Monday is the first day of a special study program at Ariel University Center (AUC) for 16 students from seven different countries including USA, Canada, England, Belgium, Holland, New Zealand, and Australia whose ages ranges from teenager to octogenarian: Student Carolyn Ardeeser from Florida, USA, is 81. Student John Barr from South Carolina, USA whose mother Wanda, is also one of the students, is 17. They, and 14 others, are part of a program called Heartland Studies.
During the orientation, Esti Bar-Chen, Director of the External Studies at AUC, welcomed these special students who have chosen to study at Ariel University for a year. Ariel University Center, with an enrolment of 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students this year plus another 2,000 in special one and two-year courses is expected to become a full-fledged accredited university by this spring according to Eldad Halachmi, Vice President of Development.
The growth of the University from 400 students in 1994 to 12,000 in 2011 has baffled the higher echelon of the education establishment in Israel, Halachmi said. They complain that AUC is "growing too fast," he says. Above and beyond the funding the university receives from the Israeli government, it continues to raise more funding from non-government sources, such as Friends of Ariel University Center in order to keep moving ahead and to meet the needs of the increasing number of Israelis who choose to attend AUC.
What was originally a college for only Judea and Samaria is now very much a university with only fifteen percent of the students from the local area while 85 percent are from other parts of Israel.
The special students from all over the world love Israel and are not afraid to live for a year on this side of the "Green Line" that divides the areas liberated in 1967 from the rest of the country. Along with learning Modern Hebrew they will have lectures on Jewish heritage and educational tours mainly in Samaria and Binyamin, but also in other parts of Israel.
Each has his or her own unique story. Mary Billingham, from Iowa in the US, who is here with her husband and high school aged son, said, “I am here because I love Israel and I love learning languages – especially Hebrew because it is the source of all languages and the original language of the Tanakh.” Her husband, Randy, who is an engineer, is volunteering this year at AUC assisting two different professors, who teach electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.
This course was organized and marketed by Kobi Pinhasov, CEO of Grenadine Solutions LTD.. Pinhasov said, “The reason I started this program in conjunction with the Ariel University is the result of meeting foreigners who had such a great love for Israel and the Jewish people and who were interested in studying at Ariel University to learn modern Hebrew and about the land and the Jewish Heritage.
"I felt that such a course would really help foreigners to better understand Israel and Samaria in particular. It would help them better understand Jewish life by living in a community for a year, getting to know their neighbors, and have real experiences with Jewish people.” He believes that the program will grow and that next year there will be enough enrolment for two classes.
Courtesy of Samaria Liaison Bureau