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'It's not a good idea to get lost in Israel'


David Ben-Gurion's prediction
Jeremy Bernstein Scientist
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I worked with Murray and also Louis Michel in Paris for about a year. We went to Israel, actually but not together. I went because my father said, 'You know, I'll treat you to a trip to Israel, you should really go to Israel'. I said, 'All right, I'll go to Israel'.

And so I learned that Murray had been talking about Israel. He kept referring to it as Occupied Palestine. So I thought there was not much chance that he was going there and then he suddenly shocked me because he was going to Israel. So we went and we went and did some things together. One of the most interesting things we did together was to go down to the Negev Desert with Peter Hillman, who was a fellow I knew from Harvard, a physicist, and Renana Ben-Gurion, who was Ben-Gurion daughter. We went into the desert and went to where her father was at Sde Boker. They were trying to recruit Gell-Mann to stay in Israel, which there was… I would say a fat chance. And they tried to do that and Ben-Gurion made a big pitch. He was a short man with sort of hair flying out. And at one point, he turned to Gell-Mann and he said, 'You see these trees on that hill?' And we looked at the hill, the hill was completely, completely void of anything, no vegetation whatever. And Murray said, 'No, I don't see any trees'. He said, 'In 10 years, there will be trees up there'. And it was probably true, but that didn't persuade Gell-Mann.

Born in 1929, Jeremy Bernstein is an American physicist, educator and writer known for the clarity of his writing for the lay reader on the major issues of modern physics. After graduating from Harvard University, Bernstein worked at Harvard and at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. In 1962 he became an Associate Professor of Physics at New York University, and later a Professor of Physics at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, a position he continues to hold. He was also on the staff of The New Yorker magazine.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Paris, Israel, Palestine, Negev Desert, Sde Boker, Murray Gell-Mann, Louis Michel, Peter Hellman, David Ben-Gurion

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: 15th June 2011

Date story went live: 08 September 2011