Velodrome in Quebec.
He was the first to suggest the 2018 Giro d’Italia started in Israel and donated 80 million NIS for this purpose. This was the first time that any stage of the Giro tour took place outside of Europe. He was named the Honorary President of the 2018 Giro d’Italia as a result.