An Israeli university has enrolled its first-ever Emirati student, building on the strengthened ties between Israel and the UAE since the signing of the Abraham Accords.
The student, Mansoor bin Shamekh al-Marzooqi, has enrolled at IDC Herzliya and will study for a bachelor's degree in government while living at the student dormitories.
The 19-year-old student's arrival was heralded by a festive celebration in his honor.
IDC Herzliya's Raphael Recanati International School had students from 90 countries, with the UAE now being the 91st country, marked by the raising of the UAE flag on the campus's Avenue of Flags.
Marzooqi had decided to attend the university after his family forged a close friendship with Israeli businessman Patrick Assuline, who they had watched over in the UAE after he became deathly ill with COVID-19. It was at the advice of "Uncle Patrick" that Marzooqi transfer out of the University of North Texas in the US after finishing the first semester online, according to the Emirati daily The National
“I chose to come to study in Israel out of a strong desire to contribute to the advancement of peace,” Marzooqi said in a statement.
“The steps taken by the leaders of our two countries have given me the opportunity to come here and show our value, that of young people, in promoting cooperation for peace and prosperity," he said. "I heard from an Israeli friend of mine who attended the international school about IDC and the atmosphere here, and I feel very safe studying here. I am currently focusing on pursuing my bachelor's degree, and hope that in the future I can continue to my master's degree.”
"Today marks yet another important milestone in our quest towards achieving our shared vision of engagement," said UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja, who was there to welcome Marzooqi.
"I believe that education and culture are a bridge to a better future," he said. "Working together for the progress and success of research collaboration and student exchanges will bring our peoples closer."
IDC president and founder, Prof. Uriel Reichman, expressed his gratitude for hosting Israel's first academic student from the UAE, while noting the importance that such initiatives hold in regard to sustainable peace in the region.
"IDC was founded with the goal of cultivating the future leadership of the state and of Israeli society, with a global outlook, and I am glad that young people from the countries of the region are choosing to study here and join our community," Prof. Reichman told The Jerusalem Post
"Sustainable peace is not created through agreements and contracts. Peace is made between people. Academic relationships are particularly important, especially when future leaders study together at university," he added.
The initiative was finalized in late May and agreed upon by Al Khaja and then-education minister Yoav Gallant, though plans have been in the works since January. The two agreed to establish a designated team that will focus on promoting initiatives and programs between educational institutions in both countries. Specifically, they agreed to launch programs for the exchange of students, teachers and academics between the countries.
"I was pleased to meet a true partner of the State of Israel," Gallant said after the meeting. "I thank [the Emirati ambassador] for the warm discussion and for his willingness to eagerly promote educational programs between our nations."