APS News

Scientific Visits Encouraged to Palestinian Universities

Location of Palestinian institutions of higher learning on the West Bank and in Gaza. Al-Quds is located in Jerusalem itself. Image courtesy of Najeh Jisrawi
Location of Palestinian institutions of higher learning on the West Bank and in Gaza. Al-Quds is located in Jerusalem itself. Image courtesy of Najeh Jisrawi
Scientific research in the universities of the Palestinian-controlled West Bank is only just beginning, and can be greatly helped along by visits from scientists who may already be traveling to nearby institutions.

This was the message conveyed by Najeh M. Jisrawi, a professor of physics at Birzeit University, during a recent visit to the United States. He was in this country both to pursue his own research at Brookhaven, and also to gain support for the fledgling Palestinian research efforts. In this latter goal he has been aided by Irving Lerch, Director of the APS Office of International Affairs.

APS members interested in possibly making a visit to a Palestinian university while on a trip to the Middle East are urged to contact Lerch by e-mail or by telephone: (301) 209-3236. Most of the universities are within easy driving distance of Jerusalem, including the two at Birzeit and Bethlehem that are probably most familiar to western scientists. Jasrawi pointed out that transportation from Jerusalem and incidental expenses can generally be provided by the host institutions. In addition to promoting scientific research on the Palestinian campuses, physicists on the West Bank and in the broader region are excited by the prospect of a new research facility, SESAME, to be located in Jordan on a site in a wooded area with rolling hills about midway between Amman and the Jordan River. The core of the facility is planned to be an upgraded version of the BESSY-I synchrotron, which is now being disassembled and crated in Germany. When funding is available, it will be shipped to Jordan for re-assembly. Jordan has promised both the site and a contribution towards the operating expenses, but the majority of the necessary financial support is still being sought. More information can be obtained from the SESAME web site, www.sesame.org.jo.

Eliezer Rabinovici, Professor at the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is among those Israeli scientists who are very supportive of scientific exchanges between Israelis (and visiting Americans) and Palestinians. "From the Israeli point of view," he says, "it may be easier to agree on scientific relations than on political ones, and one hopes that these scientific contacts will promote greater mutual understanding in other ways as well." Rabinovici believes that Americans can play a very positive role in this process. He feels in particular that lectures by visiting scientists can help stimulate interest among students in pursuing scientific careers.

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