Texas A&M University may be considering a campus in Israel, according to the Bryan/College Station Eagle. Citing “sources close to the situation,” the paper said A&M officials have made repeated trips to Israel to negotiate a partnership and that an announcement could come as early as next week.
In fact, A&M has had a long-standing connection to Israel through the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. My father was a visiting professor at the University of Haifa beginning in 1981, and he studied the Athlit Ram, a battering ram that adorned the bow of a oared war ship from the Hellenistic period.
My father continued working on the ram for the next several years, studying the timbers under its bronze casing. In 1986, he returned to Israel at the request of Shelley Wachsmann to examine a boat found on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The excavation revealed it was a fishing boat from the first century, similar to the one mentioned in the Bible that was used by Jesus.
Today, the “Jesus Boat” is a top tourist attraction in Israel, and Shelley Wachsmann is a professor in the nautical archaeology program at Texas A&M.
In the 1990s, my father consulted on two other significant archaeological projects in Israel: the Ma’agan Micheal excavation of a cargo ship from about 400 BC and the recovery of multiple shipwrecks from the Tantura Lagoon.
If A&M is looking for program upon which to build its Israeli campus, it might look to its own history.