After a whirlwind 72-hour trip to Israel, three representatives of Rutgers Law School announced plans for an Israeli-Palestinian conference on peace and the environment on the West Bank.
The meeting will be held from Thursday-Saturday, May 9-11, in the town of Beit Jalla and will be cosponsored by the Paul S. Miller International Initiative, the Miller Family Endowment, and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
Spearheading the funding is Paul Miller, an active Rutgers alumnus and retired pharmaceutical company executive from West Orange. His endowment will allocate $25,000 to cover the cost of the conference.
The event will bring together 140 Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli graduates of the Arava Institute —affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev — to discuss environmental and legal issues in their region and the possibilities of international cooperation in solving them. One of the thorniest is the dispute over water between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“Among the most important things is bringing graduates from their walks of life to work and have conferences together,” Miller told NJ Jewish News in a phone conversation after his return on March 7.
“In the end, I think we all know they share the air, they share the water, and they share the classroom. Sharing the classroom is what is really important to us,” said Miller.
At least one representative of Rutgers Law School is also expected to take part in the meeting.
Miller, a graduate of the law school, traveled to the Arava Institute with the law school’s dean, John Farmer, and former dean Stuart Deutsch.
The three men also traveled through Israel seeking to establish cooperative programs between Rutgers and Israeli educational bodies, including the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, and the Minerva Center for Human Rights at The Hebrew University.
“Our next step is to put our thoughts together with people in the Israeli institutions, and hopefully we will be able to come together on some other long-range plans,” Miller said.
Miller, a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, served on the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a board member of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and is a former president of the American Jewish Congress.
Miller said he hoped he and his colleagues “will be able to accomplish projects that carry a multitude of things that play to the strength of Rutgers and Israeli organizations and things that are important to Israel and its long-range future, as well as things that are important to the United States.”
“When you are dealing with things like the environment and interaction with Palestinians and Israel and its neighbors, they fit those criteria.”