A ray of hope - with a California State University, Stanislaus connection - shone for people in the troubled Palestinian Territories in late September.
The Arab-American University (AAU) of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, opened its doors on September 28 to some 300 students. A collaborative effort with CSU Stanislaus, the university aims to provide higher education based on American standards.
Linda Bunney-Sarhad, Director of the CSU Stanislaus Office of Global Affairs, represented President Marvalene Hughes at the opening ceremony attended by more than 2,000 people, including leaders of other Palestinian universities, Palestinian government representatives and staff from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Ms. Bunney-Sarhad spoke at the ceremony and presented a congratulatory plaque to Arab-American University President Dr. Waleed Deeb.
The new university's opening caps many years of planning and determined hard work. In 1995, President Hughes and other CSU Stanislaus representatives spent a week in the Middle East, helping the Arab-American University founders conceptualize the new educational institution. Most of the curriculum was developed locally, with CSU Stanislaus professors sharing course content or evaluating proposals to ensure that West Bank students receive an education parallel in quality to that offered at California State University.
In a letter inviting Palestine National Authority President Yasser Arafat to the groundbreaking ceremony in 1996, President Hughes wrote, "It is our belief and hope that, through this affiliation with the new Arab-American University, we can aid in your peace process by offering to help develop a globally focused education for future leaders of the Palestinian territories."
President Hughes added, "By offering Western educational values, we can challenge the political rigidity that perpetuates conflict and hatred among people. Hopefully, this will open the minds of those who choose to study there. We anticipate student and faculty exchanges in the future between our university and the Arab American University. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the AAU, I will press diligently for peace education in the curriculum."
Despite the recent breakdown of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Ms. Bunney-Sarhad said she is convinced that the Arab-American University remains viable and valuable.
"Part of the key to peace in Israel is giving opportunity to people who now have very little," she said. "The most dangerous person is sometimes the one who feels he or she has nothing to lose. The new university offers opportunity -- and hope -- where there has been none.
"We also can take a lesson for our own part of the world from the difficulties in Israel and the West Bank. The fact that groups live in proximity to each other does not automatically mean that they will live peacefully together. In fact, the opposite is most often true. In order to have peace, there must be justice. There must also be a way to learn to respect the values of the other culture.
"The founders of this new university are betting on the future. In doing so, they are helping to determine it. We wish them well."
| Public Affairs Offices/Campus News
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