So to help foster these relationships, Elhelo, a Brandeis graduate, started a fellowship program at his alma mater to road-test an idea that dates back to the European Enlightenment, good business makes good neighbors, or as the French thinker Montesquieu put it in the 18th century, “Commerce cures destructive prejudices, polishes and softens barbarian ways.”
The program, Our Generation Speaks, houses the start-up business incubator Montaser Amro started Qual IT two years ago. It sticks religiously to a one-to-one ratio of Israelis to Palestinians, from the board and staff to the couple of dozen start-up hopefuls accepted each summer out of hundreds of applicants.
Once at Brandeis, the fellows undergo boot camp training for entrepreneurs and are put into teams, again, equal parts Arab and Israeli, to create business plans.
The credo here is indeed better to make money than war. Arab-Israeli collaboration is so charged, however, that many of the Brandeis fellows wouldn’t speak on camera, for fear of reprisal back home.