Seven Hundred and Fifty Students graduate from Birzeit University

Birzeit University celebrated the graduation of 750 students on Sunday and Monday of this week. The first night saw the graduation of students from the Arts, Science and Graduate Studies faculties while on Monday night students from the Engineering and Commerce faculties received their certificates. Yasser Abed Rabbo, Minister of Media and Culture spoke on Sunday night as the representative of President Yasser Arafat. Also in attendance were Dr.Nabil Kassis , Minister in charge of Bethlehem 2000, Dr. Sameer Shehadeh, Director General of the National Institutions on the Presidential level, Palestinian Ambassador in Washington Hassan Abdul Rahman , Colonel Sa'ib Nassar deputy-governor of Ramallah and al Bireh and a large number of friends of the university. Close to 10,000 people attended the ceremonies over the two nights.

Yasser Abed Rabbo wished the graduates good luck in their working lives and urged them to continue serving the country and people of Palestine. He expressed his pride in graduating young people from Birzeit University which, "Is and has always been an institution committed to defending the country and our national rights."

Dr. Darwish Nazzal, Chairman of the Board of Trustees congratulated the graduates and expressed his sorrow at the death of two active members of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Antone Tarazi and Dr. Issa Zyadeh . He also mentioned the efforts exerted by the university to face the financial crisis and urged local institutions and the PA to support the university financially.

Dr. Hanna Nasir, President of the University, spoke of freedom of thought as the main philosophy of the university since its establishment. "The high quality of our academic life and learning is a result of this philosophy." Dr. Nasir also mentioned the generous support of Dr. Naseeb Shaheen, the son of Mr. Azeez Shaheen, who has recently donated the expenses for a new Graduate Studies building.

On Sunday night, the university awarded Dr. Sahar Khalifeh, the Palestinian writer and novelist, an award of distinction for her creativity in the field of Palestinian and Arab literature. On Monday night, this award was presented to Mrs. Hiyam Abu Ghazeleh for her efforts in the field of literacy and adult learning.

Graduating this year were 46 students from Gaza who have faced enormous difficulties in completing their studies at Birzeit University because of Israeli restrictions on their freedom of movement and education. Ismail Ziada, 24 years, told Birzeit News, "Graduating is a very strange feeling. I feel so happy because my family can finally see me graduate. I feel proud that in spite all of the troubles I have faced as a Gazan student I have finished my studies with good grades. My degree took an extra three years because I was prevented from leaving Gaza for three semesters. Before this I was studying physics but it was difficult to continue after I returned to the university and I was forced to change faculties. A friend of mine was prevented from leaving Gaza for 3 years and he graduated along with me this year. The situation facing Gazan students is still very difficult and our numbers are declining. We still don't know if and when we will receive permits and the expense of living in the West Bank is always increasing."

Also graduating this year were two students who were imprisoned by the Israeli authorities after completing their courses. One of these graduated with a masters degree and his daughter received the certificate in his place. In addition, one student from Gaza was not granted a permit to come from Gaza to the ceremony.