(JTA) — At least 1,000 Palestinians will receive a free university education in Venezuela.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday welcomed 119 Palestinian students who will be trained in the field of medicine through the new Yasser Arafat Scholarship Program.
“We will train at least 1,000 doctors, quickly, now,” Maduro said in an address to the students in Caracas, the South American nation’s capital. “It is a hard goal but we can’t fail on this, we have no excuses.”
Maduro also announced the expansion of the program to engineering, architecture “and every field of knowledge.”
The scholarship program is named for Arafat, the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the first president of the Palestinian Authority.
Maduro said he cried when he saw the images of Palestinian students dancing in their first minutes in Venezuela.
“We want to see you dance again,” the president said.
The Palestinian students obliged by dancing for Maduro, who received from them a keffiyah, or Arab headdress.
More than 20 of the students are from Gaza; the rest are from the West Bank. They were picked up in Jordan by a plane sent from the Venezuelan government that also brought 10 tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza.
In August, Maduro publicly accused Israel of pursuing “a war of extermination against the Palestinian people” and has compared Gaza to Auschwitz.
Three months earlier, Venezuela announced that it would supply oil to the Palestinians. Venezuela in 2009 recognized the State of Palestine.