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Throughout the last 16 years, the Maccabim Foundation has been working to achieve one general goal: Bridging the social-economic gap in Israel through education, while focusing on awarding scholarships to students of Iranian-origin studying in higher-education institutions in Israel. We now permit ourselves to look back in satisfaction and appreciate the annual growth in donations, the number of applications and the number of scholarships awarded by the Maccabim Foundation. However, as we examine the unacceptable disparity in income in Israeli society, we cannot rest on our laurels. There is still much work to be done and the road is long. The gap in accessibility to higher education in Israel is among the highest in the industrial world. It is no doubt one of the most severe challenges to the Israeli society and a threat to its inner strength. During its years of activity, the Maccabim Foundation has assisted thousands of students in a large variety of academic institutions. In the last few years the Foundation gained a tremendous momentum in the number of students supported by the foundation, the number of projects and the geographical distribution of academic institutions supported by the Foundation.
Alongside the routine operation of the Maccabim Foundation, we conduct annual examinations to re-evaluate the criteria and the priorities according to which the Foundation operates. In respect of its donors' request, the Maccabim Foundation has acted in recent years to gradually change the allocation of its resources. We will continue to grant scholarships to students who will meet certain economic and academic criteria, but the number of simple awards will be reduced.
As in last year, the majority of the scholarships which the Maccabim Foundation will award will be in the form of student loans with particularly convenient terms - the grantees would be asked to return only part of the loan and that too only two years after their graduation. We see the return of the loan as an important social act, first, for the personal responsibility it requires, and second, for the social responsibility towards the community it involves, since the returned funds will help us increase the number of scholarships we'll be able to award other students in the future.
In fulfillment of the ongoing expectation of our donors that students who receive a scholarship will give back to the community, we started this year an experimental cooperation program with the Perach organization in which students who applies for a Maccabim scholarship volunteer through the Perach Tutorial Project and earn an extended scholarship funded by the Maccabim Foundation. In light of the large demand to join this program, we expect the share of this kind of scholarships will further increase.
I join the Steering Committee of the Foundation wishing you further success in your studies.