In visit to campus, Belgian consul emphasizes Palestinian-Belgian academic relations

Consul General of Belgium in Jerusalem Danielle Haven discussed cooperation with Belgian universities in a meeting with President of Birzeit University Abdullatif Abuhijleh and External Academic Relations Officer Amir Khalil during a visit to the university’s campus on Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

The consul, accompanied by Deputy Head of Mission Emmanuel Rixhon and Senior Advisor for International Cooperation Genia Helou-Raad, also met with Raed Eshnaiwer, Ahmed Abu Hanieh, Mohammed Alqaisi, and Mustafa Jarrar who, like Khalil, are graduates of Belgian universities. The team explored possibilities for cooperation on joint research projects and exchange programs.

Abuhijleh gave the Belgian delegation a brief overview of Birzeit University’s history and academic offerings. He highlighted the university’s development from a small school for girls, established in 1924, to the foremost Palestinian university and added that today, the university comprises nine faculties that offer more than 110 programs that lead to bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees.

Outlining Birzeit University’s community engagement efforts, Abuhijleh pointed to the university’s 11 institutes and centers that play an important role in developing and advancing Palestinian society. He furthermore emphasized the university’s support of the Palestinian industry, as exemplified in its donation of 20 donums of land to establish the Palestine Techno Park − a non-for-profit organization focused on integrating nascent technologies within the Palestinian industry − on its campus.

Abuhijleh also discussed the visa policies Israel applies to international or Palestinian-origin faculty and staff who work at the university or plan to do so. He explained that the Israeli authorities have denied and delayed the visas of many professors and teachers, thereby preventing the university from fully integrating with international academic and scientific bodies and from enriching education in Palestine with international knowledge and expertise.  

Khalil, praising cooperation with the Belgian team, highlighted Birzeit University’s growing ties with institutions of higher education around the world through bilateral partnerships and international schemes such as Erasmus+. He also gave a brief overview of the university’s Palestine and Arabic Studies program, a comprehensive program that offers Arabic-language and social science courses to international students.

Haven stressed the importance of Belgium’s longstanding cooperation with Birzeit University through which Belgium helped establish the Palestinian Legal and Judicial System “Al-Muqtafi,” has funded the studies of more than 100 impoverished students at the university, and provides scholarships for French majors to attend a summer school in Belgium’s Walloon region.

Furthermore, the Belgian consul discussed her efforts in bringing together the Palestinian alumni of Belgian universities through joint projects and exchange programs and encouraged fostering direct relations between Palestinian and Belgian universities.