Uplifting Message for Coexistence
“Real peace can’t be achieved by only talking about it. We need to practice it instead,” says Yousef Alzaeem, 38 years old, who just graduated from the Kellogg-Recanati International Executive MBA Program at TAU’s Coller School of Management.
He attended the program under the auspices of the Whitman Family Center for Coexistence, launched in 2015 to award scholarships to MBA students from among Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, Druze and other underrepresented groups.
“As a Palestinian from Gaza, studying in Tel Aviv was not an easy decision, with many challenges, questions and worries.” Yousef wrote this summer in a letter sent to the Whitman family and to Prof. Joseph Klafter, TAU President. “But as an individual who believes in peace, I decided to take the initiative. And that was the beginning of one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had, indeed a unique journey in all aspects – academically and in terms of practical experience, global connections, diversity and, above all, a lifetime friendship with amazing people.
“This incredible journey has added to my personality, widened my vision and enriched my skills, and all of that couldn’t have happened without the generous support of the Whitman family, the Coller School and the overwhelming support of the Kellogg-Recanati team at the University,” Yousef wrote.
Yousuf Alzaeem, far right, with his class
Mr. Alzaeem’s path to Tel Aviv University – and the skills, network and mindset he’s taking home – was precisely the reason that the Whitman Center was set up by Martin J. Whitman (1924-2018), a TAU Honorary Doctor, and his wife and partner in philanthropy, Mrs. Lois Whitman. Their deep belief in providing educational opportunities was just part of it; they especially wished to pluck out and support those students who believed in the cause of peace and coexistence.
“The vision of Marty, of blessed memory, and Lois for intercultural understanding in Israel and the Middle East aligns with the commitment of Tel Aviv University to advance pluralism on campus, and to produce leaders who work for a better society,” said TAU President Klafter. He pointed to a number of major frameworks that widen access to a world-class TAU education for minorities, for youth from the geographic and socioeconomic periphery, for Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) students, the disabled, and other deserving groups.
“We want to level the playing field for promising individuals and topple social, ethnic and religious barriers by the sheer force of excellence and accomplishment,” Prof. Klafter said.
The Kellogg-Recanati Program awards a joint Executive MBA degree from two schools: the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, TAU Coller School of Management. The program develops mid-career and senior executives for operating in a globalized, rapidly changing business environment through workshops, discussions, case studies, study tours and interaction with diverse executives.
Yousef Alzaeem plans to leverage his newly minted EMBA degree and the many wonderful contacts he made to develop his family’s construction business in Gaza and geographically expand into other areas.
“Taking the initiative, practicing peace and ‘breaking the rules’ make me proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “I will tell my fellow generation that I did it when no one else did.”