Two Worlds, One Passion

What unites a Jewish lawyer from Australia with an Arab PhD student from a small village in northern Israel? The answer: A mutual love of Arabic literature.
22 June 2014
From left: Gad Ben-Meir and TAU doctoral Lana Wehbi

Over a year ago, Meir Buber, a Tel Aviv University Resource Development representative, visited TAU governor Gad Ben-Meir, a lawyer living in Melbourne. During their meeting, Buber noticed books of Arabic poetry lining Ben-Meir’s shelves. When he asked about them, Ben-Meir responded that he writes his own poetry in Arabic – and that these were books were in fact his own publications.


Buber suggested that Ben-Meir might like to support Arabic literature at Tel Aviv University. Through TAU's Arabic and Islamic Studies Department, headed by Dr. Mahmoud Kaayal, a lengthy process of finding a suitable project for Gad to support was initiated, culminating in the selection of Lana Wehbi as the ideal candidate.   


Wehbi is an Israeli Arab doctoral student whose research involves the role of women in Syrian literature from 1946 up to the present. Her work greatly impressed Ben-Meir and he decided, together with his wife, Judith, to support Wehbi’s research through a scholarship. When she heard the news, Wehbi was so grateful that she visited TAU’s Development & Public Affairs Division, where Buber is based, and asked to meet with the donor on his next visit to Israel.


Among Wehbi’s siblings there is an engineer, an accountant and an occupational therapist. Wehbi is the first doctoral student among them.


The University was able to fulfill her request this month, during Ben-Meir’s visit to Israel in the framework of TAU’s International Board of Governors Meeting. The emotional encounter took place at Wehbi’s home in Gush Halav, a village in northern Israel where she lives with her family, with the participation of Gad and Judith Ben-Meir, together with Meir Buber and colleague Gill Rosner, TAU’s Liaison for Australia.


Wehbi’s family lavished hospitality upon all of the visitors and showed them around the village. The group was joined by Wehbi’s mother, her brother, Afif Araida, who serves as the principal at the school where Wehbi teaches. Before making their way back down south, the group was forbidden from leaving by Wehbi’s mother until they accepted a generous parcel of Arabic confectioneries for their journey home.


Ben-Meir stated his intention to continue and strengthen the bond with the department. This meeting helped establish a firm bond between scholarship donor and recipient – a bond that could continue for many years to come.


As originally posted on J-Wire


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