Al-Quds student leaders discuss trip, new goals for year
This summer, three members of the Brandeis University-Al-Quds University Student Dialogue Initiative travelled to Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem to discuss reinstating Al-Quds’ partnership with Brandeis.
Brandeis suspended its partnership indefinitely in 2013 after a student rally on the Al-Quds campus invoked fascist imagery and then-Al-Quds president Sari Nusseibeh’s letter in response to the rally was considered “unacceptable and inflammatory” by former University President Frederick Lawrence, according to a press release published on BrandeisNOW on Nov. 13, 2013.
Hannah Kober ’16, Risa Dunbar ’17 and Leah Susman ’18 were already in Israel for personal reasons this summer, which were studying Arabic and researching a Near Eastern and Judaic Studies thesis, working for a summer camp program called Project Harmony and interning for an interfaith organization called Kids 4 Peace respectively. They each took three days to visit Al-Quds, meeting with university president Imad Abu Kishek, touring the facility and speaking with students.
The Brandeis University-Al-Quds University Student Dialogue Initiative started in November 2013 as a way for students between the two universities to have discussions and try to figure out how to restore the partnership. “The [Al-Quds] president is incredibly enthusiastic about reinstating the partnership. He himself had an opportunity to study at Brandeis as part of his Ph.D … and he speaks really fondly of Brandeis, and that’s really how the [Al-Quds] students have such a passion for reinstating the partnership,” Kober said in an interview with the Justice.
The group is working on various initiatives this year, especially given that in her role as interim University President, Lisa Lynch does not plan to reinstate the relationship with Al-Quds. “It’s definitely a new approach this year because we understand President Lynch’s unique position,” Dunbar said. “I think a lot of this year is going to be about working for the goal of bringing them [the Al-Quds students] here.”
“Lynch has expressed interest in doing as much as she possibly can … she can’t make any tangible changes to the partnership itself, but she’s personally invested as a campus administrator in ensuring that we can pull this off,” Kober said. “She [Lynch] said that she’s trying to maintain contact with a number of people at Al-Quds University and she has been in dialogue with the Brandeis professors who have been going back and forth despite the suspension of the partnership.”
All three expressed that everyone at Al-Quds was very welcoming. “We have an opportunity to learn in a place that is dramatically different in a constructive way. … They have an entire culture that we’re not experiencing,” Dunbar said.
“It is really symbolic for a Jewish-sponsored University and a Palestinian University to have partnership. That is something that ... is completely in Brandeis’ values as well and a part of Brandeis’ mission,” Susman added.
Some students, however, do not think that the University should reinstate the relationship with Al-Quds. Former president of the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee Daniel Koas ’16 said in an email to the Justice for a Nov. 19, 2013 article that he “fully support[s] the university’s decision to take a firm stand against such despicable acts, especially given the fact that Al-Quds had the chance to condemn the demonstrations, but instead decided to release an inflammatory statement.”
He went on to say, “While it is upsetting to lose a partner university that Brandeis has such a longstanding relationship with, the events of the past weeks have given the administration no choice.”
—Arianna Unger contributed reporting.
An earlier version of this article misspelled Al-Quds president Imad Abu Kishek's name as Kishk.
An earlier version of this article misspelled Hannah Kober's '16 name as Kolber.
An earlier version of this articles stated that the dialogue initiative started in April 2013. It was actually started in November 2013.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the group "Kids 4 Peace" was named "Kids for Peace."