The presidents discussed the importance of academic freedom and student body diversity, an important objective at Haifa, where 40 percent of the student body is Arab.
Bacow also met with graduate students at Haifa working in several fields, including nursing and economics at the Bloom School of Graduate Studies. The school is named for Bradley Bloom, a Boston business leader and philanthropist who graduated from Harvard College and has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
While in Israel, Bacow spoke with President Ariel Porat of Tel Aviv University and President Asher Cohen of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he also met with student diversity ambassadors representing the school’s affinity groups. The group, supported by Hebrew’s Vice President of Strategy and Diversity Mona Khoury-Kassabri, aims to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of diversity and to create an inclusive student body culture. Bacow spent a sabbatical at Hebrew University in 1981.
In addition, Bacow spoke at an event attended by more than 150 alumni in Tel Aviv, and took questions about the work of the University.
Bacow went on to the West Bank, where he met with the presidents of Al-Quds University and Birzeit University. Visiting the Al-Quds campus in Abu Dis, Bacow toured its new innovation incubator space and met with medical students in their lab.
In a meeting with Al-Quds President Imad Abu Kishek and his senior leadership, Bacow and his counterpart discussed the future of teaching and learning, the importance of nurturing innovative new business enterprises on campus, and ways in which universities contribute to the local community and economy.
At Ramallah, Bacow met with community and business leaders, and had a conversation with alumni, discussing the role of universities and updating the group on recent developments at Harvard. Calling the event a “historic first meeting between a Harvard University president and Palestinian alumni in Palestine,” Marwan Durzi, M.P.A. ’12, who organized the gathering, talked about why it felt so necessary.
“This meeting was an important milestone for alumni in Palestine toward more engagement in supporting and promoting our alma mater,” said Durzi. “The alumni had a unique opportunity to hear President Bacow speak about the University’s activities and to ask questions about the role of Harvard in contributing to peace, justice, and equality in the Holy Land, ideas to encourage more Palestinian students to apply, and ideas to establish strategic relationships between Harvard and Palestinian institutions.”
The visit was one of a number of international trips Bacow has taken during his tenure as Harvard president. He has traveled to China, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. In each location, he spoke on the role of research universities, met with university leaders, and attended alumni gatherings.