Bar- Ilan Univeristy: A Campus for All

Bar-Ilan University offers a friendly and supportive atmosphere, not only to its majority of Jewish Israeli and foreign students. In fact, the bustling BIU campus is also home to close to 750 Arab students from Moslem, Beduin, Druse, Christian, and Circassian backgrounds, who hail from towns and villages the length and breadth of Israel.


“Arab students are particularly drawn to BIU, rather than at colleges closer to their homes because they are attracted to the University’s location in the center of the country, along with its one-of-a-kind courses and programs,” claims Rifat Sweidan, the Academic Advisor for Arab Students within the Office of the Dean of Students, adding that they prefer Bar-Ilan University because “their families are happy with its traditional respectful character and serene learning atmosphere.”


Sweidan, born in the Beduin village of Aramsha in northern Israel, began his academic career at Bar-Ilan (after serving as an officer in the IDF) 13 years ago, obtaining both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, then going on to complete his BA, MA (and is now working on his PhD) in political science. Before obtaining his present position he volunteered in the BIU Student Union assisting the Arab sector.


“Popular courses of study at Bar-Ilan that appeal to Arab students are the University’s unique degree programs in Radiology and Imaging and in Optometry,” says Sweidan. “Our numbers are increasing annually, with 120 new students enrolling this year alone!” he adds, revealing that close to 70% of the BA, MA and PhD Arab students are women. Most students dorm in rented apartments nearby.


Along with concentrating on their studies, BIU Arab students are involved in a host of activities. Outings to the theater, movies, stand-up comedy, musical evenings and yearly trips to various parts of the country are all organized by Sweidan, along with counseling, translation services, scholarship assistance, extra courses in Hebrew and English, the BIU Arab-language website, and an intensive summer three-week-long university orientation program.


Finally, in a bid to enhance tolerance and awareness of all cultures on the Bar-Ilan campus, a special Musical Dialogue program joins Arab students along with their Jewish counterparts, promoting mutual understanding and appreciation through music.