Adlu Husain Hassan Baraka, (right) Director of Quality & Certification at the Palestinian Standards Institution in The Gaza Strip dances with Galilee College’s Dr. Joseph Shevel.We ended a recent course for Palestinian hospital directors with a gala dinner. All the Israeli and Palestinian participants and staff were seated along a long table, eating, talking and laughing. At one point, I looked up at the Palestinian doctor seated opposite me, and at the same time we both said, “Why can’t things always be like this?”
– Sallee Eriera, Director of Alumni Relations, Galilee College.
In the picturesque town of Tivon in northern Israel, Palestinian and Israeli professionals routinely sit side by side discussing how to help their peoples. Since its establishment in 1987 – and even through the recent years of turbulence in the region – Galilee College has provided a sanctuary where Palestinians can learn lessons from their Israeli counterparts on how to improve their healthcare system, protect the environment and manage a non-governmental organization.
In October, for instance, Galilee College held a four-week long course in hospital management attended by 20 hospital administrators from Gaza and the West Bank. Funded by the government of Italy, the course covered management, planning and policy issues and introduced methods for specific medical environments. It took place at Al Quds College in Gaza and at Galilee College’s study center at Tivon, a fifteen minute drive from Haifa. During the course, the Palestinian directors visited various northern Israeli medical centers, where they met with Israeli doctors and administrators.
“This course, like so much of what we do, is aimed at the future,” Dr. Yossi Shevel, President of Galilee College, told ISRAEL21c. “Participants examined how they would like the Palestinian hospital system to be, and how cooperation can be established with their Israeli counterparts.”
At the conclusion of the program, participants were requested to describe their impressions of the course, and if and how the lessons they learned could be applied to the future Palestinian health system. The college is now processing these responses for distribution to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Italian government.
The hospital management course is only one of the hundreds of similar programs Galilee College has offered since its establishment in 1987. Committed to building bridges of peace in the region, the College regularly cooperates with Palestinian organizations and conducts management and training courses for Palestinian officials and institutions. Some 1,200 participants from more than 90 Palestinian governmental and non-governmental offices have participated in programs at the College.
“The College works on a small scale, it’s not training millions, but even hundreds make some kind of difference,” says Major General (ret.) Dr. Baruch Levy, Chairman of Galilee College’s Board of Trustees. “The Palestinians who come here exchange information and experiences with their Israeli counterparts, and are astonished to see a different world altogether. They take part in home hospitality – the first time most of them have ever seen an Israeli family. When they return home, they are equipped with new images of Israel that they may not be free to discuss widely, but which they must certainly share with their inner circle of family and friends.”
From the time of its inception, through the worst turbulence of the last few years, Galilee College has continued to train Palestinians, and bring them together with their Israeli counterparts for interaction and study.
“We believe in cooperation. We believe it’s the only way. The true mistake of the Oslo process was that when both sides signed an agreement, they didn’t work to bring the two peoples closer,” says Shevel, who is determined to do just that.
In one course, funded by the Italian Provincia de Pisa, Israeli, Palestinian and Italian students not only learned archaeological theory at the College study center, but dug side-by-side in the dirt and dust of the Beit Shearim site in northern Israel. A new summer course assembled Israelis and Palestinians for ten days at the University of Pisa, Italy, where they studied tourism, planning and development.
Recently, Galilee College completed the last phase in a program for senior Palestinian environmental officials and planners. Funded by the Japanese government, the course included tours of Israeli recycling plants, ‘green’ industrial parks and water reutilization plants. In addition, guest lecturers from Al Quds University and Hebron University spoke at the College’s study center.
In another course, sponsored by the Illinois Institute of Technology, Palestinians studied toward their MAs in environmental management. Aimed to help participants create environmentally friendly approaches to socio-economic and spatial development, the course was taught in Chicago, Gaza, and Tivon.
New upcoming programs include a joint course for Palestinian and Israeli women on the management of non-governmental organizations and two health system management courses for Palestinian doctors, administrators and chief nurses.
Courses for Palestinians are a crucial but small part of the college’s activities. The college trains students from some 140 countries, mostly in the developing world, according to its own novel method. To date over 3800 senior managers, administrators and planners have graduated from the International Program. In addition to holding training courses in the Middle East, the college has operated training programs in China, Thailand, Honduras, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Philippines, Cyprus, and Bolivia.
“We don’t believe in bringing people for training and then sending them back to work alone. Most of our courses are held in cooperation with local universities, which continue to provide backing,” says Shevel, pointing out that the college is funded entirely from international bodies and governments and receives no money from the Israeli government.
While in Israel, the international participants are housed at Kibbutz Mizra in the Yizreel Valley. Their courses – in business, environmental, health or transportation management – are taught in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic.
A special program on AIDS, targeted at African health professionals, is based on the Israeli paradigm. This two-pronged model stresses the use of education to prevent the spread of the disease, and the care of orphaned children. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, thousands of parentless children made their way to Israel. To absorb them, a system of youth villages was established, which Galilee College is presents as an example, albeit on a modest scale, for AIDS-afflicted African nations.
This program – like all Galilee College activities – enables Israel to serve, says Shevel, “as a light unto nations.”
“Israel never had resources or oil, only human brain power,” adds Baruch Levy. “Through our example, we can show other countries that if you invest in human resources, you can become one of the most advanced countries in the world.”