British benefactors have welcomed the opening of a new college in a poor part of northern Israel that will give equal opportunities to students of all faiths.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog hailed Western Galilee College in Akko as a model for co-existence at the dedication ceremony, saying: “It epitomises the dream of developing a bright future, of giving hope to the young generation, of educating people, of giving them a common denominator.”

Labour Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog addressing the Zionist Federation this week

Labour Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog

While the Israeli government and college together contributed £3 million, UJIA funding accounted for £6 million over the course of the four year project, which has been built in an area with poverty rates around 45%.

Seed donors included Sir Harry and Judy Solomon, and Isaac and Myrna Kaye. Sir Harry, who made his money in the food industry, is a senior member of the management team at the Portland Trust, which promotes peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians, while South African-born Kaye was in healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

Other senior lay leaders including Mick Davis, David Cohen, Keith Black, Stuart Levy and Robert Randall joined UJIA chief executive Michael Wegier and 300 others for the ceremony.

“This is a landmark event,” said UJIA Chairman Bill Benjamin. “It’s how we’re making our mark on the Jewish story.”

Reflecting a diverse region, half the college’s intake is Jewish, while the other half comprises Muslim, Christian and Druze students, with Arab women particularly well-represented.

Students study for degrees in the fields of Management, Economics, Logistics, IT Management, Marketing and other business related disciplines, and UJIA says it will help train the next generation of middle managers.