More than 3,000 Birzeit University graduates take next steps in annual commencement ceremonies

The graduating Birzeit University students who donned their caps and gowns for the four-day commencement marked the end of an exceptional journey during a time unlike any other in recent times.

The Birzeit’s 47th cohort’s accomplishments were completed during a multilayered lockdown and both virtually and in person: between a global pandemic and continuous systematic aggression by the Israeli occupation against student rights to education and the university’s right of self-determination.

These accomplishments were recognized during Birzeit University’s 47th annual commencement, which concluded at the university’s Al-Haj Ali Stadium on June 4 with the graduation of students from the Faculty of Business and Economics.

“From this day forward, you are now Birzeit University’s ambassadors, holding its vision and thought wherever you are to serve your community and nation. You are part of Birzeit University’s family now and after your graduation.” This was the message shared by Birzeit University president Beshara Doumani as more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students were conferred degrees from nine faculties: Law and Public Administration; Art, Music and Design; Arts; Engineering and Technology; Science; Education; Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions; and Graduate Studies.

Graduates now enter the workforce or continue their academic paths amid these unique circumstances. However, so many students who were expected to graduate at the end of the 2021–22 academic year were instead arrested by the Israeli occupying forces, greatly changing their trajectories.

In his speech, President Doumani said that in spite of the many extra miles that they needed to travel, the fact that they turned each hardship into an opportunity allowed them to graduate as exceptional and unique individuals. Doumani also reminded graduates that what they do next is critically important.

The ceremony included time-honored traditions, including awarding AbdulRahim Al Sheikh, professor of philosophy and cultural studies, with the Scientific Research Award; Wael Kishek, lecturer in education, with the Distinguished Professor Award; Mahmoud Abu Arafeh, head of software development and Sawsan Hamarsheh, head of programming and registration with the Employee of the Year Award.

Mitigations were made to honor students unable to attend their graduation ceremony due to the Israeli occupation’s restrictions and continued apartheid policies.

Most notably, Palestinian prisoner Zakaria Zubaidi, one of the heroes of the Gilboa Prison Freedom Tunnel operation, could not attend the ceremony, but his daughter Samira received her father’s graduation certificate from the Master’s Program in Contemporary Arab Studies a day after defending his thesis dissertation in absentia.

Graduate student Clara Al Awad from Gaza also received her certificate in absentia due to the tight blockade and siege on Gaza. The Israeli military refused to give her a permit to attend her graduation.

At the end of each ceremony, students turned their tassels and joyfully professed their commitment to the university’s oath with the university’s members, families and friends.

Students who delivered speeches on behalf of the graduating students proclaimed their readiness to move forward.