Yair Ronen: Integrating Torah and Engineering

Two weeks after his wedding, BIU computer engineering freshman Yair Ronen received an emergency call-up notice from the IDF.  Instead of preparing for university exams and getting settled with his new bride in Jerusalem, he headed south to Gaza to take active part in Operation Protective Edge. A combat reservist in the Paratroopers' Evacuation Unit 202, he was based in Khan Yunis, extricating wounded IDF soldiers from the battlefield – often under heavy fire – and transporting them to the border where they were airlifted to an Israeli hospital. In one close call, an anti-tank missile hit uncomfortably close, "but thankfully, nothing happened to us," relays Ronen, noting that his battalion captured two terrorists in the tunnels. Following his 31-day IDF service ("My wife is my real hero"), he was back at BIU making up missed exams and appreciative of the special benefits accorded to reservists, including the easing of test schedules and a promised scholarship.


With his talents and top grades, Ronen could have chosen any of Israel's first-rate academic institutions. "I was drawn to BIU mainly because of the Beit Midrash. I wanted to attend a university that combines intensive, in-depth Torah studies with high standards of academic excellence," states the honors scholar who also is recipient of the University's Green Scholarship and the Shulich Leader Scholarship, awarded to outstanding science students with leadership capabilities. "As a young student couple, this financial assistance is crucial. It covers my tuition and offsets our daily living expenses," he stresses. "I am ever so grateful for this support!"


A graduate of the Birkat Moshe Hesder yeshiva in Maalei Adumim, he spends 14 weekly hours studying Halakha at the Beit Midrash in the Jesselson Institute for Higher Torah Studies. "My goal is to obtain semicha (rabbinical ordination) in four years, alongside my BSc in engineering." He is now preparing for the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's upcoming comprehensive exam on Kashrut laws. "There was no organized study in that area, but the Beit Midrash staff was very willing to open a special track for me, providing the framework as well as the teachers and rabbis to guide me." While engaging mainly in individual study, he attends a weekly shiur on the topic with the Beit Midrash head, Rabbi Shabtai Rappoport.


As part of BIU's prestigious Program for Honors Scholars, Ronen attended a weekly lecture during his freshman year on topics ranging from "Feminism and Halakha" to "Islam." He has also been assigned a mentor, Dr. Ofir Weber, an expert in computer graphics.  "I consult with him on a regular basis. In general, my lecturers are very accessible, considerate and really try to help."


Why engineering? "It's a family thing. I'm the 5th and youngest son to choose that direction," explains the Rehovot-born Ronen, noting that his father is a mechanical engineer in Israel Military Industries (Taas).  Combining the family engineering tradition with his passion for Torah and science, Yair Ronen is sure to go far. Observes Weber, "Yair is smart and ambitious. His achievements to date are remarkable."