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Spanish government, sponsor of Solar Decathalon, disqualifies architecture department of Ariel University Center of Samaria from finals. '10,000 students hurt by fight that is against international law,' claims college
Yaheli Moran Zelikovich Ynet/Israel News 22 September 09
The Spanish Housing Ministry disqualified Ariel University Center of Samaria from competing in the finals of the international competition between university architecture departments to design and build a self-sufficient house using solar power.
Sergio Vega, project manager of the Solar Decathlon, wrote in a communiqué to the college, "The decision was made by the Spanish government based on the fact that the university is located in occupied territory in the West Bank. The Spanish government is committed to uphold the international agreement under the framework of the European Union and the United Nations regarding this geographical area."
The Solar Decathlon was first held as a European initiative and run by the Spanish Housing Ministry.
The Ariel University Center reached the finals together with 20 other universities from around the world after two years of collaboration with the competition's management and the Spanish government.
In this framework, the college was even awarded a 100,000 Euro grant by the competition's organizers to build a model house for the final competition slated to be held in Madrid in June 2010.
The cancellation of the Israeli team's participation in the competition was urged by an initiative put out by the group, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine as a continuation of the academic boycott against Israel being led for quite some time by BNC - The Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign National Committee.
Surprising support from France
The BNC said of the decision that the boycott will be stepped up against the State of Israel and its institutions, including all the universities in Israel, until the "occupation" is ended and Israel allows the Palestinians refugees to return to their original homes.
The Ariel University Center responded: "We scornfully reject the one-sided announcement we received from the Spanish Housing Ministry. The anti-academic decision harms 10,000 students in the university center, including 500 Arab students who study at the institution, in particular the Jewish and Arab students studying together in the school of architecture."
The college added, "This is an expression of the political, illegitimate war (being waged) that is against international law and international charters on academic freedom, which are grossly and one-sidedly being violated by this decision. The Ariel University Center, together with the Foreign Ministry and the organization of universities against the academic boycott, will use all means to eliminate this phenomenon."
The college's struggle received surprising support from Prof. Pascal Rollet of France's Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture de Grenoble. She sent a letter to the college: "I do not agree with the Spanish decision because the Ariel University's activities are directed towards academic excellence for peace. Kindly receive my utmost support in this difficult situation."
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"