Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was well-received on his trip to sub-Saharan Africa two years ago. One reason, Dr. Joseph Shevel believes, was the work of the school he leads, the Galilee International Management Institute, also known as the College of the Galilee.
GIMI is not is not a traditional college. The institute draws its students from senior officials and experts in foreign countries—mostly African at present but including European and Asian lands as well. In 2017, approximately 1,300 trainees arrived for intensive, two-week programs in more than 20 fields from agricultural, environment and water; transport and maritime studies; economic development; to strategic studies (including national security).
Although the majority of trainees came from Africa, 360 hailed from China, another 100 from Latin America. Depending on the course, instruction may be in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Arabic or Russian.
When Netanyahu made his 2016 African visit, two GIMI graduates were serving in the cabinet of the new Ugandan government. Another became Ghana’s minister of education. A fourth, a rear admiral, worked as policy director at naval headquarters in Nigeria.
This past January, Shevel said most African countries had at least one institute graduate serving in a cabinet post. In addition, one is a state governor in India, others hold senior positions in Caribbean and Eastern European lands.
GIMI’s president, who served as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces, had been teaching economics at Haifa University when he approached school faculty members and administrators with a proposal to start management training there. Finding a “cool” reception, he decided to launch such an institute himself.
That was in 1987. Shevel and a university colleague, who served the fledgling institute as chancellor, obtained an old agricultural school at Nahalal, not far from Haifa. A young kibbutznik named Moshe Dayan had studied there long before.
The institute was associated with the foreign ministry, Shevel says, “but not now. That makes us less restricted, easier to work.” But the ministry is aware of GIMI’s projects.
Today the college has a staff of approximately 70, mostly in administration and management. “The faculty is from all over Israel,” Shevel says, with “400 or more on the roster, experts in their fields,” and a core of 30 to 40 when teaching at the institute. The annual budget totals approximately $5 million.
Many of the courses are of two-week duration. Students occasionally come as individuals, but most arrive from their home countries in groups of 10, 20 or more. Those who master the concentrated work receive certificates, not diplomas. But for an offering like a doctorate in business administration, instruction spans three years and includes three short stays at the college itself.
Enrollees in general “learn Israeli management techniques,” the college president says. In defense and security, for example, this is “not how to shoot and bomb,” but rather how to “establish national and regional defense networks” like one that links several East African nations, each committing troops to a ready reaction force with an established headquarters.
Shevel explains that GIMI “trains foreign students to be able to go home and teach others.” It periodically sends Israeli specialists to check that local instruction by its graduates stays on track.
He says that the Sahara Desert and semi-arid sub-Saharan Sahel “is moving south with global warming.” This affects, among other places, Nigeria’s Kano state, with 10 million people. The “second wave” for big refugee migration headed to Europe, after those fleeing wars in Syria and elsewhere, might be displaced farmers.
Noting countries like Germany have to divert funds from foreign aid, for example, to refugee expenses, Shevel believes there’s a better solution. Israeli agricultural methods, including irrigation and water-recycling know-how and arid area farming techniques could give sub-Saharan farmers the possibility of staying in familiar places rather than becoming migrants.
“When the president of the Peoples’ Republic of China was in Israel, the deputy foreign minister visited” the College of the Galilee and signed an agreement, now in effect, for 200 Chinese citzens to be trained there in agricultural fields over five years. “That’s the model,” Shevel notes, “not sending one specialist” for a period to another country.
GIMI’s students, from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, the Philippines, Romania and other countries in addition to those mentioned above, have included Muslims. Many programs have enrolled Palestinian Arab students, and the college partnered with al-Quds University when Sari Nuseibeh, recently retired, was president. Shevel and Nuseibeh became friends, sometimes traveling together to appear at conferences.
But even in education, joint efforts sometimes encounter obstacles. A few years ago, one Palestinian student at GIMI happened to be the PA’s governor in Jenin. A terrorist shot at his home. The man “was unhurt, but died soon of a heart attack,” Shevel recalled.
Working with South Africa has been “difficult,” he acknowledged.
The ruling African National Congress Party, when it fought the previous white minority apartheid government, accepted support from the Palestine Liberation Organization. During that struggle and even after transition to black majority rule, many in the ANC have subscribed to a far-left distortion of “universality.” This places the PLO and other anti-democratic, even terrorist movements on the side of “liberation” and equality while indicting democratic Israel as a Jewish state with an imagined supremacist particularism.
However, Shevel noted that GIMI has been able to work in South Africa’s Cape Town province when the Liberal Party, not the ANC, has been in power. He would like to be able to find $3 million to $4 million to bring 200 South African students to the college over the next five years.
So far, the College of the Galilee seems to have succeeded where the Israeli government’s Development Assistance Program ultimately failed. From 1951 to 1973, in 31 non-Arab African countries, that program trained thousands in agriculture, health care, economics and other fields, according to Myths and Facts: A Concise Record of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Then, threatened by Arab oil producing countries with supply cuts and intimidated by Arab terrorist groups, the African nations severed ties with Israel.
Shevel assumes GIMI’s work would be able to better survive such external shocks. In any case, when he looks at his students and graduates today and asks, “who knows where they will be” decades from now? he has an answer to his own question: “Future national leaders.”
Eric Rozenman is a communications consultant for the Jewish Policy Center.