WASHINGTON — A group of Palestinian-American businessmen in Chicago is raising money to send Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from underprivileged communities to an Israeli university.
On Sunday night, the Palestinian Students Scholarship Fund held its inaugural fundraising dinner in the Oak Brook suburb of the Windy City.
The event, which had more than 100 people in attendance, was designed to raise funds to propel more Israeli and Palestinian Arab youths to attend the University of Haifa, a public research university in the coastal Israeli city.
Established in 2015 by a Palestinian-American businessman and Republican fundraiser, Talat Othman, the fund has thus far supported more than 60 students in undergraduate, masters and PhD programs in the college. Scholarships cover tuition, housing and living expenses.
Othman is now trying to get more Americans, particularly those of Palestinian origin, to back the cause.
Notwithstanding the fact that “assistance of this nature may be controversial to some,” Othman said he wants “to encourage all Americans, particularly Palestinian-Americans, to support this effort and witness how much hope and how much impact even a small contribution can make, ultimately encouraging other groups in other cities throughout the country.”
The scholarship program is part of an exclusive partnership with the University of Haifa. The school’s president, Ron Robin, attended the weekend dinner, as did several scholarship recipients.
Robin referred to the diverse Haifa campus (“Jewish and Arab, religious and secular, civilian and military”) as a unique phenomenon, something he said was “a key ingredient to promoting security and stability” in Israel and that “serves as a model for co-existence both in Israel and the entire region.”
Othman created the fund with six other Palestinian-American businessman in Chicago, one of the largest enclaves of Palestinian immigrants in the United States.
More than 20,000 live in the city’s southwest suburbs, especially Bridgeview, which is often referred to as “Little Beitunia,” referring to the Palestinian city west of Ramallah.