Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) graduated its first class of Jordanian and Israeli students who completed a special joint-emergency medicine BA program earlier this year. The first graduating class at the Israel-Jordan Academic Emergency Medicine Collaboration included 54 graduates who spent three years studying emergency medicine and medical response.
One part of the curriculum included a Joint Disaster Management Project, which had Jordanian and Israeli students training with officials from Israel's national emergency service, the Magen David Adom and the Jordanian Red Crescent to respond to emergency situations such as earthquakes.
There are only three countries that provide emergency medical response qualifications at the BA degree level, according to Dr. Mohammed al-Hadid, one of the founders of the Ben Gurion program. If Jordanians want to earn a bachelor's in emergency medical response, they can either go to the United States, Australia or Israel's BGU which provides the only university-based academic degree for paramedics in the Middle East.
"We choose to go next door to our neighbors," said Dr. Al-Hadid in article about the program on the website of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr. Al-Hadid, who is the president of the Jordanian Red Crescent, said that he and his colleagues were impressed with Israel's emergency medical services. "We were very impressed with the level of expertise demonstrated in Israel -- and when you see something is working for others, you want to have the best for your own people," he said.
Israel's emergency medical teams are internationally recognized for their emergency response to disasters and tragedies, as they travel across the world to assist nations in natural disasters.
In order to make the unique Israeli-Jordanian collaboration possible, Dr. Al-Hadid worked together with Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt, a former rector at BGU and Prof. James Torczyner, director of the McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building to establish the program.
One of the primary goals behind the BGU program was to enable neighboring Arab countries and Israel to work together when a natural disaster or medical emergency strikes. Fault lines along the Syrian-African rift have been worrying regional seismologists, who warn that they could cause an earthquake in Jordanian and Israeli cities in the future.
The program received its funding from the Israeli Ministry for Regional Cooperation, MASHAV (Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation), the European Union Partnership for Peace Program and private donors.
Tuition costs and living expenses in Beersheva were completely covered for the Jordanian students, who took part in campus life and social gatherings with their Israeli counterparts. Courses were taught in both Arabic and English.
In his congratulatory address to the first graduating class, Dr. Al-Hadid expressed thanks for this opportunity.
"I thank you for all giving our students the opportunity to get their education and training them to become lifesavers, unlike those lifetakers who do so in the name of their fanatic beliefs. However, our belief will always be through humanity to peace," he said.
"Experience has shown us that it is possible to bring Arabs and Israelis together to achieve common goals."
"Medicine is the bridge to working together. We're all people and there's absolutely no difference between us," added Bruria Adini, the director of the BGU program. "We need a joint and collaborative response that can save lives."