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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M maintains ties to Israel despite conflict

Texas A&M is making an effort to connect students to Israel, even if the current conflict has placed a few bumps in the road.
Recent unrest between Israel and Gaza prompted the cancellation of a May 2015 Corps of Cadets trip to Israel, but A&M officials emphasize the reason behind the trip change was based on media portrayal of the violence.
A&M professors and Corps leadership say students would be completely safe, and there are plans to expand Texas A&M’s Israeli ties.
Members of the Corps will visit Germany, Poland, Singapore, Indonesia and Georgia instead of Israel in May 2015. Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, Corps commandant, said each trip takes about a year to plan, so a last-minute trip to Israel would be difficult to manage.
Ashley Passmore, international studies professor, visited Israel this summer for research. She said she felt safe throughout the trip and that students and parents should not take what they’ve seen in the media at face value.
“Today I would feel very confident sending any student to Israel,” Passmore said. “It’s totally different when we ask parents to send their kids to Israel after what they’ve seen over the summer.”
Ramirez said he hopes the Corps will be able to go Israel next year to give cadets a more global perspective from the standpoint of Israel.
“One of the things that we stress here in the Corps is the fact that we are preparing them to become leaders in a 21st-century global economy,” Ramirez said. “It’s global, it’s no longer just the United States by itself. We do business globally every day … so I’m trying to expose them to a global perspective, and what I mean by that is I want to take them to different countries and expose them to different countries, different cultures, different religions and, more importantly, different perspectives on the world.”
Passmore said there will also be new courses offered next year that highlight students’ need to know more about Israel and the Middle East.
“We want to start a Hebrew language program, starting next year,” Passmore said. “And also we’re going to start a Jewish studies program next year as well. This is supposed to complement our Arabic studies program, which we already have. We don’t see them as separate; we want this to be part of curriculum that deals with the Near East.”
Passmore said her goal when teaching classes about Israel is to stress the fact that curriculum in international studies can’t be kept in a vacuum. Israeli studies goes beyond Hebrew and Jewish culture, Passmore said, to focus on the real-world fact that one in every five Israelis is an Arab.
Ramirez said this is the third year the Corps has planned an international excursion such as the cancelled Israel trip. The students have been to locations such as Chile, Turkey, India, Germany and Kuwait.
“Every school year we take three excursions abroad, focused on the four elements of national power, and that’s diplomacy, information, military and economics,” Ramirez said. “And we also add in religion and culture. So we use the acronym DIME-RC. It’s strictly educational.”
Along with visiting the embassy, students visit a media source, a military base and a U.S. company that has an office in the host country.
Texas A&M still has an agreement with Israel to develop Peace University in Nazareth. James Hallmark, vice chancellor of academic affairs, said the process is still moving forward at a steady pace. The university is in continued discussion with the Israeli government and those in academics through a collaborative program.
“As we have noted, all funding will come from private sources and we have been engaged in those efforts since the spring,” Hallmark said. “This is a challenging program, but the leadership and commitment has remained consistent since the initial announcement of the plan.”
Passmore’s summer trip enabled her to visit Nazareth. She said the area is very diverse and that the mayor was very gracious to her as an A&M faculty member.
“We have purchased this campus, and we think we should have more opportunities for students to go Israel and certainly there are places to go,” Passmore said. “Obviously we’re not going into conflict areas, we avoid them, but we want that possibility to be a success.”

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