The Neev Center for Geoinfomatics came into existence around 2011-12 as a result of several coalescing circumstances. These were:
- The presence of an appropriate space due to the removal of an ancient mass spectrometer operated together with the Geological Survey of Israel (GSI).
- The beginning of construction of the new location of the GSI only 400 m from the Institute of Earth Sciences (IES).
- The decision of the Israel Government to invest in a state-of-the-art research vessel, the R/V Bat Galim, fully equipped for the full gamut of marine geophysical, geological, and oceanographic research.
- The experience of the international networking associated with the ICDP Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project in 2010-11.
In light of the above, Prof. Amotz Agnon approached Dr. John K. Hall, retired from the GSI in 2006, about becoming the Godfather of what would become the Center. He was told that there was interest in establishing a HUJI Center for Ocean Research, and that Schlumberger had already provided seven licenses to their Petrel seismic data processing software. Dr. Hall was weirdly enticed by this proposal, because as a GSI Division Head he had been responsible for the recently removed mass spectrometer, but had never visited it, and also by the fact that his first university job at RPI had been to help build their mass spectrometer in the summer of 1961.
Dr. Hall's background was a natural for a Godfather. Having a BSc in Geophysics from RPI, he had acquired a PhD in Marine Geophysics from Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in 1970, after three years of primarily seismic work at sea at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Hall had done his doctoral work in the Arctic from a drifting ice station, with mostly home-built equipment and hand-crafted computer programs. He was the first geophysicist at the GSI, and as a marine scientist concentrated primarily on mapping the offshore.
When shown around the numerous labs at the IES by Prof. Yigal Erel, Hall was impressed by what Dr. Rotstein cited (in the 2013 Evaluation) as HUJI's "current distribution of disciplines, in which geochemistry appears to be over represented and overwhelmingly dominant". Dr. Hall had been somewhat of an outlier at the GSI during his 35 years there, compiling the bathymetry of the SE Med, Kinneret, Dead Sea, and Red Sea, as well as the Black and Caspian Seas and Persian Gulf, and producing the 25 m Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of Israel and its immediate neighbors over a 6 year period from 1987-1993.
This spatial, rather than pinpoint orientation towards earth science (geochemical analyses of micro-specimens or vertical analyses of isotopes, composition, and paleontology from a single core or borehole) is now one of the driving forces behind the Neev Center. Little Israel itself features some 20,200 km2 of land, while the area of Israel's Mediterranean EEZ is over 29,950 km2, with ~600 km2 in the Dead Sea, ~445 km2 in the Kinneret, and ~34 km2 in the Red Sea. Thus the breadth of the land and its adjacent areas, probably to the limits of our Arabian plate, should be the subject of its studies and expertise.
The timing of of the Neev Center's inauguration was fortuitous in view of suggestions from the Committee for the Evaluation of Geology and Earth Science Study Programs in early 2013 to modernize and augment the spatial aspects of the programs in the Institute.
From the Evaluation, 2010
The IES has a close working relationship with the Geological Survey of Israel, which has broadened both research and educational opportunities and led to “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts” for both institutions. The move of the Geological Survey to the Givat Ram campus will afford even greater opportunities for collaboration in research and for shared infrastructure, likely allowing for instrumentation opportunities now not currently feasible for the individual institutions. This connection will also make it even easier than it is already for Geological Survey scientists to engage in teaching in the IES and amplify further their professional opportunities and development.
The discovery of oil in the eastern Mediterranean offers a range of possibilities that might benefit the IES, Hebrew University, the Geological Survey, and Israel at large. We endorse the approach being taken by the IES, with a possible emphasis on geophysics, of supporting individuals as they see opportunities in their own research programs to benefit from and contribute to this. Moreover, the university level goal of embedding these opportunities in a larger, coordinated university‐wide set of activities in energy‐related science also appears wise. We also endorse IES’s efforts to pursue educational opportunities connected with these discoveries (e.g., an M.Sc. in fossil fuels; enhancing teaching in geophysics), including its exploration of collaborations with other Israeli universities in these teaching programs. Likewise, we also endorse IES’s engagement in inter‐university research activities (especially the new marine sciences program centered at the University of Haifa, which can ensure engagement of the Hebrew University with national efforts in this area). Finally, recognizing the importance of the Eilat facility, the review committee endorses the university’s intention to maintain this valuable educational and research resource.