Texas A&M University to open branch in Nazareth
Education Min. Piron, President Peres, and Texas Gov. Perry
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
The new institution, to be called the Peace Campus, will promote coexistence for the sake of education with a student population combining Arab, Jewish and foreign students.
Texas A&M University will open a branch in Nazareth by October 2015, it was announced this week.The new institution, to be called the Peace Campus, will promote coexistence for the sake of education with a student population combining Arab, Jewish and foreign students.The faculty will be drawn from Arab, Jewish and international scholars.School representatives and Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed an agreement at the President’s Residence on Wednesday morning to found the school with the Education Ministry and the Council for Higher Education. The new school will offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs in a wide range of academic disciplines and its construction will be entirely funded by “private donations secured throughout the world,” according to Texas A&M.Prof. John Sharp, chancellor of Texas A&M University told The Jerusalem Post this week that he had long been interested in establishing a relationship between his school and Israel and was “very excited” to have reached the agreement. Sharp and his wife helped to raise money for underprivileged Russian Jewish children to immigrate to Israel in the early 1990s, after hearing a rabbi talk about the issue in a radio broadcast from Chicago.About a week later, after an article about the initiative appeared in the Jewish Herald- Voice in Houston, Texas, Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, and subsequently founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, asked to meet Sharp.Hagee told Sharp that now president Shimon Peres had expressed a desire to establish a first-class Arab and Jewish university in Nazareth dedicated to peace.After being appointed chancellor of Texas A&M in 2011, Sharp began pursuing the project and working on the possibility of building on Peres’s vision.Quickly, he received the support of Perry and the university’s board of regents, which has helped to raise funds and push the project forward.“It is a great opportunity for Texas’s largest research university to be part of education opportunities in Israel,” Sharp said. “The goal of this university is to make education more accessible for Arab and Jewish people in the same way and also be a place that fosters more understanding between the parties.”“I hope it will be a great source of pride for the State of Israel, too,” he said. “I hope leaders of the state will look at this campus after its finished and say that it met all of its promises.”Texas A&M’s Peace Campus will take over the activities of the Nazareth Academic Institute, which today caters to the Arab community.Dr. Raed Mualem, senior vice president of the Nazareth Academic Institute, told the Post on Wednesday that creating the Peace Campus was meant to enable all students in the region, regardless of race, nationality or religion, to have a place to acquire higher education.If necessary, he said, arrangements would be made to accept students from countries hostile to Israel, in the same way that Druse students whose families live in Israel pursue university studies in Syria or Lebanon.“We’re just at the beginning, but we’re the nucleus for promoting higher education for Arab students,” Mualem said.The project has been strongly advanced and coordinated on the Israeli side Foreign Ministry director-general for public diplomacy Gideon Meir.At Wednesday’s signing ceremony, whose attendees included Education Minister Shai Piron, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Planning and Budget Committee of the Council for Higher Education, and council director-general Dr. Avital Stein, Peres credited Meir with being "the matchmaker.”The president emphasized that the project represented the common denominator of the Holy Land in that Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel as well as holy to Christians.The promotion of Nazareth as an academic center, Peres added, will create better relations between Jews and Arabs.The Israel branch, which will cost more than $70 million, joins several international campuses established by Texas A&M, including one in Doha, Qatar.