Higher education has a strong standing in the Palestinian community. The proportion of 18-24 year olds attending university is among the highest in the Arab region. Advanced degrees in physics are granted at four universities on the West Bank and one university in Gaza. A majority of the students pursuing advanced physics degrees are women.
Unfortunately, the development of high-level science in Palestine has been stifled by a number of factors. Many problems and hardships are caused by the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, including restrictions on mobility within and outside the occupied territories. This has led to international isolation and limited development opportunities for students and academics.
Despite these challenges, physics in Palestine is advancing. Several universities have, over the past five years, developed fruitful collaborations with international partners, both European and from the Arabic region. Futhermore Palestine recently signed a cooperation agreement with CERN, the world’s leading particle physics laboratory and home of the Large Hadron Collider. These developments have increased the mutual interest of further scientific interactions between the Palestinian and international scientific communities.
To channel this interest, a group of international scientists formed Scientists for Palestine (S4P) in 2016. The goal of S4P is to promote science in Palestine and support the integration of the occupied Palestinian territories into the international scientific community.
S4P’s first act was to organise, in close collaboration with academics at the Arab-American University in Jenin and Birzeit University, outside Ramallah, the Palestinian Advanced Physics School (PAPS), in July 2016. PAPS was funded by CERN and the Sharing Knowledge Foundation, and hosted by the Arab-American University.
A select group of 30 master's students from different universities within Palestine attended the school. After being greeted through a video message by prof. Stephen Hawking (Cambridge) the students attended lectures on different topics in contemporary physics from internationally renowned scientists. Prof. Philip Argyres (Cincinnati) lectured on the role of symmetries, prof. John Ellis (King's College London) discussed modern particle physics, and prof. Giorgio Paolucci (scientific director of SESAME, a synchrotron laboratory in Jordan) lectured on the scientific applications of synchrotron radiation. Aditionally, the students worked in small groups on practice problems based on the lectures.
PAPS 2016 was a great success. Exit surveys indicated tremendous enthusiasm among students; they found the school not only educational, but also inspiring. Lecturers and international and domestic organisers were all very satisfied with the school. PAPS 2016 was reported by Palestinian and international media, including coverage by the American Physical Society, Physics World, the US Palestinian Community Network, and Mondoweiss (see here, here, here and here`). Most importantly, the students, lecturers, and organisers developed lasting connections and friendships.
S4P strongly believes PAPS can provide a major long-term positive effect on the development of physics in Palestine — if it becomes a recurring event. Plans are already underway to organise the next edition of the PAPS in the summer of 2017 at Al-Quds University, Jerusalem.
PAPS 2017 will meet the expressed interests of the Palestinian academics and students, namely condensed matter physics and cosmology. Lectures will again be given by world-leading scientists in these fields, and through collaborative problem solving sessions, discussion groups, and social events, the students will be able to interact with lecturers and organisers.
PAPS 2017 needs your help! Organising high-level scientific events requires funding. While PAPS has been extremely well-received in the scientific community, securing funding has been challenging. Indeed, PAPS is an unusual event, being an international master's-level science school in a developing country, and covering a wide variety of physics topics. Few universities, laboratories, or science agencies provide funding for such events.
S4P is actively pursuing collaborations with a number of possible partners; however, we need your help to make PAPS 2017 happen, and to become a great success.
Donations to this cause will go directly to the essential expenses of the school, including local expenses for students, and alleviating the cost of travel for lecturers.
No donation is too small, and all contributions are greatly appreciated!
Thank you for supporting the development of physics in Palestine!
Nabil Iqbal: Lecturer, Durham University.
Madalena Lemos: Research Associate, DESY, Hamburg.
David Marsh: Stephen Hawking Advanced Fellow, University of Cambridge.
Mario Martone: Research Associate, University of Cincinnati.
Andy O'Bannon: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Southampton.
Kate Shaw: Associate Project Officer, ICTP, Trieste.
Facebook: "Scientists for Palestine"
The costs of the school include the travel of lecturers to the West Bank, accommodation for students and lecturers, sustenance for all participants for the duration of the school, stationery for the students, a social event, and printing and advertising costs. The exact sums depend on the total number of students participating. We hope to accommodate between 30 and 50 students, depending on the success of the fundraising. The relative breakdown of the costs are illustrated in the following chart:
One of the main challenges is incorporating students from Gaza. One student from the Islamic University of Gaza was accepted to participate to PAPS 2016 but was denied permission to travel to the West Bank. For PAPS 2017, we will work with well-established international organisations to maximise the chances of student participation from the Gaza Strip.
Your name, if you want it to be, is on the acknowledgments section of the website.
A thank you email and a facebook post with your name.
We will send you a physical postcard with picture from the school.
This is approximately the cost to support one student. One student will thus send you a note about their experiences at the school!
Your name is on the poster as an official sponsor. You can provide a brief video message to the students at the start of the school.