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BGU's Africa Center Strengthens Ties Among Neighbors

Heritage Florida Jewish News: December 31, 2009 - Lyn Payne

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Dr. Tamar Golan, head of the BGU Africa Center's steering committee, with the delegation of African university presidents at the Center's inaugural ceremony.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev recently inaugurated a new Africa Center that will focus on the political history and cultural intricacies of the continent and seek to strengthen relationships and standing within Africa and Israel. A delegation of African university presidents attended the inaugural ceremony.

Dr. Tamar Golan, head of the center's steering committee, BGU lecturer in African Studies and a former Israeli ambassador to several African nations, intends to use her extensive contacts across the continent to bring African thinkers, statesmen, dancers, soccer players, poets and activists to BGU to boost cross-cultural understanding.

BGU's rector, Professor Jimmy Weinblatt, will serve as the new center's director. Weinblatt described Africa as "a magic continent, the cradle of mankind with a history of many thousands of years," and stressed that "we are neighbors of Africa and as such we have similar values." Thanking Golan for her initiative, he expressed his hope that BGU would become a leader in African studies.

With support from Baron Eric de Rothschild as well as Israeli entrepreneur and founder of the LR Group Eitan Stibbe, the center will send students to volunteer on the African continent. BGU has already sent four delegations of volunteer students to Tanzania, Angola, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, each for a three-month period.

Additionally, the Faculty of Health Sciences has many research connections with African organizations and scientists, and student clerkships take place in Ethiopia and Kenya through its Medical School for International Health.

Speaking on behalf of the African University Presidents' Delegation, Professor Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza, the vice chancellor of Makerere University, Uganda, expressed her belief that the members of the delegation were "sowing seeds of partnership and cooperation" and spoke of "the joy of witnessing the opening of the Africa Center," hoping that it will draw people from all over Africa in the coming years.

The center will build its base of support by nurturing activism among the 400-odd students who are already enrolled in Africa-related classes.