The first Israel studies program at a Chinese university will begin its academic
semester this fall.
The program, which is to launch in Chongqing at
Sichuan International Studies University is aimed to encourage more Chinese
students to study at English-speaking programs in Israel.
‘Exports to China up 33%, but potential for more’
Global Network and Academic Leadership partnered with the university to start
SIGNAL, an independent nonprofit organization that works
closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israeli embassy in Beijing, as
well as the Israeli consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou, was formed to enhance
China’s and Israel’s strategic, diplomatic, cultural and economic relationship
The first step to instituting the program at SISU was
to invite guest lecturers from Australia, the US and Israel to give introductory
seminars, lectures and workshops on Israeli history, culture and
Dr. Fu Xiaowei, director of the Center of Judaic and Chinese
Studies at SISU, organized the program in China.
“The student body had no
awareness of something called Israel Studies. We needed to create enough
understanding for them to want to pursue it as a course of study,” said Carice
Witte, SIGNAL’s founder and executive director.
Amos Nadai, Israel’s
ambassador to China, traveled to Chongqing in April 2011 to officiate the launch
for the Israel Studies Program with the first student essay competition on
Essays were submitted by 75 students, and the awards will be
presented at a ceremony in October.
Dr. Wu Bing, the first professor for
the program, completed his studies at Brandeis University on a Schusterman
Scholarship for Israel Studies training.
With a grant from the Diane
& Guilford Glazer Foundation, two additional SISU lecturers will study for a
semester at Bar Ilan University, before returning to China to teach.
addition to the courses, there will be ongoing lectures throughout the semester
by Bing, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
be a symposium at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in September for high-level
scholars from China and Israel.
Similar programs are in various stages of
development at other universities in China, including Shanghai International
Studies University, Henan University and Shehezi University.
Israel Studies programs in China, SIGNAL hopes to encourage Chinese students to
study abroad in English-speaking programs in Israel.
“While there are
currently only short-term exchange programs [in Israel], SIGNAL aims to put
Israel on the map in China as a national venue where students are sent to study
abroad in English,” said Witte. “There is currently a misconception that is a
very dangerous place, and this is a message that we have to overcome.”