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Bethlehem University
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Established 1973 - First West Bank University
Type Catholic Christian: Open to all faith traditions (one-third Christian and two-thirds Muslim)
Chancellor Archbishop Antonio Franco, Papal Nuncio and Apostolic Nuncio, with Brother Peter Bray, FSC, EdD as Vice Chancellor
Staff 300
Undergraduates 2,936 (Fall 2008)
Location Bethlehem, Palestine
Alumni 10,900
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Bethlehem University in the Holy Land is a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faith traditions. Bethlehem University can trace its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.

During the historic visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land in 1964, Palestinians expressed their desire to establish a university in the region. After consultation and study, and in the midst of the post-1967 war era which resulted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip governed by Israel (previously governed by Jordan and Egypt, respectively) it was in 1972 that the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Pio Laghi, formed a committee of local community leaders and heads of schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to establish an institution of higher learning which would offer a broad and practical university education in arts and sciences to meet the needs of Palestinian society.

With the support of local educational leaders and the cooperation of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches and the De La Salle Christian Brothers and their colleagues who have run schools in over 80 countries of the world since 1680, (including universities in the United States since 1853 and schools in the Middle East since 1893), Bethlehem University officially opened its doors on October 3, 1973, becoming the first university in the West Bank.

The University is located on 17,000 square meters of the De La Salle Brothers property on Freres Street at the highest point in the town of Bethlehem. Beginning with 112 students during its first year in 1973, 63 students graduated at the first full graduation ceremony in June 1977. The enrollment of the University increased steadily reaching 1,000 in the Fall of 1981 and over 2,900 by Fall 2008. The University expanded its facilities to meet the needs of the growing student body: Library in 1978; Mar Andrea Women's Hostel in 1979; Science Wing in 1980; Social and Cultural Center in 1990; the Institute for Community Partnership in 1991; Bethlehem Hall for the Nursing and Education faculty in 1995; Turathuna: Palestinian Cultural Heritage Center in 2000; and Millennium Hall for the Arts and Business Administration faculty in 2002.

The highly academically-qualified and dedicated faculty and staff along with their international colleagues of lay men and women, De La Salle Christian Brothers and members of various religious orders of sisters and priests, grew to meet the developing needs of teaching, research, community service and administration at the University. The Education Faculty and the Institute for Hotel Management and Tourism were among the University's first distinctive programs. The Faculties of Arts, Science, Nursing and Business Administration also grew in response to the needs of the community as did the Institute for Community Partnership, offering continuing education and professional development programs.

Bethlehem University was one of the founding members of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education in 1978 and continues membership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education resulting from the coming of the Palestinian Authority in 1995. In October 1979 a Board of Trustees was established and in May 1981 Bethlehem University became a member of the Association of Arab Universities. Bethlehem University also holds memberships in the International Federation of Catholic Universities, Lasallian Association of Colleges and Universities, and the International Association of Universities.

Despite being closed twelve times on the orders of the Israeli military, the longest of which was for three years from October 1987 until October 1990, classes have continuously been held on- and off-campus. The University has 2,599 enrolled students, most of whom are full time, and over 10,800 graduates, most of whom work in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem , Gaza, Jordan, and other parts of the Middle East.

Current and former faculty

  • Qustandi Shomali Professor, chair of the Arabic Language Department
  • Alma Jadallah former Visiting Professor, creator of program in conflict resolution.

External links

See also

Coordinates: 31°42′53.50″N 35°11′55.0″E / 31.714861°N 35.19861°E / 31.714861; 35.19861



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