Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Despite the Occupation, Palestinian Students Thrive in Birzeit University

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Despite the Occupation, Palestinian Students Thrive in Birzeit University

Article excerpt

SINCE ITS INCEPTION 31 years ago, Birzeit University has striven to survive the Israeli occupation. Staff and students of the university, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah, have endured Israeli military harassment and harsh political and financial conditions, yet somehow managed to maintain the university's high standards.

The cost of the occupation on the education of Palestinian students has been enormous. From 1989 to 1992, while Birzeit was subjected to Israeli military closure, university faculty and administration decided to continue operating underground. It took some students more than 10 years to complete a four-year undergraduate program.

Despite the oppressive social and political conditions in Palestine, the university's administrators, board of trustees and faculty are determined to create a campus where students can study and learn freely and openly. Today Birzeit has become a cultural, social and political refuge for more than 7,000 students.

Palestinians value the many contributions offered by Birzeit students and faculty alike, who are considered important social and political agents of change and reform. "Birzeit University has meaningfully contributed to Palestinian society," Amal Khraish, a Palestinian women activist, told the Washington Report. "We count on the institution as a whole and their graduates to provide the necessary guidance and support our public and private institutions sorely need."

Birzeit University has been in the vanguard by calling for reforms in law, gender rights, public education, public policy and administration. According to Khraish, a leader on gender issues in Palestine, "Birzeit is a major participant in the healthy and meaningful national dialogue occurring today on gender equity. Their research, studies and publications have helped shape the public and private discourse in Palestine."

Birzeit University graduates and alumni are found in every public and private sector in Palestine. During the Oslo negotiations, Dr. Nabil Kassis told the Washington Report, "more than 75 percent of the Palestinian negotiating team was made up of Birzeit University faculty and graduates."

The university was originally founded in 1924, under the British Mandate administration, as an elementary school for girls in the town of Birzeit. …

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