Autumn 2003


 

Landa Center for Equal Opportunity Through Education Inaugurated 
Benny Landa, who has 'almost realized a dream,' calls his NIS 7.5 million gift an investment

 

  An inauguration ceremony of sorts captured the essence of this year’s low-keyed 31st Meeting of the Board of Governors.  It was the inauguration of the Landa Center for Equal Opportunity Through Education, established with a NIS 7,500,000 gift by Patsy and Benny Landa.  Their credo is that “only when all [which they emphasize] of Israel ’s citizens have an equal opportunity in our society, can they truly be an integral and loyal part of it.”

        Benny Landa, born in Poland to post-World War II refugee parents, grew up in what he described as a “poor but loving home” in Canada .  He eventually fulfilled a dream by immigrating to Israel —where he founded Indigo, a leader in digital color printing systems.  Machines had always been a second dream of his.  The innovative Israeli company is now a division of the huge Hewlett-Packard Corporation, and his machines, labeled “made in Israel ,” are now shipped worldwide.

        Landa declared his admiration for the “bold leadership role” that the University has assumed in promoting the rights of the country’s Arab minority.  “We salute the University of Haifa ’s pursuit of equality, social justice, and equal opportunity for all of Israel ’s citizens,” he stated at the ceremony inaugurating the center bearing his name.

 

"I don’t ‘donate,’ I invest"

[Following are remarks delivered by Benny Landa at the ceremony inaugurating the new center.]

 I am delighted to be here with you today to inaugurate the Landa Center for Equal Opportunity Through Education. I would like to share with you our hopes for this program; but first, please allow me to tell you a little bit about myself.

        I was born in Poland . My parents, who were also born in Poland, escaped to Russia at the outbreak of the Second World War, where my father was taken to a forced labor camp; my mother did the best she could to raise her then-only child, my older brother, in unspeakable wartime conditions. At the end of the war, reunited, they made their way out of Russia , through Poland – where I was born – and eventually to a refugee camp in Germany , where I spent the first two years of my life. Finally, my family immigrated to Canada , where I grew up. My father was a carpenter, who for many years struggled to make a living. I grew up in a very poor but loving home.

        As a young man, I dreamed about two things: machines and Israel . I eventually moved to Israel , where I founded a high-tech company called Indigo, which now, twenty-six years later, is a division of Hewlett-Packard. Indigo is the market leader in digi tal color printing systems for the commercial printing market. It ships the most magnificent machines to the four corners of the globe.  And every one of them says "Made in Israel"For me, my dream has come true.

        Well, not quite. The machines are everything I had dreamed they would be. But Israel? Well, we still have a way to go. I used to think that the greatest threat to the future of Israel was conflict: at first between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, then between religious and secular, and more recently between Israel and the Palestinians. But time has taken care of the Ashkenazi-Sephardic issue, now all but forgotten. And time will do the same for religious-secular differences. As for the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, that too will be resolved. There will be a border – and relatively soon. Whether that border runs a kilometer or two east or three kilometers west is irrelevant. There will be a border and there will be peace.

        Today I am more concerned about what kind of country we will have inside that border. I still dream of an Israel that is “or lagoyim” – a light unto the nations. An Israel whose children receive a first-class education. An Israel of equal rights – and of equal opportunity – for all of its citizens. An Israel whose leaders are personal examples of integrity and accountability. Yes, we still have a way to go…

        Which is the reason I am standing here with you today. My wife Patsy and I are proud to join hands with the University of Haifa to help shape a society in which all of Israel 's children—rich or poor, Jewish or Arab—have an equal opportunity in life, starting with higher education, and an equal opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

        I am not a philanthropist. I am an industrialist who loves this country. I don’t “donate,” I invest.

        How do you decide in what to invest? Just as in judging investments in high-tech companies, it’s not how badly the support is needed, but rather: How great is the opportunity? How capable are the people? How large will the returns be? So, too, with investment in students. They are united, not by their common need (most Israeli students are needy), but by how great an opportunity they represent, how tal ented they are, and how great a payback they can make to society. They are the very best. They will be tomorrow's leaders—of science and industry, of art and of commerce—leaders of the country.

        The programs we support have as their theme equal opportunity through education. They are dedicated to the underprivileged – new immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia , kids from poor homes, and Arabs. For only when ALL of Israel ’s citizens have an equal opportunity in our society can they truly be an integral and loyal part of it.  Without that, what kind of a society would we have?

        But the promotion of the rights of Israel ’s Arab minority is, especially in these difficult times, controversial. It has little popular or political support. We are proud to stand here with you today, President Hayuth, the faculty, staff, and Board of Governors of the University of Haifa , and declare our admiration and support for the bold leadership role that this institution has assumed. We salute the University’s pursuit of equality, social justice, and equal opportunity for all of Israel ’s citizens.

        One day, when the global economy recovers—and it will—and when there is a rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians, which too is inevitable, Israel will experience unprecedented growth and prosperity. When that day comes, hopefully, all of Israel ’s citizens will, finally, be able to focus on the simple pursuit of happiness.

        Patsy and I thank you for the privilege of participating in this noble enterprise.

       

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