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    Our trip to Israel with Notre Dame Partner


    As Tsinghua University prepares for deeper engagement with University of Notre Dame, a delegation comprising faculty members and students from Tsinghua’s Electronic Engineering and Hydraulic Engineering departments traveled to the University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway, for a planned immersive history, politics, religion and technological innovation experience from July 30 to August 6, 2023.


    After nearly a decade of collaboration with our Israeli partners, and due to the pandemic's impact causing a hiatus in Tsinghua students' and faculty's visits to Israel for the past three years, this summer marked a significant return. Under the careful coordination of our partner institution, the University of Notre Dame, approximately 30 Tsinghua students and faculty embarked on a transformative journey to Israel. This expedition encompassed explorations into the startup nation's history, politics, religion, and innovation landscape. As noted by Professor Yuan Shen, who led the Tsinghua delegation to Israel, there's a pressing need for the younger generation to comprehend the intricacies of the global landscape and its historical underpinnings. Thus, the ability to actively listen, empathize, collaborate, resolve conflicts, and harness technological advancements for common goods becomes paramount. This journey signifies not only academic enrichment but also a commitment to fostering a sustainable, prosperous, and peaceful world through comprehensive understanding and collaboration

    The Tsinghua team lodged at the University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway, situated between the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Gateway serves as a hub for academic, religious, diplomatic, and governmental partnerships, offering opportunities for intellectual, social, spiritual, and service-based learning. Much like its location atop Mount Tantur, Jerusalem Global Gateway stands at a crossroads of diverse cultures, religions, languages, and opportunities, continually fostering the birth of new horizons through the convergence and interaction of these various facets of culture.

    Location of the University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway (from the Gateway website)

    The Tsinghua University team found themselves marveling at the remarkable location of the Jerusalem Global Gateway. From the balcony, they could gaze upon the iconic sights of the Old City of Jerusalem, the separation wall, and Palestinian residential areas. Their surroundings offered a unique vantage point that encapsulated the region's complexity. Without delay, Professor Avrum Burg, a distinguished historian at the Jerusalem Global Gateway and a former Speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), commenced his lecture right after the team's arrival. Titled "What is Jerusalem," his presentation posed thought-provoking questions to frame their journey through Israel. Professor Burg deftly interwove elements of religion, history, politics, and technology to reveal the intricate layers that have shaped modern Israel. This intellectual inquiry into the essence of Jerusalem launched a profound cross-temporal cultural dialogue between the team and the multifaceted tapestry of Israel's identity.

    Following this enlightening lecture, the Tsinghua team, under Avrum Burg's guidance, ventured to the Knesset, Israel's paramount legislative institution, established in 1949. The Knesset's establishment formally solidified Israel's status as an independent nation. Here, the team members immersed themselves in the intricacies of Israel's political landscape and absorbed the distinctive cultural ambiance. Avrum Burg, along with another parliamentarian, vividly recounted the historical process behind Israel's nation-building and underscored the pivotal role of the Knesset. This engagement illuminated the challenging journey that led to the nation's formation, highlighting the intricate interplay of historical forces. As the journey unfolded, students began to actively engage in learning, reflection, and questioning. Avrum Burg remarked that encountering the articulate and eloquent young minds from Tsinghua brought him great joy. The students' curiosity and insights underscored the importance of intergenerational dialogue. This encounter not only deepened the team's understanding of Israel's rich historical and contemporary context but also fostered a dynamic exchange of ideas and perspectives across cultures and generations.


    Tsinghua Students listen to former Speaker Avrum Burg explain parliamentary democracy

    Ancient Chinese wisdom teaches us, "Read ten thousand books, travel ten thousand miles to understand the world." The Jewish scholar Dr. Hannah from Jerusalem delved deeply into the art of effective exploration to understand the world. While guiding the Tsinghua team through the historic Old City of Jerusalem, Dr. Hannah emphasized that true understanding goes beyond mere observation. She encouraged them to not only see the ancient landmarks with their eyes, but also to keenly observe the diverse people walking the streets of the Old City, representing various religious and cultural backgrounds. She even urged them to listen to the languages spoken, and to breathe in the scents of different spices wafting through the alleyways – to engage all senses in experiencing the city. In the Old City, Arabic, Hebrew, and English coalesce to create a rich linguistic environment. Different individuals from various religious beliefs, and even those with varying degrees of faith within the same religion, traverse the city's paths. Dr. Hannah's guidance illuminated the profound interplay of languages and beliefs that shape the dynamic tapestry of the city. Through her insights, the students were inspired to not only explore the surface but to engage deeply with the nuances that make up the intricate fabric of Jerusalem's cultural and religious diversity.


    Hannah introduces the Old City of Jerusalem to the Tsinghua team

    Technological innovation stands as an indispensable pillar of Israel's identity. The Tsinghua team explored the Weizmann Institute, Technion University, and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

    At Weizmann Institute, the Tsinghua team visited the SAMPL (Signal Acquisition Modeling Processing and Learning) laboratory, which focuses on large amount of data processing with fewer resources, such as remote medical image processing. At Technion, with the help of the International Office, Prof. Shlomo Maital vividly introduced Israel's entrepreneurial atmosphere. Despite Israel's compact sizearound 15,200 square kilometers and a population of approximately 9.5 million in 2022, which is even smaller than Beijing's urban scale and population, it remarkably hosts over 7,000 innovative technology companies. This concentration has made Israel a global hub for entrepreneurship. Shlomo used engaging examples to illustrate the unique Israeli spirit. For instance, he described "Hutzpah," a trait embodying an entrepreneur's fearlessness of failure and persistence in their pursuits. With a touch of humor, he quipped, "If you want an Israeli to do something, tell them they can't do it." This spirit thrives even more due to Israel's social environment of embracing failure, shaping an entrepreneurial mindset. Later, faculty and students from Tsinghua and Technion had discussions on education and research, and both sides are looking forward to promote exchange and cooperation among students.

    The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, established in 1996, stands as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan NGO. Its mission involves fostering social and economic cooperation and development, with the ultimate goal of promoting collaboration among people in the Middle East for a peaceful future. This center serves as a beacon for cutting-edge technology in Israel, where Tsinghua team engaged with captivating innovations through activities like matching games, VR glasses, and interactive screens to learn about Israel's astounding advancements in fields like agriculture, medicine, and industry. Examples included innovative techniques for cultivating new varieties of tomatoes, drip irrigation technology, capsule cameras, the first-ever portable USB storage device, and seawater desalination techniques. The founder of the center, Shimon Peres, was a prominent figure in Israel's political history, having served nearly 70 years in various roles including president and twice as prime minister. During Israel's formative years, he played a pivotal role in the defense industry, establishing it as a cornerstone of the nation's identity. His contributions to peace-making in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. Following his government tenure, he directed his efforts towards the NGO, sowing seeds of peace and technological innovation from Israel to the world.



    Tsinghua group photo in the lobby of Peres Peace and Innovation Center

    The visits to the political, historic and technological entities, the Tsinghua team has experienced the significance of prosperity and innovation. From visiting the Dead Sea, engaging in coding exchanges with Palestinian youth, and exploring Bethlehem, the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) became evident.

    The shrinking Dead Sea highlighted the pressing crisis of climate change and the urgency of implementing appropriate policies and technologies to address it. The Tsinghua students engaged in coding exchange with Palestinian youth participating in the Adam Program initiated by the University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway. The program provides Palestinian youth with two years of programming training to acquire valuable computer science knowledge often inaccessible in their regular education. The unique dialogues on coding, courses, daily life, and even international affairs with Palestinian youth provided Tsinghua students a distinct perspective on the cultural nuances and conflicts within the region.

    A visit to Bethlehem unveiled the profound traumas experienced by its residents, who often lack access to effective assistance. In response, the organization "Wings of Hope for Trauma" emerged. This non-profit organization empowers those affected by various forms of psychological trauma. It aids them in regaining confidence and stepping out of the shadows of victimhood. All six full-time employees of the organization are women who are acutely aware of the challenges faced by Palestinian people, including issues like domestic violence, poverty, gender inequality, limited legal protection for women, as well as discrimination, loss of basic human rights, and political instability stemming from the broader environment. Despite these challenges, there remains an unwavering belief that even incremental progress can steer society towards a better future. Lana Chen, a senior from Tsinghua, reflected on her experience: "I took the joint UN SDGs course offered by Tsinghua-Harvard last year. But many goals are too far away from my own life. As a US citizen educated at Tsinghua, I am fortunate to be in an environment where women's rights are upheld, protected, and support is accessible. Witnessing the difficult lives of Palestinian women was a shock. Trauma pervades the air, and avenues for help are limited due to economic factors, culture, and more. We aspire to contribute more to improve the lives, education, and rights of Palestinian women.

    This immersive journey has opened the eyes of Tsinghua participants to the imperative of merging technological innovation with holistic societal progress, reinforcing the belief that the convergence of peace, prosperity, and sustainable development remains at the heart of their endeavors.


    Tsinghua students exchange with the Palestinian students participating in the Adam Program

    The establishment of Tsinghua’s partnership with the University of Notre Dame began when Vice President Michael E. Pippenger visited Tsinghua in March 2023 and signed an MOU together with Tsinghua's Vice President Hongwei Wang. In the subsequent months, following extensive discussions and coordination between Tsinghua's Sustainable Innovation Team from the Department of Electronic Engineering, along with Notre Dame's Beijing Global Gateway, Jerusalem Global Gateway, and Global Education office.

    March 2023, Hongwei Wang, the Vice President of Tsinghua University and Michael Pippenger, the Vice President & Associate Provost for Internationalization of University of Notre Dame signed a university-level memorandum of understanding


    By working with the University of Notre Dame and other global partners, we will further refine and develop the ongoing Sustainable Innovation-based course and the flagship Israel immersion program. Additionally, we are opening up two programs at Tsinghua, set to launch in 2024.

    One-week immersion program

    As inspired by Professor Avrum Burg's question in Israel, the University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway provided a comprehensive showcase of Israel for Tsinghua students. Such immersive journey spans from the Holy City of the three major religions to the Mediterranean coastline, from the serene Dead Sea to the graffiti-laden Israeli-Palestinian separation wall. It is an exploration of cultural diversity, religious intersections, technological values, and an enduring appreciation for peace. How Tsinghua would present a comprehensive and rich dimensions of China to students and faculty around the world.

    Tsinghua Top EE+

    A program offering international undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in a semester of courses within the Department of Electronic Engineering and other on-campus disciplines, combined with research opportunities at labs and practical learning at sustainable technology companies. Such program aims to foster increased research collaboration between students and faculty, and contribute to the advancement of sustainable development for the betterment of all humanity.



    1. "E Visit to Jaffa | Dialogue: Cultural Exchange Across Time and Space",WeChat Public Account for Student Activities in the Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University.

    2. "E Visit to Jaffa | Explore: Understand the Vitality of Technological Innovation",WeChat Public Account for Student Activities in the Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University.

    3. "E Visit to Jaffa | Reflections: Crossing the Crossroads of History and Future", WeChat Public Account for Student Activities in the Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University.

    4. University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway website

    Written by Yi Jiang, Yuan Shen, and Yining Guo