Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan urged Palestinians and Israelis to overcome their differences and engage in productive dialogue at a talk with University President Richard Levin on Tuesday.
In front of about 700 students and faculty members, Queen Rania praised President Barack Obama’s plan for Middle East peace and encouraged those involved in the conflict to maintain faith in the peace process. Students at the talk said they were surprised by Queen Rania’s bold statements on the hot-button issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but appreciated her candor.
Queen Rania, who has Palestinian parents, said Americans should pay more attention to one of the most important issues to people in the Arab world.
“Coming from Jordan, I feel I must speak for those voices Americans rarely hear,” she said. “In Jordan, we have to be concerned with the conflict, because we are living with its consequences.”
The most dangerous threat to the peace process is cynicism and hopelessness about resolving the conflict, she said.
While Queen Rania spent much of her 15-minute speech discussing the plight of the Palestinian people, she also mentioned the troubles Israel is facing.
“It isn’t just the Palestinians’ lives that are at stake here. Israelis too need a future of peace and security,” she said. “True peace depends on reconnecting the bonds of our common humanity.”
To that end, Queen Rania has been active in on-the-ground efforts to bring people together, especially concerning education initiatives for children worldwide. Before her talk, Levin announced the creation of the Queen Rania Fellowship for the Study of the Contemporary Middle East, which will provide scholarship funding to masters students studying the region.
Queen Rania’s visit coincides with Yale’s exhibition of “Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World,” which she initiated in Greece in 2002 to explore the roles of women in the Arab world. The exhibit, housed at the Institute of Sacred Music, is making its American premier at Yale.
In the question-and-answer session, Queen Rania addressed perceptions and realities of women living in the Arab world, a theme explored by the exhibit. She stressed the diversity of experiences for Arab women, some of whom have high-profile achievements to their names, while others of whom are still held back by laws and societal norms.
Samer Sabri ’13, a student from Lebanon, said he appreciated Queen Rania’s discussion of the roles of women in the Middle East, as well as the example she personally sets.
“As someone from the Middle East, I am very proud,” he said. “This is the Arab woman that we want and that we are aspiring to.”
Ten of the 12 students interviewed said they thought Queen Rania’s speech was somewhat biased towards the Palestinians, though many appreciated her attempt to address both sides of the issue.
“She stayed one-sided on it, but I do understand why, because she is representing the country of Jordan,” Nathan Yohannes ’13 said.
Queen Rania’s visit generated excitement throughout the student community, but the queen herself said she too had been looking forward to the visit.
“I wanted to come here for many years,” she said. “I’ve really been looking forward to seeing the Yale landmarks that I’ve heard about for so long.”
Born in Kuwait and educated at the American University in Cairo, Queen Rania has been involved in many organizations that help the disadvantaged both in Jordan and around the world since becoming queen in 1999.