On, Thursday, the fourth day of her business mission to Israel and the Middle East, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spent Thursday in the West Bank meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well as other government officials in Ramallah.
Wynne attended a ceremony awarding post-secondary scholarships to 21 young Palestinian women who will be studying at West Bank universities through the Daughters for Life Foundation.
A further deal was announced that will bring 10 young women to continue their education at York and McMaster universities.
A parallel ceremony was held in Jerusalem awarding Daughters for Life scholarships to 28 young Israeli Jewish and Arab women who will study at post-secondary institutions within Israel.
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) May 20, 2016
Additional scholarships will bring young women from the West Bank to study in Ontario, including programs at Collège Boréal in Sudbury, Ont. Toronto’s SickKids Hospital, along with the TRIO Fertility Treatment Practice and Women’s College Hospital, both affiliated with the University of Toronto.
The Daughters for Life foundation was established in 2011 by Palestinian-Canadian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish following the killing of three of his daughters by Israeli tank fire in the Gaza War (December 2008-January 2009). In a statement issued by Wynne’s office, Abuelaish was quoted as saying, “Education is the key to escaping a life of unrelenting poverty and hopelessness. In particular, education of girls and young women can make our world a more humane, free and peaceful one.”
Scholarships are offered to qualifying young women from the region regardless of religion.“Empowering women through education will not only help to build a lasting peace in the Middle East, it will support economic development and build a better society,” Wynne said.
The program already has participating universities in the United States, but it’s a first for his school, said McMaster’s Peter Maschler. “It’s the exchange of ideas, the exchange of cultural perspectives that we find exciting, and that’s what we’re trying to build.”
Other education initiatives in the West Bank included deals between the University of Windsor and Birzeit University; between York and Bethlehem universities and between McMaster and three schools in the West Bank. “These new agreements present exciting opportunities for closer ties with the Palestinian academic community,” Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi said.
Beyond education, joint initiatives were announced in the area of medicine, and Wynne met with a delegation of Palestinian-Canadian and West Bank business leaders.
Also on Thursday, the premier visited the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star griped that Wynne “is being greeted in the Middle East more like a visiting head of state than a provincial leader on a trade mission.” On Wednesday, she met for nearly an hour with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres.