This week Brandeis celebrates the opening of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies with an inaugural conference that began Monday and will continue today.
The five lecture sessions, open to the Brandeis community and public, are delivered by a diverse group of scholars from Israel, the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Palestinian territories.
Crown Center Director Shai Feldman said the vision for the Crown Center is to create "a center that produces research of the highest scholarly quality, objective analysis of developments in the history, politics and economics of the Middle East."
Feldman said the center will contribute to the wider discourse on the Middle East by holding conferences and producing research for the scholarly community and the public at large.
"It is a center for people who seek to understand the Middle East better," he said.
In addition, Feldman plans on opening a small television studio located at the center that will be able to provide up-to-date commentary and research to Boston area, national and international news networks and newspapers on events in the Middle East.
"We mean to be heard beyond Waltham," Feldman said.
The center's first Senior Fellows, Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestine Center for Political and Survey Research in Ramallah and Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, "will have access to the international media and the international media will have access to them."
Feldman said he, Shikaki and Said will be teaching a course for students next fall entitled, "The Middle East Conflict: Competing Narratives."
In addition to teaching courses, Feldman said the Senior Fellows will work with him on, "determining the research agenda of the center."
Feldman said he is honored to work with Shikaki and Said, scholars he called, "the best minds in the region," for leading the Center in its research direction.
After serving as the director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he worked for 27 years, Feldman said he looks forward to the challenging task of opening a new research center. He views the opportunity as a "chance to create something from scratch. I have the freedom to decide what avenues to take."
According to Feldman, the University has already appointed two of its four university chairs. Near Eastern and Judaic Studies professors Ilan Troen and Kanan Makiya will chair Israel Studies and Islamic Studies, respectively. The other chair positions yet to be filled include Middle East economics and regional security in the Middle East.
"[Chairs] will be connected to the Crown Center for the research side of their activities," Feldman said.
"Producing research and scholarship in a dispassionate, objective way," Feldman said, is important to do on a campus where he said, "passions run high" on the topic of the Middle East. He wants the Center to offer people a wide range of perspectives on the issues.
"Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, Iranians and Turks will all be part of the Center's activities," Feldman said. He expects the diversity of opinions to teach visitors that there are many ways to understand development in the Middle East.