Forty hand-picked Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as racially and politically diverse, undergraduate leaders start their visit to Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to gain a firsthand understanding of the rapidly developing and mutually beneficial economic cooperation taking place between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The students went through a highly competitive application process to join the inaugural cohort of Israel on Campus Coalition’s (ICC) Geller International Fellowship, a half-year elite master class that culminates in this first-of-its-kind trip. The trip will provide an immersive educational experience about coexistence and cooperative partnerships in the political, cultural, security, economic, and civil rights arenas. Students will be afforded unique access to influential leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs, activists, and professionals that shape Israeli and Arab society.
The student fellows include a student body president, student body vice president, speaker of the assembly, chief of staff, chief justice, three senators, a board of elections chair, director of city relations, and other student government officials. They represent a mix of political persuasions – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – and come from public and private schools. Five attend Ivy League institutions, four go to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and 20 are enrolled in state schools. Roughly half the visitors are studying public policy, political science, or history; more than a third are studying economics or business; and just under a third are majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The visitors will meet with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the first Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek, one of the main negotiators in the historic Abraham Accords, Israel’s Head of Economic and Trade Mission to the UAE, the Chief Rabbi of the UAE, numerous high-tech executives, academics, leaders of coexistence projects, and key members of the press and business world.
In Israel, the visiting students will explore many models of coexistence and progress in meetings with FeelBeit Jerusalem organizers, Jaffa’s diverse community members, and educators at Groovetech, a fully immersive center on the Gaza Strip border that trains students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
They will also tour Bethlehem and the Aida Refugee Camp, visit the Gaza border and the Kerem Shalom border crossing, meet with Arab and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, and explore the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem.
In Dubai, the visitors will meet with local students and young professionals from around the world who are currently living, working, or studying in Dubai, including professors and students from the NYU Abu Dhabi Program, considered a model for coexistence. They will visit the Sheik Muhammed Center for Cultural Understanding and Global Village to discover how 80 different cultures cooperate in a shared economic space.
“Since the historic Abraham Accords were signed, the Middle East landscape has been changing on a weekly and daily basis with greater economic, security, technological, medical, and policy advances and cooperation than ever before,” said ICC CEO Jacob Baime, adding, “This immersive experience will help build a diverse network of thoughtful, intelligent, and successful leaders who can help shape the future of the US-Israel relationship. We know they will return to their campuses and communities with a better understanding of the changing Middle East and a desire to share their passion with others.”