Now under lockdown, the people of Israel and the people of Cyprus cannot travel and meet, yet people can still be in touch and learn from each other via the Internet. Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beersheba and the University of Cyprus will offer a joint online course in Greek and Hebrew next semester. The course will focus on the history of diplomatic relations among Israel, Cyprus and Greece from the late 1940s to the present.
It is the first course of its kind in Israeli academia, with sponsorship by B’nai B’rith (“children of the covenant” in Hebrew) International (BBI) is sponsoring the course as part of its efforts to connect public officials, academics and others from Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and the Greek expatriate community in the US.
BBI is an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people around the globe – a national and global leader in advancing human rights; Israel advocacy; ensuring access to safe and affordable housing for low-income seniors and advocacy on vital issues concerning seniors and their families; diversity education; improving communities; and helping communities in crisis. Founded in 1843 by Henry Jones and 11 other German-Jewish immigrants gathered in in a café on New York’s Lower East Side to confront the deplorable condition of Jews in the US at that time.’
The aim of the course will be to delve into the mutual past, understand the three countries’ foreign policies and acquire the necessary skills to advance Israeli-Cypriot relations through studying primary sources (official documents, diplomatic reports, and Israeli, Greek, and Cypriot newspaper articles).
The course next semester will be a pilot program, and if successful, future collaborations will be planned. The course will be led by Dr. Gabriel Haritos, a post-doctoral researcher at the Azrieli Center for Israel Studies at BGU’s Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism who speaks Greek and Hebrew fluently.
The University of Cyprus is the only public university on the island. “Over the last decade, the State of Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus have created collaborations in a variety of areas. An academic course that reflects the significance and potential of these collaborations fits neatly into B’nai B’rith’s policy to connect communities,” said Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem. “B’nai B’rith’s participation in this initiative came about through the Israel-Hellenic Forum we founded. The founding conference was held in Jerusalem a year ago with the participation of leading public officials from the three countries.”
“It is time for Cyprus to fully embody what it really means to us – the good neighbor to the west,” added Prof. Paula Kabalo, director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute. The one we could always count on. The one who shares a climate, culture, and historical experiences. The good neighbor that you do not just knock on the door to ask for a glass of milk but one with which you share your life. We hope that this unique course will lead to additional varied collaborations.”
Haritos concluded that despite the close geographic proximity and the coexistence between Jews and Greeks for hundreds of years, “this is perhaps the first time that the Israeli and Cypriot academies are collaborating to illuminate the recent history of diplomatic relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. There is no doubt that we will go far thanks to this pioneering spirit.” The spring semester begins at BGU on February 28, 2021 and at the University of Cyprus on January 18, 2021.