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BGU Launches Program for Chinese Students in Israel

BGU Launches Program for Chinese Students in Israel

April 23, 2015

Israel Studies, Culture & Jewish Thought, Press Releases

BGU recently completed a pilot eight-day introduction to Israel program for Chinese students studying at Israeli universities. The program was developed to provide them with basic knowledge about the history of Israel, the Jewish people and the Bible.

While many Chinese students are now studying in Israel, they are often bewildered by life outside the lab and classroom. To close the cultural gap, funding was provided by the Los Angeles-based Diane & Guilford Glazer Foundation for The Glazer-BGU Israel Studies Seminar for Chinese Students at BGU’s Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism.

“The Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation has a long-time interest in strengthening mutual understanding between Israel and the People’s Republic of China,” explains John Fishel, director of the Glazer Foundation. “It believes that not only having the opportunity to study in Israel, but to also get to know the land and people of Israel will hopefully result in meaningful relationships over the long term for these Chinese students.”

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Students exploring the Negev

With an impressive enrollment of 42 students from several Israeli universities, the pilot was well received. The curriculum touched on science and innovation, but it mostly focused on providing the religious, historical, cultural, and sociological background that Chinese students are often missing.

There was a carefully thought out progression to the curriculum,” explains Dr. Aryeh Tepper, the program’s academic director. “The week started by celebrating the Sabbath together, where the Biblical origins and connection to the land of Israel and religious holidays were discussed. Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom spoke to them on his experiences making aliyah from Ethiopia by himself at age nine.”

The subsequent lessons covered the modern Zionist movement in Europe, aliyah from Arab and Islamic countries, absorption of Jews in the Negev, scientific innovation, and focused on Israeli democracy, the Declaration of Independence and Israeli culture. Along the way, the students visited the Negev, Tel Aviv and wrapped up in Jerusalem on the eve of Passover.

Student Lei Ye is studying for his MBA at Bar-Ilan University. “This program has opened my mind and view to a totally strange world, but a very meaningful and worthwhile one. Most of us would like to know more. It is amazing and unbelievable how the Jewish people were recalled and came together to build a new country based on religious values and to recover Hebrew,” he said.

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Faculty members of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute gave the lectures in English, each according to his or her field of expertise. In addition to academic presentations, lectures were accompanied by meetings with people who have been part of the history of the State of Israel, as well as with local leaders and artists who are influential in the contemporary Israeli space. The program is endorsed by the Israel Council of Higher Education.

Located on BGU’s Sede Boqer campus, the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism operates the Israel Studies International Program, a graduate program in which several Chinese students enroll each year. The Institute is also home to the Ben-Gurion Archives, the equivalent of a Presidential Library in the United States. The Archives house Ben-Gurion’s extensive collection of personal papers, diaries and letters. Over the years, other important collections have been added from the Israel State Archives, Jabotinsky Archives, Labor Archives and more, providing scholars with a unique window into Israel’s past and the early days of the Zionist movement.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) celebrates its 50th birthday this year, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond.

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Andrew Lavin
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