A festive ceremony yesterday in Ibilin village in the Western Galilee marked the official opening of what participants described as the "first Arab university in Israel."

Under the terms of an operating license received this year from Israel's Council of Higher Education, the university, part of the Mar Elias Education Institutions, will also operate as an overseas branch of the University of Indianapolis.

Initially, the institution will have three departments: computer studies, environmental studies and communications. It is authorized to confer B.A. degrees in professional studies that are recognized in Israel and the United States. The university plans to establish other departments, including one in Holy Land Studies and Theology.

This year, 80 students are enrolled. Jewish instructors make up about a quarter of the faculty.

At yesterday's opening ceremony, speakers greeted the new students, lecturers and administrators. Speakers included university President Dr. Elias Shakour and Dean Raed Mualem. Shakour described the institution as an "Israeli Arab university" that will be open to all students - Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze. He thanked Israel's Council of Higher Education for its help in establishing the facility.