Links sought with Israeli universities

April 05, 2006, volume 35, no. 7
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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SFU human rights director Brenda Taylor recently toured four Israeli universities, the first step in “building relationships that could one day culminate in the free flow of students back and forth between Israel and SFU,” she says.

Taylor was the only Canadian on a study tour organized in early March by Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Haifa, and Tel Aviv University to encourage enrolment by international students. She was joined by representatives from 10 U.S. universities.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the U.S. contingent noted that more students than ever are interested in studying in Israel, despite government travel warnings issued since 9/11. Taylor says security was visible and well-coordinated on all the campuses she visited. “I felt safer there than I do on the streets of Vancouver.”

Taylor, who served as executive director for the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews in Atlantic Canada before joining SFU in 1998, was surprised and impressed by Israel's “cultural vibrancy. There was a significant percentage of non-Jewish students at each university and efforts to meet their educational needs have clearly been successful. I toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial that so vividly speaks to the damage caused by hate and discrimination, and I wish every Canadian student could experience that museum. Tel Aviv was like being in New York City - people and restaurants and cultures and customs from every corner of the world. There's no other place like it on earth. I couldn't imagine someone not benefiting from a visit.” 

Taylor plans to share the details of her visit with SFU's Hillel group, and with representatives of SFU international. “At SFU, we are actively building our international outreach efforts. We are laying the groundwork for future relationships with Israeli universities,” says Taylor.

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