Last week around 50 Chinese students were guests at BGU’s Sede Boqer campus as part of a unique seminar, The Glazer-BGU Israel Studies Seminar for Chinese Students, hosted by the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel & Zionism for the third consecutive year, at the initiative and with the support of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation. The seminar is endorsed by the Council of Higher Education
While many Chinese students are now studying in Israel, they are often bewildered by life outside the lab and classroom. They lack even rudimentary knowledge about the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. The eight-day seminar offers an encounter with the State of Israel on several levels: academic study, tours, workshops, and integration into daily life on an active campus located in a unique settlement in the Negev.
The academic study included lectures on the history of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, Israeli society, central streams of Israeli culture from the early days of statehood to the present day, and an overview of the political structure of Israel, including its system of government, major political parties, and the relationship between religion and state.
The lectures were given in English by faculty members of the Research Institute, each according to his or her field of expertise. In addition to academic presentations, lectures were accompanied by meetings with people who have been part of the history of the State of Israel as well as local leaders and artists who are influential in the contemporary Israeli space.
Above: A Visit to Ben-Gurion's Hut at Kibbutz Sede Boqer (Credit: Nir Shmul)
During their stay in the area, the students visited the Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) adjacent to the Marcus Family Campus in which the University is a strategic partner, and heard first-hand about its vision, the companies who have opened offices there and the University's involvement . During their visit, students were present at a Hackathon event taking place at the same time.
The seminar also included a two-day tour in the Negev and another day sightseeing in Jerusalem and participation in workshops whose purpose was to provide a framework for exchanging ideas and asking questions following their newly acquired knowledge on new topics and allow the students to express their impressions and process the experiences they faced in a setting of mutual sharing.
Above: A tour of the Negev Desert (Credit: Nir Shmul)
There are almost three hundred students studying on the Sede Boqer campus, half of whom are international students. The Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism operates the Woodman-Scheller Israel Studies International Program (WSISIP), a graduate program in which several Chinese students participate each year. The social environment is conductive to interaction between students enrolled in the Program and students living at Sede Boqer. International Program students are invited to join some of the tours with the aim of encouraging dialogue between them and students with a more extensive knowledge as this is their area of expertise.
The Institute is also home to the Ben-Gurion Archives, the equivalent of a Presidential Library in the United States. The Archives house Ben-Gurion’s extensive collection of personal papers, diaries and letters. Over the years, other important collections have been added from the Israel State Archives, Jabotinsky Archives, Labor Archives and more, providing scholars with a unique window into Israel’s past and the early days of the Zionist movement.
Above: A robotics lesson for local schoolchildren in Yerucham (Credit: Nir Shmul)