ِAl Ghadeer English-Issue 1

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Issue 1 - Fall 2018

Editorial Five years have already passed since Al Ghadeer, which was first issued in the sixties, was revived by the Public Relations Office at Birzeit University. Since 2013, the Magazine have been revealing the untold stories of our students’ achievements, faculty excellence and contribution to the world of knowledge. Al Ghadeer has become the written legacy of Birzeit University, but only in Arabic. Today, however, we are issuing an English version of Al Ghadeer, hoping that it becomes the new legacy crafted by the generation of the 21st century. The university

FIND US ONLINE To read all about our academic programs, articles and events http://www.birzeit.edu To follow our daily activities

recognizes the importance of transcending borders to


reach out to the world with our mission and identity. In

To see our best photos

the English version of Al Ghadeer, we want to showcase


our identity as a publication by highlighting the unique

To see our best videos

and interesting stories and accomplishments of the


Birzeit family.

Give Today

There is so much growth and change happening inside


the university as it emerges onto the world stage, despite the challenges. Help us make this magazine successful, by sending us letters and emails to our email: pr@birzeit.edu. Remember, this is also a digital magazine so be sure to tweet, share, and recommend any articles you like from our website https://www. birzeit.edu/en/about/bzupublications.

Copyright © 2018 Al Ghadeer Team Editorial Committee Carmen Kishek Maen Saa Advisory Committee Tina Jaber Rafidi Lubna Abdulhadi AL GHADEER MAGAZINE

Issue 1 - Fall 2018

Taken by Eyad Jadallah, Photographic & Visual Imaging Officer/Public Relations Office-Birzeit University, the cover photo of the magazine represents the Palestinian Costumes Collection at Birzeit University Museum. It is comprised of more than a hundred traditional dresses and costumes and an additional one hundred accessory items (headdresses, jewelry, belts, etc.) The costumes come from different geographic and urban regions in Palestine such as Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, Jaffa, and Bir el Sabe’. Each of these garments carries a specific identity, with typical features pertinent to its origin. The garments are usually distinguishable from one another by the type of embroidery, fabric, pattern, and colors. Check out the collection at http://museum.birzeit.edu/collections

Contributors Ramsay Kamhawi Burtoft Design & Art Direction Majd Assali Picture Editor Eyad Jadallah Copy Editing & Proof Reading Charmaine Seitz Sarah Capper


Issue 1 - Fall 2018




The Me Nobody Knows: Tales of BZU Students



A deep dive into the history & people of BZU


Placemaking at Birzeit: A Modern Campus...an Ageless Spirit


At the Forefront of Academic Research



Motivating Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Remaking History


Education Against all Odds


A Message from

The President of Birzeit University, Dr. Abdullatif Abuhijleh


irzeit University achieved excellence on numerous occasions this year, beginning with its breakthrough into the top 3 percent of universities worldwide in the 2018 QS World University Rankings. Such an accomplishment testifies to the university’s continued efforts to offer an environment in which each and every one of its students demonstrates innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of its commitment to its students, Birzeit University has also inaugurated the Leadership and Active Citizenship Program, “Masari.” The program, the first of its kind in the region, builds the capacities and hones the professional skills of all first-year students at the university. The program serves to strengthen students’ roles in their community and helps them find employment or internship opportunities during, or after, their educational journeys at Birzeit. Birzeit University continues its quest to offer students a wide variety of academic programs that balance theory and practice. The university has launched the Contemporary


Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

Visual Art Bachelor’s Program, the Design Bachelor’s Program, the Executive Master’s in Business Administration, and the Government and Local Governance Master’s Program. Additionally, the Faculty of Arts adopted a new Bachelor’s of Media Program that keeps students abreast of scientific and technical developments in media, and has separately added Chinese to the seven other languages it offers, allowing students a global perspective. To keep up with its everincreasing number of academic programs, excellent professors, and intellectually-curious students, Birzeit University recently inaugurated the Riad Tawfik Al-Sadik Faculty of Law and Public Administration Building, which will serve the needs of 1,600 students in three departments: law, political science, and public administration. The Palestine Techno Park, the university’s startup incubator and technological forefront, has been admitted into the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation. Arts and culture constitute a mainstay of the Birzeit University

experience, and this year was no different. The Birzeit University Museum hosted numerous of exhibitions, the Palestine National Orchestra performed to a standing ovation in the Naseeb Azeez Shaheen Auditorium, and Kamal Nasir Hall saw many student-led plays and shows.

Birzeit University is growing with each passing day, but it will always remain true to its core values, its mission, and vision. It will always remain a bastion of freedom of thought, freedom of expression, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

THE ME NOBODY KNOWS Tales of Birzeit University Students

Birzeit University


Pursuit of a Musical Dream How the Arabic Music Program convinced two graduates to

become students once again There’s a moment that happens sometimes, a moment when you look at yourself in the mirror knowing deep down that this is not what you wanted to do with your life. That moment divides us: between those who shrug it off and carry on, and those who return to the drawing board and commit themselves to making their dreams a reality.


Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

Change can be hard, and admitting that we’re not happy with the results of our decisions is a difficult step for anyone. Some would argue that some decisions are set in stone. Things that you’ve spent years pursuing, like a fouryear degree, are not easily replaceable or undone. Imagine, after graduating and working for a year, standing in front of your parents, friends, and family and telling

them that you want to go to college a second time to study something entierly different- the subject that you’ve always wanted to study. If you were Henna Al Haj, and if you had parents as supportive as she did, then this decision would not be as difficult as you might imagine. Henna graduated from Birzeit University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Media, focusing on Radio and TV Broadcasting. But Henna was not content. After working for more than a year in various positions, she realized that music was what she really wanted to do with her life; she wanted to perform and sing. Enrolling in the Arabic Music Program, she began her second journey at Birzeit on her own terms. The following is an interview with Henna, in which she discusses her journey from graduation to a second try at college.


So, most people fall into a regular cadence after graduation. First comes work – even if it’s different from the chosen field of study – then some more work, then starting a family. What made you challenge the status quo?

I’ve always wanted to study and work in music. I did try to enroll in music programs abroad, but I didn’t find any programs that focus on Arabic music, and there were no scholarships to speak of. As happens to a lot of college students, I ended up enrolling in a program I knew nothing about. The moment when I realized that I really wanted to sign up for the music program came after graduation [when Birzeit University added the program to its offerings]. I worked for a year in a couple of jobs, such as project coordinator. This job was not related to my field of study, but I knew that my heart was not in media or journalism either. I decided that if I wanted to work in music, I should attain the proper education, and I enrolled in the Arabic Music Program at Birzeit University, my alma mater.


Now that you’re enrolled in the program, what do you think of it?

This is still my first year in the program, but I believe I have made the right choice. It’s a hybrid approach to teaching music, really. In traditional music conservatories, you go through eight stages, or phases, and each one takes a year. So, all in all, it’s an eight-year training period, with a focus on the performative aspects of music. The Arabic Music Program takes that approach, cuts it down to four years, and amalgamates it with the theoretical aspects of music, a process which culminates in a unique, creative approach to music education. Classes, for instance, are taught differently. Some courses are taught in the form of a discussion, others are attended by only a section of the program’s majors, and still others are given in one-on-one sessions, such as the Instrumental Skills course. Birzeit University



That this approach has its merits is obvious, but what about its drawbacks?

Well, I wouldn’t call them drawbacks per se, but because the program is relatively young, it’s still trying to strike the perfect balance in bringing the conservatory experience into an academic context. For example, the division between students based on performative talent conflicts with those based in theoretical background and knowledge. But again, this is more the result of the program’s relative youth than anything else, and I believe that such issues will be resolved with time.


What is the one thing that ties this whole program together?

If I had to choose, I would say the fact that the instructors themselves are musicians and artists. Music is felt with the senses; it evokes a visceral emotion that can’t be taught.

And an instructor who enjoys and practices music and who can identify the emotions which music evokes is an incredible asset and the key to this program’s success.


Like you mentioned, a lot of students enroll in programs that they don’t enjoy or know nothing about. What piece of advice would you give them?

It’s your own life and your own career. Major in something you love and you will excel at it, no matter what you choose. I was lucky to have my friends’ and family’s support in my decision, and I believe that your family and friends will support you, too, unconditionally. If you’re passionate about something, they will be too. If you’re passionate about music, but still feel that going all in is not the right choice, you can minor in the Arabic Music Program. This way, you can test the waters, so to speak, and follow your passion while still pursuing an academic degree in another field.

Mahmoud Awad was one of Henna’s most ardent supporters as she restarted her academic journey. He didn’t know at the time that he would eventually make the same choice and begin a path to blend his experiences as a lifelong artist with the theoretical knowledge of the Arabic Music Program’s skilled instructors.

Awad’s journey with music and performance started years ago at Birzeit University with the band, Sanabel, in which he and his bandmates sang national Palestinian songs celebrating Palestinian heritage and culture. “I joined Sanabel in March of 2000. That period, of course, was rough and tension-filled for Palestinians – we were on the verge of an intifada,” Awad recalls. “In fact, Sanabel had its 6

Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

first show two days after the start of the second Intifada.” Even in such times, Sanabel shows were packed, with audience members waiting outside peeking through the slightly-opened doors. “We mirrored Palestinian public opinion in our activities and songs. We defied Israeli military orders and curfews and fought with our ouds, percussions, buzuqs, qanuns, clarinets, and guitars.”

Years later in 2005, Awad established his own band, Yalalan, along with Basel Zayed, Yousef Zayed, Isam Natsheh, and Emmal Baker. “The idea for Yalalan was to establish a private platform for art, a place for young artists to meet, exchange expertise, and develop skills. At Yalalan, we view art as a vessel for delivering your message to the world. This message has to affect change for the better in society. Art must revolve around higher values, like love of country and rejection of injustice, and pay tribute to life, love, and beauty.” “Our music is inspired by what we refer to as Arab heritage, such as the works of Sayed Darwish – a turning point in Arabic music with regards to style and theme, which focused on the issues and concerns of the people, rather than just acting as a tool for entertainment – Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Fairuz, the Palestinian Sabreen band, Sheikh Imam, and some national songs by Marcel Khalife and Samih Shoukeir.”

Enriching Experience with Theory

By this time, Awad was busy with artistic pursuits. Having graduated from Birzeit University with a degree in media in 2002, Awad was employed at the university as creative arts coordinator, through which he oversaw the university’s artistic activities and bands, including Sanabel, which he managed until 2008. He had his hands full as a recordproducing artist in a breakthrough band and an established painter whose works are featured in national galleries and exhibitions. Awad also cooperated with a number of Palestinian bands in numerous productions and joined with prominent bands as Nawa, Al-Thawra Chour, and Jafra, in addition to being featured in over 150 live shows and composing music for the past five years.

Still, he chose to go back to school and take advantage of the theoretical foundation and musical incubator offered by the new Arabic Music Program. “It has always been my dream to study music,” Awad says, “but I reached a point where I thought that it was impossible, either due to creative differences with the program’s ethos, so to speak, or due to difficulties in finding the time to fully engage with the program within my alreadypacked schedule,” says Awad. But the Arabic Music Program fuses experience and skills with musicology in a one-of-a-kind academic program. It was different than other programs he had considered. “The program was flexible, and I had the support of my family, friends, and manager at my job, who helped me to create a schedule where I can work and continue my studies in the program. I was able to utilize the experience and skills that I’ve acquired throughout the years under the supervision of the program’s instructors.” Such a program would never have been possible without the joint cooperation of the students, instructors, and university administration, Awad noted. “The instructors cooperate with the students on the course structure and times. Some courses are oneon-one, others have a limited number of students to properly disseminate knowledge and facilitate the acquiring of new skills, and still others include many students, such as the Group Playing course. This requires a high-level of coordination between students, instructors, and the Registration and Admissions Department.” “It’s a truly unique program that’s built on a sound theoretical and practical foundation. The students and instructors constitute our own little community, which encourages

the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and expertise. You have those bright, skilled students who come from all walks of life. They’re instructors at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, they’re band members in Sanabel, they’re professional and amateur musicians, but most importantly, they’re lovers of music.”

Never Too Late to Change Course

Awad’s experience, while unique, is not solitary. He and Henna are examples of individuals who truly put in the effort to realize their dreams. “Follow your passion and work to make your dreams a reality, and if you’re hesitant about making the jump toward a full music program, then the program offers a minor in

It’s your own life and your own career. Major in something you

love and you will excel at it, no matter what you choose. I was lucky to have my friends’ and

family’s support in my decision, and I believe that your family and friends will support you,

too, unconditionally. If you’re passionate about something,

they will be too.

Arabic music and elective courses, which are available to all university students, regardless of their chosen major,” Awad says. “There is no such thing as being too late,” he admonishes. “You’re achieving your own dreams and carving out your own path to success, and you’re doing it on your time. Success can come early or it can come late, but when you’re doing something you love, it will certainly arrive.” Birzeit University


Mahmoud’s artwork

Deep Passion: Acrylic on Canvas 2018 “Our love of what we do brings us serenity when dealing with the hardships we face in our lives.” 8

Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

For the Love



A Deep Dive into the History & People of Birzeit University

Birzeit University


The Rise -and Riseof Birzeit University

C Birzeit University kindled a spirit that lives on 94 years after its birth


Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

onsider this: as of 2017, Birzeit University is the top-rated university among its national peers, ranked 38th in the Arab region, and recently broke into the top 3 percent of universities worldwide. It’s sprawling, 800-dunam campus holds 25 buildings, including 11 centers and institutes. Its eight faculties offer more than 100 undergraduate and graduate academic programs in which over 13,000 students are enrolled. The number of faculty PhD holders, the awards won each year, the research papers released, the hundreds of thousands of books in its libraries and the millions of dollars in student aid - the numbers themselves are a remarkable tribute to Birzeit University’s achievements. But those numbers don’t convey the humble beginnings of what would eventually become one of the foremost academic institutions in Palestine.

In 1924, a small house in the town of Birzeit north of Ramallah became the Birzeit School for Girls. The house, generously donated by Reverend Hanna Nasir, became what many students called a second home; that alone must have filled Nabiha Nasir and Ratibeh Shkair’s hearts with joy when they founded the school. Nabiha had asked her grandfather, Hanna Nasir, if they could establish the school in his house, but the wheels of progress didn’t stop there. A few years later, an additional boys’ school was built to accommodate the increase in the number of students, and in the year 1942, just a few years shy of the life-altering event that was the Palestinian Nakba, the school was rechristened as “Birzeit College.” It was the norm at that time to call a school a “college” – the name change didn’t denote any altering of

the school structure or methods of teaching. The real change, however, came shortly after the Nakba. It was at that time of loss, destruction, and forced displacement that the need for excellent, distinct higher education was at its greatest, and that was exactly what Birzeit Junior College delivered. The transition to a junior college would prove to be a difficult undertaking; a junior college requires a trained, advanced faculty and facilities. This requires funding. Fortunately, Birzeit’s alumni and family rushed to its aid, (one finds this recurrent theme throughout the history of Birzeit). Gabi Baramki, a Birzeit graduate, returned home from Lebanon and began to manage and guide the fledging junior college in its transition. Samia Nasir, recently home after pursuing a Business Administration

degree from the United States, took on the responsibilities of registrar and accounting as well as teaching. Her daughter, Rima, taught music and languages, and many others gave everything they had. It was a concerted effort by those who held Birzeit in the highest regard and it paid off well. Students were able to transfer to universities and colleges abroad, and the university hammered out an agreement with the American University of Beirut (AUB) to ease the students’ transfer to the university. If one speaks with Birzeit graduates or current students, one of the first things they mention is the university’s spirit. It is this undefinable, intangible atmosphere that permeates the university and everything that relates to it: its campus, buildings, lectures, faculty, students, staff, and everything in between. It is at this period – the

The real change, however, came shortly after the Nakba. It was at that time of loss, destruction, and forced displacement that the need for excellent, distinct higher education was at its greatest, and that was exactly what Birzeit Junior College delivered.

Birzeit University


Birzeit University laboratories in the old campus

Registration and Admission Department (Sep 1985)


Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

junior college period – that this spirit blossomed and cemented itself as a mainstay of the Birzeit experience. At the junior college, clubs of all interests facilitated the sharing of ideas and visions, bulletin boards and publications, (like Al Ghadeer), allowed the students to voice their interests and thoughts, and the Student Council elections reaffirmed the values of democracy and individuality instilled in the students. Just as the 1948 Nakba indirectly set the stage for the transition of Birzeit to a junior college, the 1967 occupation of Palestine (the Naksa) also indirectly led to Birzeit becoming what it is now: a fullfledged university. In 1967 and after, Israeli military authorities severely restricted travel and trade in the occupied territories and harassed the Palestinian population on a daily basis. The transfer of students to AUB or other universities abroad became difficult. The high cost of tuition, relative to the economic situation at that time, made regional universities unattainable. Travel restrictions made the shortest of trips uncertain. Attentive as they were to the needs and circumstances of the Palestinian community, Birzeit’s administrators

During the annual sports show in 1978

heard a quiet call for a local university. It was then-president Hanna Nasir’s announcement at the associate degree graduation ceremony of 1972 that signaled the change to come. His declaration that students could enroll in a four-year program starting next September was met with thunderous acclaim and appraise, with applications flooding the registration office’s mailbox. The first step of the transformation was to change ownership from a private foundation to a public one, with the supervision of an official board of trustees. The change in legal structure was accompanied by a change in the actual, concrete structures of the college. A new campus – originally planned for Al-Tireh, but later changed to Birzeit because of the refusal of the Israeli military authorities to grant a license – was planned to house

the nascent university, with the Nasir family generously donating land for the building project. The Board of Trustees also approved the purchase of land a few years later, in preparation for the flood of new students, but no one could have envisioned the speed with which the institution outgrew even the new campus. The transformation into a university wasn’t final until academic year 1974-1975. In that year, newlyestablished academic departments offered third-year courses, faculty members from over the world joined the university, and university facilities had been repeatedly renovated to accommodate the ever-increasing number of students. The change from junior college to university was also accompanied by a change in the student body from local to national. Students from all over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip,

and the 1948-occupied territories applied to attend the university in 1972, imbuing the campus with an atmosphere of Palestinian unity that remains to this day. It was, by all accounts, a “miniature Palestine,” as the 45-year Birzeit University veteran Ramzi Rihan puts it. The birth of the Student Council in 1973 was the confirmation that the university’s students, despite their many different backgrounds, were truly aware of the value of unity and cohesion. Birzeit University’s historic rise from an elementary school to the most prestigious university in all of Palestine cannot be done justice here. There were a lot of hurdles and challenges that the university had to overcome to get where it is today. This brief overview, however, should help us all appreciate the evolution of this grand institution and its lasting impact.

Birzeit University



Carmela A. Omary, Champion of Birzeit University for Over 30 Years

She defied blockades, curfews, and financial troubles in her quest to maintain the university as a leading light for Palestinians


armela Armanious Omary, a member of Birzeit University’s Board of Trustees and one of the university’s luminaries, views education as a vital tool in the path toward Palestinian freedom. She challenged Israeli restrictions and oppression through education, and helped turn the university into a bastion of Palestinian ingenuity. She has always held fast to her beliefs, whether at the Technion in Haifa, where she actively advocated for the rights of Palestinians – even though she was only the second female Palestinian student at that time at that university – or at I’billin, a town in northern occupied Palestine, where she was one of the earliest Palestinian 14

Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

mathematics instructors in the area. In 1977, a year after her appointment at I’billin, she was laid off by the Israeli Ministry of Education due to her activity as a proponent of Palestinian students’ rights. A year later, in 1978, her parents moved to Australia, where she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics. Her father, Habeeb Armanios, was a Birzeit University graduate. He often told Carmela about Birzeit College, later Birzeit University, describing it as a place that celebrates the free spirit, passion for knowledge, intellectualism, and Palestinian national consciousness. She had to see and experience the campus for herself; after earning her doctorate, Carmela headed to the university,

kicking off a 34-year career in teaching and administration. “I think [the university] offers a unique learning experience for students,” said Carmela in an interview with Al Ghadeer. “I have attempted to creatively integrate all the lessons and experiences that I’ve been through into each and every one of my lectures. I would ask students to analyze newly-released articles on complex mathematical problems, and they would hand it in the next day. They have what it takes.” Bright as Birzeit University students were, the Israeli occupation, with its restrictive measures and penchant for obstructing Palestinian education, cast an ever-present shadow over their daily lives and academic careers. “Five months after I started teaching at Birzeit, I received an Israeli military order forbidding me from going out of Jerusalem. Teaching never stopped, however. I gave students lectures at my house and at the YWCA headquarters in Jerusalem,” said Carmela, recalling the rough era of campus closures by the Israeli military authorities. While extraordinary, Carmela’s experiences in “guerilla” teaching were not unmatched. Israeli military authorities made it a habit to close-off Birzeit University’s campus. To date, there have been 15 closures of the campus since Birzeit transformed into a university in 1972, the longest of which lasted 51 months, from 1988 to 1992. During that period, many professors held lectures in their own homes and backyards, and when that was not feasible, they met with their students in cars, hotel rooms, schools, churches, and mosques. In 1992, Carmela took over as director of the Department of Registration and Admissions, and in just four months, she was able to completely change department procedures and how it handles a multitude of requests. When asked about the most pressing issues during her tenure as director of the registration department, she mentioned acceptance requirements. “A lot of people were calling for lower grade requirements, saying that the threshold is too high. But I persevered. I was determined to

uphold Birzeit University’s bylaws and regulations,” she explained, noting that the only way the university could attain international rankings was by following well-defined rules and procedures. Carmela moved up again in Birzeit University’s hierarchy, from serving as director of the Registration and Admission’s Department to a post as the president’s administrative assistant, a position that would later be renamed into “vice president for administrative and academic affairs.” Just as Carmela was beginning her duties as vice president, the university was hit by a major financial crisis. With her characteristic poise and shrewdness, Carmela was able to mitigate the effects of the deficit by reducing the number of employees and increasing efficiency – while paying fair compensation – and granting the Union of Employees and Professors access to the university’s budget and the full range of decisions that were made to counter financial challenges. Exacerbating the financial issues affecting Birzeit University were the Israeli military authorities’ constraints and harassments, which culminated in closing off the main road to the university. Carmela, who fiercely believed in the Palestinian right to education, was among the first to stand up to Israeli violations. One peaceful march by Birzeit University professors and students was able to open the main road to traffic (that is, before Israeli soldiers attacked the protestors, injuring 20). Carmela, defiant, headed to the soldiers’ position to deliver two petitions, in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. The first petition was based on articles 3, 27, 33, of the Fourth Geneva Convention, while the second called for Israel to stop its blockade of Palestinians and its policy of collective punishment. Summing up her experiences, Carmela says that Birzeit University “taught me to give as much as I want, and assessed me only by my capabilities, and nothing else. Birzeit University never stood in my way toward success; on the contrary, it helped me develop and grow, and it will do the same for others, according to their capabilities, and only their capabilities.”

She has always

held fast to her

beliefs, whether

at the Technion in Haifa, where she

actively advocated

for the rights

of Palestinians – even though

she was only the

second female

Palestinian student

at that time at that


Birzeit University



Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

First Test of Orion Nebula

Copyright 2018, Michel and Sanieh Hakim Observatory


Total exposure time: 2 hours and 45 minutes. Telescope: Skywatcher Telescope N 150/750 PDS Explorer BD Date: 20/11/2018 Location: Michel & Sanieh Hakim Observatory- Birzeit University The telescopes at Michel and Sanieh Hakim Observatory monitored the Orion constellation, or more specifically, the Orion nebula. It has been the most wellknown constellation in the sky since ancient times, and among amateur astronomers. It usually appears in the winter sky between November and February. The Orion nebula is imagined as a standing warrior. Alnilam, Mintaka and Alnitak, which form Orion's belt, are the most prominent stars in the Orion constellation. The second brightest star, Betelgeuse, forms his right shoulder. In the middle there is another star considered by many to be Orion's sword, hanging off his belt.

Birzeit University


The Student Becomes the Teacher

Nidal Sabri sits down with his student and lifelong colleague Rania Jaber Birzeit University has a venerable history as one of Palestine’s leading higher education institutions. Ever since the small school for girls became a university in 1972 - and even during its days as a junior college - it has left a mark on those who call Birzeit University their home. Everyone, however, reminisces differently about days spent here. Some talk fondly about strolling the campus grounds, while others discuss passionately how they joined their professors on life-long journeys of learning. We sat down with one of Birzeit University’s most distinguished professors, Nidal Sabri, a renowned professor of accounting, and one of his most notable students, Rania Jaber, a professor of business administration and former vice president for financial and administrative affairs, to get a glimpse of their journeys at Birzeit University, from 1975 and 1992, respectively, until today.


Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018


How did you start your careers at Birzeit University?

Sabri: In 1975, there was a job listing for a faculty member position at Birzeit University posted in Al-Quds Newspaper. I got my certificates and my papers ready, and waited for the one car that took people to and from the old university campus in Birzeit’s old town. I met with Gabi Baramki, then the president of Birzeit University, who presented me with the papers to sign, saying that I would serve as chair of the Department of Business and Economics. At that time, I was the only full-time professor at the university. Jaber: I enrolled in the university in 1992 and graduated from the Faculty of Business and Economics in 1995. After that, I was hired as a teaching assistant in the Department of Business Administration. During that time, I pursued a master’s degree in economics and another one in business administration. I served as director of programs at the Institute of Law for three years, after which I became chair of the Department of Business and Economics.


When did you develop this friendship?

Sabri: I met Rania in 1995, when she was applying for the teaching assistant position. The chair of the Business and Economics Department at that time was singing her praises, and, as you can see, his recommendation was excellent. Rania

was one of those students who had the spirit and the initiative to work hard and the courage to venture out of her comfort zone. Jaber: I am very proud to call Dr. Nidal not only a mentor, but a lifelong friend who supported me and put me on the path to academic successes and a lasting journey at Birzeit University. He does everything he can to push and promote excellent students, teachers, and professors. Birzeit University is his life’s work.


How has Birzeit University changed? What do you notice when walking around the campus?

Sabri: In one word, “progress.” Progress on all fronts. I remember when representatives from American and European universities visited the campus and saw Ritaj – the university’s electronic portal – in development. They were amazed. That is nothing compared to the amount of technological and pedagogical progress we are witnessing at the university. One thing that I miss, however, is the sense of camaraderie that enveloped the small university back in its early days. It is true that the university is now a sprawling institution with many faculties, centers, and institutes, but there’s an acute absence of inter-departmental cooperation.

just as their numbers have ballooned, but Birzeit University’s spirit still holds them together. It’s a mini Palestine, with students from all walks of life pursuing their interests and voicing their opinions under a banner of democracy and freedom of thought and expression. Sabri: The university is charting its own path and constantly advancing its constituencies, and I believe that Birzeit University’s community will steer it in the right course and maintain its position as the best Palestinian university and a leading university both regionally and globally.


If you had the chance to do it all over again at Birzeit University, would you take it?

Jaber: I would do it in a heartbeat. I love Birzeit University – my daughters accuse me of loving my work more than them. This university is a national treasure that has served to shape Palestine’s lawyers, medical professionals, professors, and everything in between. And it has helped us make great friends along the way. Sabri: Like Rania said, Birzeit University is my life’s work, and improving it and developing its constituencies is what I have been doing and what I will continue to do here.

Jaber: To add to what Dr. Nidal said, the students are much, much more diverse. Their interests have grown Birzeit University


I will forever be grateful

Graduate remembers Birzeit University after 30 years of living in diaspora


t was 1983 when Khader Hasan, now 53 years old, first enrolled in Birzeit University. Twenty-eight years later, he has returned as a visitor, remembering what he says were the best days of his life. Hasan was surrounded with his old classmates, who were all nostalgic as they recalled “the good old times” at the university. It was clear that there was an unbreakable bond between them and with the university. Hasan talked about his old teachers and friends and the places where they all wandered. After he finished his bachelor degree in physics at Birzeit University in 1990, Hasan left for the United States, where he completed his graduate studies. It took him seven years to complete his undergraduate degree. The university saw the longest closure in its history after the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987. As a result, Hasan could not attend his graduation ceremony, which took place in 1992 while he was in the United States. Despite becoming a renowned professor, his path was not easy, especially because he suffered as a Palestinian refugee. “The first time I went outside the bounds of the refugee camp was to Birzeit University. My mother 20

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encouraged me to do it. We heard from our neighbors about Birzeit, and in my head the university reflected hope and sweet escape from the camp,” Hassan said. At first, Hasan enrolled in the faculty of engineering. However, his family’s economic conditions put him at a crossroads: “I had to find a scholarship to continue my studying or else I would have to withdraw from the university.” Luckily, the Musa Nasir Scholarship for Physics came to his rescue. Afterwards, a scholarship from Brigham Young University in Utah, allowed him to pursue his passion and recieve his master’s degree in Physics before going on to complete a PhD in Medical Physics from the University of Utah. “I did not find many academic challenges during the time I was studying in the United States. Most of the curricula they taught us, especially on the master’s level, had been taught to us at Birzeit University.” Today he is a full professor in medical physics and magnetic resonance imaging, and he asserts that “Birzeit University was the main reason for all the successes that I have achieved up until now. It was my second home, where I learned what freedom and democracy really means.”

PLACEMAKING AT BIRZEIT A Modern Campus… An Ageless Spirit

Birzeit University


Virtual Reality

Revives the Birzeit University Spirit Explore the university’s sprawling campus using new technologies


magine being able to tour Birzeit University’s campus from the comfort of your home, interacting with the university’s faculties and numerous facilities along the way. This is the vision of Associate Professor Dr. Ramzi Hassan, who heads the Virtual Reality Laboratory (VR-Lab) at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. VR is a computer technology that projects images, sounds, and haptic feedback to its users, allowing them to experience natural wonders, historic sites, or even futuristic simulations as if they were physically present. These features make VR the perfect medium for allowing a long-distance tour of the university’s sprawling campus and a new experience of the decades-old spirit of Birzeit. Hassan, previously a lecturer and Chair of the Department of Architecture at


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Birzeit University, founded the VR-Lab at the University of Life Sciences and helped to found the VR-Lab at Birzeit University. He recently spent three months of his sabbatical at the university investigating the potential of using VR as a tool for documenting heritage sites and as a new apparatus for education. VR’s role as educational and documentation tour was demonstrated via the Hisham Palace VR Project. The effort digitally reconstructed Hisham’s Palace, an archeological site in Jericho, using data collection, 3D library creation, and 3D modeling. This culminated in VR’s use as a tool of communication between the various planners, architects, archaeologists, and historians involved in the project. It allowed for a different take on historical and archaeological interpretations of the site and its importance. Using the Hisham Palace VR project as a case study, Hassan investigated the added value of using VR as an “Edutainment” tool, or as entertainment with an educational aim. The Palace VR Project was a breakthrough not only for its use of VR as a tool of historical documentation and education, but also because of the adoption of VR that resulted from it among Palestinians and regionally. There are a lot of historical sites in Palestine that are, -due to the nature of the Palestinian situation- inaccessible, undermaintained, or both. Introducing VR to Palestine can circumvent these difficulties, as the technology becomes a medium for the preservation, documentation, and representation of these cultural and historical sites and historically significant landscapes. A VR tour of Birzeit University, designed and supervised by Hassan, is hosted on the university’s website. The tour provides access and enables all to visit, wherever they may be located around the globe.

At the FOREFRONT of ACADEMIC RESEARCH Birzeit University


Excellence in Research Birzeit has long been a birthplace for academic research: a honing ground for researchers and home for knowledge in Palestine. Following are just a few examples of the groundbreaking work being carried out by our world-class researchers.

Did You Know? Grape Leaves Help Combat Lung Cancer Biology and Biochemistry Professor Dr. Jamil Harb collaborated with his students at Birzeit University to explore the health-promoting phytochemicals of grapes. Through this research project, the team aimed to demonstrate the importance of grape leaves in combating

lung cancer. After extensive analysis and research, the team of researchers discovered that grape leaves from Beit Omar Village in Hebron significantly reduce the proliferation of lung cancer cells.

Birzeit University Graduate Moves One Step Closer to Disarming AIDS Virus Dr. Jamil Saad, a Birzeit University graduate who now serves as an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has identified the final unknown structure of the HIV virus that leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). By utilizing novel approaches and state-of-the-art technology, Saad and his colleagues were able to determine the cytoplasmic tail molecular structure of the gp41 protein, which plays a crucial role in incorporating the virus spike into receptors of healthy cells and causing AIDS. “This protein has been of interest for a long time, and nobody understands how it functions in infection or how it


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helps incorporate the envelope protein into new virions to become infectious,” he commented. This accomplishment will help other researchers further understand how the virus infects human cells and how progeny viruses are assembled and released from infected cells. The researchers hope that this discovery will open up a number of new avenues of research into possible therapies and vaccines for HIV. “If we are able to inhibit incorporation of the envelope protein into new virions, we will inhibit viral replication,” Saad added, “This would disarm the virus and prevent disease.”

New Discovery Paves Way for Improved Cancer Treatment Efficacy A potential cure for cancer discovered at Birzeit University has been tested on three cancer cell lines using the extract of Palestinian plant Arum palaestinum. With further research, the treatment has a high chance of becoming an alternative medical treatment. Recent shifts in medical treatment strategies make a world of difference for the treatment of chronic degenerative diseases, especially cancer. While conventional oncologists still continue to rely on drug- or chemotherapy-based treatment protocols (which have been proven to produce long-term side effects), new studies are shifting toward complementary and anticancer-agent approaches extracted from natural sources. Starting from that point, a joint study conducted by prominent researchers from Birzeit University, Al-Quds University, and the University of Petra in Jordan shows that many plants and medicinal herbal extracts can be used in the treatment of various ailments. The team of researchers thoroughly studied the effect of A. palaestinum on cancer cell lines. A. palaestinum, a lowgrowing tuberous perennial plant with heart or arrow-

shaped leaves, was chosen based on its use in traditional Palestinian herbal medicine. The team consisted of Director of Samih Darwazah Institute for Pharmaceutical Industries in Birzeit University Hani Naseef, Pharmacy Doctors at Birzeit University Heba Qadadha and Yara Abu Asfour, graduates from the Master Program in Clinical Laboratory Science at Birzeit University, and members from the Department of Chemistry at the College of Science and Technology at Al-Quds University and the Department of Pharmacology and Medical Sciences at the University of Petra. The research team investigated the effect on three different cancer cell lines, which revealed the direct inhibitory effect of the A. palaestinum plant extracts. The aqueous boiled extract was more effective at lower extract concentrations, the researchers discovered, and therefore has a potential anticancer effect. The lack of effective treatments available to help thousands of those with cancer inspired this joint research. The latest discovery paves the way for more investigations to elucidate this medicinal herb’s mechanisms of action.

Can Soda Increase Your Appetite? A recent study by Biology and Biochemistry Professor Dr. Johnny Stiban indicates that carbonated beverages lead to increased food consumption in mammals, resulting in excessive weight gain in comparison to non-carbonated beverages. The study, conducted by Stiban and biology students Dureen Samandar Eweis and Fida’ Abed, was carried out on male rats in the university’s laboratories, and its procedures and results were published in the Obesity Research and Clinical Practice Journal. By reviewing the effects of carbon dioxide – which is added to carbonated beverages, hence their name – on hormone secretion in male rats, the study showed that rats that consumed carbonated beverages over a period of

approximately one year gained weight at a rate faster than rats that were given still beverages or tap water. The difference in weight gain can be attributed to elevated levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and, consequently, a greater food intake. After doing the experiment on rats, 20 male students were tested for their ghrelin levels after ingesting different beverages. The ghrelin levels were found to be higher in comparison to their levels pre-testing, corroborating the study’s results. “The result of the study implicates carbon dioxide gas in soft drinks as playing a major role in inducing weight gain and the onset of obesity via ghrelin release and stimulation of the hunger response in male mammals,” noted the study.

Birzeit University


The Next Breakthrough Student-led Inspiring Innovations


An App Turns Sign Language to Text

“The idea came out of our belief that communication is a fundamental human right,� said Sulaiman Shloudi, Tala Abdel Halim, and Muhammad Shabaneh, a team of computer science students at Birzeit University. The team recently built an application to overcome one of the biggest hurdles that the deaf face when communicating with people who do not know sign language. The application they devised acts as a translator, translating the hand motions of sign language into written texts. According to the World Federation of the Deaf, each sign language has its own grammar, as well as multiple dialects, and is used differently on various occasions. Therefore, the team designed the application in such a way that it can automatically analyze images and video in different backgrounds and lights.


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Robot Cleans Hard-to-Reach Solar Panels

As the drive for energy conservation and efficiency continues, innovators, engineers and companies are re-examining every aspect of their operations to see where improvements can be made and technology adopted. Musalem Barghouthi, a student in the Mechanical and Mechatronics Department at Birzeit University, designed a robot for cleaning solar panels. This new competitive technology will mitigate the adverse effects of dust, which reduces the effectiveness of photovoltaic cells in solar panels. The robot is able to clean all panels of different sizes and shapes, and, with the increased effectiveness, will help spread the use of solar panels and green energy in general.


Smart E-bike Senses the Road

The old bicycle is increasingly becoming a hotbed of innovation, with innovators working hard to reinvent its main components. A team of engineering students – Jeries Abedrabbo, Omar Jebreel, Lujayn Kirresh and Diaa’ Tawil – is continuing these efforts to create a new automatic bicycle with a Palestinian twist. By linking three methods of designing (mechanical, electrical and software), the team members are developing a “smart” automatic bicycle that can both improve the bike riding experience and provide an environmentally friendly and economically viable option for transportation. The bicycle will provide the speed and gear ratios needed, depending on driving conditions and user preference, and will make sure that the various parts are receiving the proper power in the most efficient way. The bicycle will also sense the conditions of the road and activate certain components in response. Birzeit University




A Prosthetic Arm: An Arm Controlled via Signs Sent From Muscles

The idea for the project came from Sajdyeh’s own need for a relativelyinexpensive prosthetic arm after a bomb left by Israeli soldiers in Qalandiya amputated his right hand in November 2014

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A team of Birzeit University engineering students recently won the Gold Award at the 10th International Invention of Exhibitions and the 3rd World Invention and Innovation Forum (IEI & WIIF 2018), held in Foshan, China, for their invention of a prosthetic arm. The team, made up of Ahmad AlBisher, Ahmad Sajdyeh, Mahmoud Ashour, and Nasir Dalash and supervised by Professor of Mechanical Engineering Sameh Abu Awad, created an artificial arm that can be controlled via signals sent from the muscles, allowing amputees or people with disabilities to manipulate everyday items with ease. The idea for the project came from Sajdyeh’s own need for a relativelyinexpensive prosthetic arm after a bomb left by Israeli soldiers in Qalandiya severed his right hand in November 2014. Sajdyeh contacted several international prosthetics companies in hopes of regaining mobility and dexterity, but the solutions they offered were extremely expensive. He also approached Palestinian charities and associations that help amputees travel abroad for prosthetic implants, but they also couldn’t help him. Despite the odds stacked against him, Sajdyeh didn’t lose hope and decided to create a prosthetic arm himself

with the help of his colleagues. Sponsored by the China Association of Inventors and the International Federation of Inventors’ Association, the International Invention of Exhibitions and the World Invention and Innovation Forum present the world’s latest inventions, achievements, and services. The events include a professional committee of judges who appraise the inventions and grant Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Special awards.


Modern Technology Meets Traditional Agriculture: The Automatic Tray Seeding Machine

A team of engineering students designed and built a machine that mixes soil with perlite to produce potting mix, fills it into pre-fabricated seed trays, inserts the seeds, and packages the trays neatly for shipping – all automatically at the push of a button. The project team- Tariq Shawahni, Osama Al-Baransi, Rand Musaffer, Malik Nawabeet, Mohammad Kawazbi, Ameen Allan, and Yousef Al Shayeb- were recognized with numerous local and international awards. “We created a machine that rivaled $100,000 Italian tray seeding machines out of parts that were available locally,” explained Shawahni. “Because of the shortage of materials, we had to improvise. For example, we

fabricated the vacuum that takes the seeds from the container and deposits them in the seed trays ourselves. We precisely machined the outer layer out of aluminum and the inner layer out of plastic in such a fashion that the space between them is measured in micrometers.” Every single part of the machine, apart from the servomotors and the programming of the control systems, was created and installed by the team. This included the blades that mix the soil- (which were actually steel rods that the team bent into shape), the pressing rolls, fabricated out of plastic, instead of the more expensive 3D-printed alternative, and the conveyor belt, the original of which kept snapping the steel rods used to install it into place.

“The project is sustainable and has the potential to help the Palestinian agricultural sector immensely by innovatively integrating information technology into agricultural production,” noted Ali. “It will economically enable many farmers in an otherwise largely impoverished sector.” The team members are considering a number of options for producing and marketing the machine. One option could be leasing it, which would allow a farmer to rent the machine for a pre-defined amount of time. The team also considered creating a full production line of machines. That, noted Allan, could be expanded for export to the Middle Eastern and North African markets.

Birzeit University


Birzeit and QS Rankings

A History of Academic Excellence In 2017, QS University Rankings featured Palestinian universities for the first time in its 2018 World Rankings. Birzeit University outranked its national peers, placing 38th in the Arab world, and broke into the top 3 percent of universities worldwide. Just prior, QS had chosen Birzeit University for the third time in a row as one of the leading 100 Arab universities.

What are QS Rankings? QS World University Rankings, published annually both in regional and international formats by Quacquarelli Symonds - a British company specializing in higher education - is one of the top three most respected international university ranking systems. It is based on benchmarks that reflect each university’s educational standards, research efforts, and local and international influence. The international format of QS Rankings includes the top 3 percent of universities worldwide, which amounts to approximately 950 universities chosen from over 26,000 institutions the world over. The Arab Region Rankings, on the other hand, includes the best 100 higher education institutions in the Arab world, chosen from over 1,000 universities.

An Academic Breakthrough Birzeit University was first featured in QS Rankings in 2015, where it placed as the top Palestinian university and in the 61-70 range in the Arab world. The university kept its stature as the leading Palestinian 30

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university in 2016, and jumped 11 places to rank 50th overall in the Arab world. In keeping with its mission and vision, Birzeit University increased its research and academic efforts in subsequent years, and in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, leapfrogged into 38th place in the Arab region rankings, while also breaking into the top 3 percent of higher education institutions worldwide, while remaining the foremost Palestinian university. Birzeit University’s focus on research was reflected in the “ratio of citations per paper” indicator, by which QS Rankings measure the impact of published research studies. Due to its strong performance, the university ranked 11th in the Arab world on citations per paper.

Despite the Odds Despite the financial problems that beset the university, and the extraordinary circumstances that envelope Palestine, and impact the university’s measure in numbers of international faculty and international student metrics, Birzeit University continues to be a bastion of research and academic excellence, and remains true to its mission as it shapes the leaders of the future.

In Memoriam


irzeit University mourns the loss of its friend and supporter, famed physicist Stephen Hawking, who passed away on March 14, 2018. The renowned scientist had a close relationship with the university and actively supported the Palestinian cause and Palestinian physics students. Birzeit University hosted Professor Hawking in 2006 when he gave a lecture, entitled “Origin of the Universe,” that was attended by hundreds of faculty members and Palestinian physicists, and watched by thousands of students on outdoor screens. Professor Hawking was an ardent supporter of Palestine. He criticized Israeli measures that violate intellectual freedom in Palestine, encouraged academic cooperation between Britain and Palestinian academic institutions, and supported the academic boycott of Israel. Professor Hawking himself declined an invitation in 2013 to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference. Professor Hawking had a close relationship with physics students and professors at Birzeit University. Chair of the Department of Physics at Birzeit Isma’el Badran grieved the loss of “one of the most influential physicists in history after Einstein.” “The death of Stephen Hawking,” Badran said, “is a huge loss to physicists around the world, supporters of Palestine, and the Department of Physics at the university. Professor Hawking’s work was one of the foundations upon which the Big Bang theory is built, and his work on black holes shed light on such an unknown astronomical phenomenon.” Henry Giacaman, a professor of physics at Birzeit University, noted Professor Hawking’s support for Palestine. “Professor Hawking did everything he could to develop physics education and research in Palestine. He expressed his support for the first Palestinian Advanced Physics School and called for a fundraising initiative aimed at financing the second one, held at Birzeit University in the summer of 2017.” Born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, Professor Hawking earned a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from the University of Oxford and later went on to pursue a Ph.D. in cosmology from the University of Cambridge. Professor Hawking’s work included research on cosmology, the relationship between black holes and thermodynamics, and the space-time continuum. In 1963, a young Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease that involves the neurons controlling voluntary muscle movement. The slow-progressing diseases paralyzed him and rendered him able to communicate almost exclusively through a speech synthesizer. In 1974, Professor Hawking was able to prove, theoretically, that black holes emit radiation – named the Hawking radiation – in opposition to all theories accepted at the time. His book, “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” sold over 10 million copies worldwide, and a 2014 film on his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for a number of Academy Awards.

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all” “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.

Stephen Hawking

Birzeit University


Taken at the newly inaugurated Faculty of Art, Music and Design (2017/2018)


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Birzeit University


The Masari Program: Engaging Students from Day One


ocused on developing university students as active citizens and forward-looking leaders, Birzeit University inaugurated, with the beginning of the fall semester of the 2017-2018 academic year, the “Student Leadership and Active Citizenship Program-Masari.” The program was launched to bolster the university’s role in developing a renewed vision for learning, and to encourage new students to plan their lives and engage in their surroundings from the first day they step foot on the university’s campus. The program, which will continue on to the second learning station in the spring semester, was launched to bolster the university’s role in developing a renewed vision for learning, and to encourage new students to plan their lives and engage in their surroundings from the first day

Masari Learning Stations 34

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they step foot on the university’s campus. Participating students take part through a co-curricular activity that complements their classes at the university. Masari began with first-year students accepted for the academic year 2017-2018. The program accompanies them in the first three years of their college careers through six creative learning stations, one station per academic semester. In its first year, the program focuses on self-exploration, self-discovery, self-awareness, and self-management through the Personal Competencies and Career Path stations. In the second year, it emphasizes “the other and the community” (active citizenship skills such as diversity, empathy, and sharing) through the Debating and Citizenship stations.

Personal Competencies

Career Path

It is about self-discovery

and developing capacities. Mirvat Bulbul The third year of the program will highlight the development and implementation of student initiatives that stem from the students’ outlook on Palestinian national contexts and community priorities through two stations focused on community entrepreneurship.

Planning for the Future with Masari

Building upon Birzeit University’s belief that tomorrow’s leaders are today’s students, the Student Leadership and Active Citizenship Program - Masari is an innovative companion program that encourages university students to be active citizens and forward-looking leaders. Through the program, the university’s different faculties, centers, and institutions all work hand-in-hand to provide students with a learning experience that creates an environment for entrepreneurship and innovation and engages students in the process of developing their communities. The program comprises six different learning stations offered through three-hour bi-weekly sessions of community-based activities. The second year of the program, for example, focuses on enabling students to recognize others and reach out to the community. The third and last year includes two “stations” that focus on developing and implementing student initiatives that are tailored to the Palestinian context and national priorities. Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Unit George Yerousis said that the program will be expanded over a period of three years to reach the entire student population, and will incorporate curricular and cocurricular components. Students, according to Yerousis, will receive accredited certificates that showcase their accomplishment in the program. Community service hours will also be counted. The program, conducted by the Innovation and


Entrepreneurship Unit at Birzeit University and supported by the Cairo Amman Bank, encourages BZU faculty and staff to further advance their professional capacities. “Last summer, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Unit offered an extensive Training of Trainers for our faculty and staff members. Today, more than 120 inhouse facilitators are able to guide our students’ learning journeys and guarantee the steady supply of qualified training,” added Yerousis. One of the facilitators, Dr. Sa’ed Nimer, a professor in the Philosophy and Cultural Studies Department, emphasized the importance of Masari. “Throughout this program, students will be equipped with essential skill sets that will bring about meaningful and innovative change in their communities and distant future moves,” he said. “The different activities address the gaps that are not covered by our academic programs, and, in the process, seek to create a flagship co-curricular student leadership and civic engagement program that engages students in a transformative experience and empowers them to take charge of their own future, and the Palestinian community in general.” Facilitator and Administrative Assistant of the Programming and Registration Section Kholoud Burbar said that the “advantages of the program go beyond the students themselves – they include us as staff and faculty members too. The program will offer all of the skills needed for students to become successful individuals and contributing members of the larger community.” First-year computer science student Omar Bakri said that he believes the program will help him, as a student, to synthesize and make sense of what he has learned from the various curricular and co-curricular experiences. “Now, I can uncover my own values, chart my own path, and discover my own purposes.”


Social Entrepreneurship Birzeit University


Students & facilitators reflect on Masari

Masari… a name chosen as a motivation for students to begin charting their paths from their first day at the university, in line with their academic programs and extra-curricular activities, so that they will be ready to face life’s demands, challenges, and variables. Mirvat Bulbul, Former Vice President for Planning and

Ahmad Barghouthi, a student in Masari

As students, Masari helps us to explore ourselves, build our characters, focus on our distinguishing competencies, and allows us to enthusiastically enter the job market.

I have noticed good interaction among the participating students, especially because the program contains no tests or a grading system like purely academic ones. A large number of students have been introduced, for the first time, to the basics of C.V. building and to exploring their own career paths.

Omar Bakri, a student in Masari

Eyad Jadallah, Public Relations Office

Development (2016-2018)

“ “

Masari is a one-of-a-kind addition to the personalities of students and graduates, as it emphasizes the learning of previously unattained life skills. Hani Ishtayeh, Director of the Samih Darwazah Institute for Pharmaceutical Industries


The program has contributed to building our personal and creative skills, and made us more confident in ourselves and our abilities.

Masari is a life training program that covers facets not usually included in academic programs. It contributes to building the students’ life skills and a generation that has expertise, positive outlooks, and ethics, all of which will reflect on Palestinian society in the future. Sa’d Nimer, Professor in the Palestine and Arabic Studies

Masari is a pioneering program and a source of pride and accomplishment, and I consider it the main source (if not the only) of future leaders that are capable of affecting change. I have all the respect for those who oversee this program.

Masari has helped me to engage with the university community and introduced me to new colleagues and new personalities.

Johnny Stiban, Professor of Chemistry

Bahya Harbash, a student in Masari

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Our Story: An Exchange Experience of a Lifetime Living abroad, studying something different or in a different

way is the core essence of the

Erasmus+ Program, a European Union (EU) student exchange

program. The program supports education, training and youth,

providing learning opportunities for Palestinian students to study in European universities, or

international students to study at Birzeit.

Whether individuals have

developed fresh perspectives

on global issues, learned a new

language, gained new information about their specializations, or

found a new passion, Erasmus+ has produced many success stories.

See what our students have to say about their Erasmus+ exchange:

Birzeit University


We never felt we were only a number at the university “The courses we took at the Universidad de Almeria and the way they deliver the information differs from what we are accustomed to. They focus mainly on practical aspects, so we think we can gain new learning methods from this experience. This is an experience we will never forget.”

Once we were done with the registration procedures, the “fiesta” started “After a hectic registration period, and some confusion regarding the courses, I enjoyed my stay at the University of Barcelona. Being a part of the Spanish culture is interesting- I have become more aware of the differences between our cultures as well as their traditions, values, and language. And I have taken the opportunity to travel on my holidays to different places and discover more of Europe.”

Nothing was easy, but we saw the world through the eyes of the friends we met there “Every single day for me was a new adventure, and a new experience. Not once have I felt bored or lonely. Throughout the very short six months of me being there, I had the amazing privilege of meeting people from all parts of the world and making new, strong, life-long relationships with people from completely different cultures, mindsets, and outlooks toward life” 38

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We experienced new disciplines we never thought would mix! “As a student in the Faculty and Public Administration, I got the chance to study at the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia, a technological university that depends on a teaching style based on the synergy between different fields. Through the different modules, I got to know more about how technology affects our lives in a legal framework. I studied human rights and technology, cyber-security and law, and copyright and neighboring rights, as well as ICT law.”

And despite experiencing the coldest days and the sun at midnight, we never forgot to bring home the best memories In the 5-month journey at the University of Iceland, not only did we study gender equality, but we explored the land of ice and fire- (both glaciers and volcanoes), wandered in the land of the Vikings, took dips in hot pools and secret lagoons, witnessed the filming sites of the famous Game of Thrones, and met the wildest and cutest friends like the puffins, Icelandic horses, seals, and whales. Our experience in Iceland was definitely not an ordinary one - it was magic!


Birzeit University



alestinian heritage and history have often been buried or hidden by the experiences of upheaval, uprooting, and even looting and theft that occurred throughout the occupation. The Birzeit University Palestine Archive Project promises to remedy that by proposing a creative, critical engagement with Palestine’s history and culture and their role in preserving and shaping Palestine’s national identity. The project inspires communication and cultural connection across Palestine’s fragmented geographical and historical reality. What was once just a concept for preserving Palestinian history, identity and culture, has blossomed at the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies at Birzeit University. Today, Birzeit University’s Palestinian Archive Project provides a reliable archive dedicated to documenting the lives of Palestinians over the past century, from Ottoman times until today. The project is an essential resource for the history, politics, and culture of Palestinians, wherever they have resided. More than 25,000 documents are available on the open 40

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access website – and around 50,000 are ready for publishing once the website is updated – including family papers, oral history accounts and newspapers since 1909. There are also old post cards and documents from the Arab National Committee since 1949, and a number of Ottoman documents translated to Arabic. A team of historians and researchers curate the collection at the institute. Addressing the Palestinian public’s feeling that its existence is threatened, the Palestinian Archive Project rejects the commodification of memory and presents Palestine’s history visually, gathering the threads of Palestine’s past and present, and shaping its future. This archive has a direct role in the formation and preservation of our national identity and prioritizes public access to its roots. Birzeit University, through this project, seeks to prevent the loss of Palestine’s history, culture and identity, but it also aims to strengthen the multiplicity of Palestinian narratives that are so often dismissed or marginalized in their re-telling by international academics and journalists.

Part of Tawfik Canaan Amulets Collection- Birzeit University Museum

Palestinian Archive Project Unearths a Buried National History

Renderings of EthnicallyCleansed Palestine Record, Redeem Loss By 1949, a year after the Palestinian catastrophe (the dispossession of the “Nakba”) and the establishment of the so-called State of Israel was established, only 13.5 percent of Palestine’s land was under formal Jewish ownership, either by private individuals or by the state. To create the State of Israel, cities such as Lydda were ethnically cleansed and/or became segregated cities, and around 530 villages were destroyed. Over the past year, Birzeit University Museum has organized and hosted exhibitions that shine a light onLydda and the destroyed village Kafr Qasim, trying to reflect on the nature and difficulty of remembering and exploring truths in history, politics, culture, art, and everyday life in general. Remembering Lydda

Local and international artists grouped together to examine the controversies and analogies dealing with the imported British colonial planning paradigm and what that entails from post- industrial spatial forms and ethos, the transformation of Lydda to an ethnically-cleansed and segregated city, Lod to the benefit of Jewish immigrants. The Birzeit University Museum inaugurated, in October 2018, the Sixth Cities Exhibition “Lydda- a Garden Disremembered,” in collaboration with the A.M. Qattan Foundation under the Fourth Qalandia International. “I cannot myself go to Lydda,” said Yazid Anani, one of the exhibition’s curators and the Director of the Public Program at the A.M Qattan Foundation. The restrictions on movement imposed by Israeli authorities are the primary reason for choosing Lydda. International artists, and artists from Jerusalem, according to Anani, are those allowed to physically travel to Lydda to explore the themes of the exhibitions, while others learn about the city through talks and oral narratives.

Documentary drawing of the Kafr Qasem Massacre - by Samia Halaby

Why “A Garden Disremembered?” In the 1940s, before the Nakba, Lydda was planned as a garden city to host British colonizers. The city was planned to be ethnically segregated, a forerunner of the current segregation between Palestinians and Israelis. The city was planned during the British Mandate by Clifford Holliday and Otto Polcheck and was intended to host only the British; the style of planning, however, had an Orientalist gaze and preserved the area’s underdeveloped biblical landscape in areas where the local population lived. The modern planning offered a strategic train junction that connected North Africa with Birzeit University


Lebanon and Syria, and through its airport, military and civilian flights connected the city with the rest of the world. Lydda is now a demographically-divided urban area that has gone through a systematically- engineered process of displacement of its native Palestinian inhabitants, especially during their dramatic and forced exodus in the 1948 Nakba. “The Cities Exhibition began with Jerusalem, and later examined Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus, and Gaza,” Anani said, “This time, we decided to move away from the 42

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central areas of Palestine and analyze cities situated on the coast, such as Haifa and Jaffa, but those had been studied extensively- we wanted to include marginalized cities. As such, we decided to examine cities not normally included in the current local discourse, such as Lydda and Ramlah. In the future, I would like to see the Cities Exhibition move to cities in the Palestinian Diaspora.”

Bringing Kafr Qasim to Life

Earlier in 2017, the museum launched another unique exhibition by the Palestinian artist Samia Halaby. Based

From the sixth edition of the Cities Exhibition Lydda - A Garden Disremembered

in New York since the 1970s, she has long been active in the city’s art scene, mainly through independent and nonprofit art spaces and artist-run initiatives, in addition to participating in leftist political organizing for various causes. She also has advocated for Palestinians. Her latest exhibit in Birzeit University focuses on the Kafr Qasim Massacre, which killed 48 people on October 29, 1956. Documenting the Kafr Qasim Massacre in painting, however, reflects the activist side of the artist’s work. In the exhibition, Halaby uses illustration and detailed scenes to document this painful and largely undocumented

historical event. Halaby displayed 16 print reproductions of her drawings, all of which now form a permanent part of the Birzeit University Museum collection and the consciousness of future generations. Halaby researched the massacre for years, basing her work on stories told by the survivors whom she frequently visited, the accounts of the family members they lost in the massacre, and all the press materials she could find. The village of Kafr Qasim, was at that time, the de facto border between Israel and the Jordanian West Bank. The killings were carried out by the Israel Border Police, who gunned down Arab civilians returning from work unaware of a curfew imposed earlier in the day on the eve of the Sinai War. In total 48 people died 19 men, 6 women, and 23 children ages 8-17. Certain sources also give the death toll as 49, including the unborn child of one of the women. Halaby primarily works in abstraction but has also utilized a documentary-style of figurative drawing in more politically-oriented works, including the Kafr Qasim series. She leads us to recognize the strong bond between her art production and her political activism, which has often pushed her to explore Palestinian art as the art of liberation. The development of her work over the past 50 years has been closely related to locating the many principles of abstraction in nature while utilizing a materialist approach. A number of her paintings have been created by building upon the methods and forms of certain historical applications of abstraction, namely that of the Russian Constructivists and examples of traditional Arabic arts and Islamic architecture. The stones of destroyed villages and segregated cities hold our history, the memories of our grandparents, and proof of our right in Palestine. We are facing the occupation, colonialism and settlers, but we are still able to imagine and restructure our land, despite not being able to visit it. Birzeit University


On this Land

We have on this land all of that which makes life worth living On this land The lady of our land The mother of all beginnings And the mother of all ends She was called Palestine Her name later became Palestine My lady‌. Because you are my lady I have all of that which makes life worth livingÂ


Al Ghadeer - Fall 2018

Photo taken from the sixth edition of the Cities Exhibition Lydda - A Garden Disremembered

-by Mahmoud Darwish


Birzeit University


70 Years

after Israelis Plunder Palestine, One Loss is Restored Hana Khoury receives her high school diploma from Birzeit University


t was a moment that Hana Khoury could never have envisioned. It took her 70 years, but at age 88 Khoury finally accomplished her dream, graduating from high school after her academic career had been cut short by war and occupation. Khoury was in her third year of high school at what was then Birzeit College when Jewish leaders declared Israel a state on the lands of Palestine, and changed the course of history and the lives of millions, including her own. “My brother Khalil told me that we needed to go back to Nazareth before the border closes,” she says of the day that she left the school, just a few days before final exams were to begin. “I took my books with me. I never lost hope of coming back and doing my finals, but something deep inside told me that things were not going to be the same.” Of all the things Hana lost as a Palestinian after the Nakba in 1948, her diploma and memories of picking apricots with her friends Rima Tarazi and Samia Nasir were never abandoned, and she always hoped to reclaim them. Seven decades later, and at the same place where it all started, at Birzeit University, her ambition was fulfilled, as the university offered her the diploma she was denied. “I can’t explain it. It’s a joy to me, in my heart, that I made it,” said Khoury at a symbolic graduation ceremony held at the university campus. Her four children, grandchildren, and long-time friends Rima and Samia orchestrated the long-awaited day. Together, they all sang 46

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an old song for Palestine, one yearning for the right of return and liberation. Hana, Rima and Samia revived old memories together, as if 1948 were only yesterday. Hana told her grandchildren how her teachers used to play with the students during their breaks, and how they used to sing and celebrate Christmas together. Despite the hurdles that she faced in completing her academic journey, Hana became and remains to this day a dedicated member of the Tali’ (Pioneer) choir in Nazareth, which is sponsored by the Communist Party. The choir sings for peace, love, life, and a bright future, and was the first Arabic choir in Palestine after the Nakba, aiming to maintain Palestinian identity, culture and folklore. Birzeit University President Abdullatif Abuhijleh extended to Hana and the choir and invitation to become students in the university’s Bachelor Program of Arabic Music, or to be part of the annual Layali Birzeit Festival. The ceremony had a gentle, melancholic tone as it recalled old songs and poetry. Hana remembered the rich cultural life of Birzeit University, including extracurricular activities, music, and song. But as Hana’s focus returned to the present, her voice grew steely: “This is Birzeit that I have been talking about for 70 years. Now my dreams are complete!” Hana touched our hearts, and gave us hope, faith, and added dedication to continue our mission of spreading knowledge and culture.

International Academics Threatened with Expulsion in Visa Crackdown

Israel continues to violate academic freedom by denying visa renewals

“We did not plan to stay this long - or leave this way,” said Roger Heackock, a renowned history professor at Birzeit University, after Israeli authorities refused to renew visas for him and his wife, Laura Wick. Heackock and Wick left Birzeit University and Palestine after 35 years, departing abruptly with only their memories. Heacock and Wick first arrived in Palestine in 1983. They ended up starting a family and a career. According to several media reports, both professors this year came back from a vacation abroad, with Israeli immigration officers giving them a two-week tourist visa and telling them that they could renew it back in Ramallah. The visa was not renewed, however, and they were forced to leave Palestine. For the past 35 years, Heackock and Wick, who are currently in Cyprus, had to travel every three or six months to be able to renew their tourist visas. The temporary visa is the only one that Israel gives to internationals seeking to stay in Palestine except for very few work visas given to employees of international organizations. The Israeli authorities’ policy of denying entry to Palestine, refusing visa renewal applications, targeting international academics, and thus damaging the higher education system in Palestine has been evident since the beginning of the current academic year (2017-2018). Scores of foreign passport holders, many of them of Palestinian origin but without residence documents, living and working in the occupied Palestinian territories have had visas refused or significantly delayed. At Birzeit University alone, 15 faculty members in all were affected by the upsurge of entry denials or visa restrictions.

Seven -one-third of the university’s international staffwere refused visa extensions. Three were forced to leave, among them Heackock and Wick. Over the past two decades, university recruitment of international academics has shrunk. They are increasingly deterred from taking up teaching and research posts in Palestinian institutions of higher education due to Israel’s arbitrary and unpredictable restrictions on entry and residency. Heackock, Wick and other international professors play a critical role, not only in access to quality education at Birzeit University, but also in the long-term development of Palestinian higher education. If this policy continues, Palestinian universities, including Birzeit University, will be further isolated from the global academic environment. In the 21st century, having an internationally diverse faculty has become a fundamental cornerstone of academic excellence at universities worldwide.

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Birzeit University



First Linguistic Search Engine the Arabic Ontology


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Birzeit University launched a linguistic search engine with 150 multilingual lexicons and a linguistic ontology for Arabic. The search engine contains the world’s largest Arabic lexical database, which is a non-profit, long-term research project that aims to provide people with an innovative tool to find translations, synonyms, and definitions in all domains and disciplines. The Arabic ontology, which is a classification and a tree of the meanings of Arabic terms, is based on state-ofthe-art science, rather than the native speakers’ knowledge as in dictionaries. Dr. Mustafa Jarrar, inventor of the linguistic search engine, explained that although the engine is the first of its kind in terms of the quality and quantity of linguistic information presented, the launch is the first phase of a bigger project. He added that he aims to build a comprehensive linguistic data graph, which will include syntactic, morphological, and semantic features, as well as linking these to other languages to better equip the IT industry with the resources that they currently miss. Jarrar demonstrated that the Arabic ontology is represented in logic and as such can be understood by machines and used in modern applications, such as semantic information retrieval, machine translation and semantic disambiguation, big data and information integration, the Semantic Web, and others. He noted that the ontology presents a new methodological paradigm in lexical semantics and lexicon engineering.

o n t o logy.bir ze it .e du

Birzeit Nights Festival (Layali Birzeit)

Birzeit Nights is an annual, multi-day festival sponsored by the university and numerous supporters and showcasing art and folklore that represent the Palestinian identity over history. The festival offers both morning and evening activities. Morning activities, held on the university campus, include cultural events and theatrical performances, while the evening events include dancing and singing performances. All the proceeds generated by the festival go towards the Student Fund, which helps support needy students with financial aid.