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.
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
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
“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.”
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
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
“We’re just at the beginning, but we’re the nucleus for
promoting higher education for Arab students,” Mualem said.
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.
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.