Netanel Shavit: An IDF Sharpshooter Takes Aim at Electrical Engineering

After seven years as a combat soldier and yeshiva student in Israel’s south, IDF sharpshooter Netanel Shavit eyed his next mission: pursuit of an engineering degree at one of the nation’s top academic institutions.Swayed by his friend Hagai Diamandi, (also profiled in our BIU web series), Shavit and family packed up and moved to Ramat Gan. “BIU’s School of Engineering is young and vibrant, and developing all the time,” says the Bar-Ilan honors scholar, now enrolled in his second year of undergrad studies in the electrical engineering track.


A father of two, Shavit lives but a short bike ride away from campus. “I enjoy my BIU studies, especially the more applied courses. I have re-discovered my passion for math and physics,” he relays, underscoring that the “lecturers are great.” Pleased with the Jewish atmosphere on campus, the Hesder Yeshiva grad feels very much at home at BIU. His father studied physics and computer science under the tutelage of BIU Rector, Prof. Haim Taitelbaum, his mother majored in education, and grandmother, Dr. Chana Shavit was a lecturer in psychology. Even his wife’s grandfather, Dr. Shlomo Spitzer, is professor emeritus in Jewish history.


As part of the University’s prestigious Program for Honors Scholars, Shavit has been assigned a mentor, Prof. Alex Fish, head of the School’s nanoelectronics track. “During my first meeting with Netanel I saw that he is highly motivated and exceptionally smart,” says Fish. “I believe that Netanel’s diligence, bright mind and inquisitive nature have enabled him to get especially high grades at Bar-Ilan. I really hope that he will join my labs very soon.”


Eager to learn from the experts, Shavit hopes to avail himself of his mentor’s knowledge and know-how. “I am grateful for the nurturing guidance and support for honors scholars,” stresses Shavit, who is also a recipient of the University’s Shulich Leader Scholarship, which is awarded to outstanding science students with leadership capabilities. “All of this support has been most helpful, enabling me to fully concentrate on my studies without having to find work,” he says, noting that last year, his wife – a speech therapist – was on prolonged maternity leave after giving birth to their son.


Another benefit of the Program for Honors Scholars – the freshmen seminar – exposed him to intriguing subjects far removed from his major (e.g. the Middle East). “It was also nice to forge relationships with my fellow honors scholars, and perhaps it will sow the seeds for future research cooperation,” says Shavit who aims to pursue his MSc and doctorate following completion of BIU’s four-year engineering program.


Firmly committed to Israel, Shavit spent most of his IDF service in special operations, patrols and guard duty. He recalls an enlightening moment out in the field. It was Hanukkah, and after a long, intense day of training, he and a few Hesder comrades lit candles for the whole group. “Everyone – the few religious soldiers and the secular majority – joined in song and created a sense of unity which warmed our hearts on that cold night.”


Gearing up toward a career in academic research or the high tech sector (e.g. Israel’s military industry), BIU honors scholar Netanel Shavit affirms: “I want to feel that I’m contributing to the State, to Israel’s security or to medicine – not just design another smart phone and earn money – but to do something that will help our country and people.”