The National Bank Sponsors First Rhodes Scholars’ Trip to Palestine



The National Bank (TNB) sponsored a visit by students from Oxford University’s Rhodes Scholarship program to Palestine. The aim of the five-day trip was to familiarize students with the economic, political, and social realities of life in Palestine. The visiting scholars toured various Palestinian cities and areas, including Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Battir, Bethlehem, and Haifa. Students also had the opportunity to meet with Palestinian academics, politicians, human rights activists, business leaders, and economists.

During a meeting organized in Ramallah that was attended by a number of TNB board members and TNB’s GM, Ahmad Hajhasan, prominent telecommunications executive and businessman, Sam Bahour, provided an overview of the Palestinian private sector and the daily challenges and hindrances it faces under Israeli occupation. Hajhasan also discussed the Palestinian banking sector's role within the Palestinian economy. 

Commenting on the visit, Bahour said, "This group of thirteen Rhodes Scholars from Oxford University was outstanding. Their reflections of what they witnessed during their short trip to Palestine speaks volumes about their intelligence and commitment to human rights. They spoke with passion, listened with curiosity, and committed to do what they can to end the man-made tragedy of Israeli military occupation once they return to their homes. If interacting with these international scholars reflects the future leadership of the world, then this makes me more hopeful than ever during these difficult times."

Hajhasan stressed the importance of such visits, particularly by students from prominent and diverse institutions such as Oxford University, which shapes future leaders who will eventually play vital roles in affecting public policy towards the Middle East. He noted the importance of portraying to the students an accurate image of what is happening on the ground, engendering a better understanding of the social, economic and political issues facing all Palestinians, and in doing so, giving the Palestinian cause more momentum at a global level.

Hajhasan went on to add that TNB looks forward to developing its relationship with the university and its students in the coming years in order to explore the possibility of exchanging experiences between Palestinian students and their counterparts at Oxford, and to sponsor these visits on a regular basis.

For her part, Nur Arafeh, a PhD student at Oxford and one of the inaugural cohorts of Palestinian Rhodes Scholars, said, "the idea of organizing a Rhodes trip to Palestine came from colleagues of mine, in response to the existence of a similar trip to Israel, which included their definition of Israel without mentioning its occupation of the land of Palestine. The hope of this initiative is to inform students about the occupation on the ground, and the suffering it causes the Palestinian people."

This is the first visit of its kind by students from Rhodes scholarship to Palestine, which was spurred after first ever election of two Palestinian students to the program. Member students in the program contacted TNB to sponsor the trip and help successfully achieve the group's objectives.