Seventy years after the Israelis stole Palestine: Hana Khoury receives her high school diploma from Birzeit University

It is a moment in time and one that Hana Khoury could never have envisioned. It took her 70 years, but Hana Khoury finally accomplished her dream at the age of 88. The story of how it all came about goes back when Birzeit University was a college. It was 1948; Khoury was in her 3rd year of high school when the Israeli authorities announced the establishment of their so-called state, and changed the course of history and millions of lives including her own.

Hana recalls the day she was forced to leave Birzeit University, “My brother Khalil told me that we need[ed] to go back to Nazareth before the border closes, just a couple of days before the final exams start[ed]. I took my books with me. I never lost hope to return and do 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 the things she never lost hope of living and reclaiming one day. Seven decades later, and at the same place where it all started, at Birzeit University, her ambition is fulfilled!

“I can’t explain it. It’s joy to me, in my heart, that I made it,” said Khoury at a symbolic graduation ceremony held at Birzeit University.  Her four children, grandchildren, and long- time friends Rima and Samia orchestrated her long-awaited day. They all sang an old song for Palestine, dreaming of the right of return and liberation.

Hana’s, Rima’s and Samia’s memories were revived, as if 1948 were 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.

Hana, despite the hurdles that she faced in achieving her academic journey, became and still is a dedicated member at the Tali’ (Pioneer) choir in Nazareth, or Nazareth Choir today, sponsored by the Communist Party. The choir sings for peace, love, life, and a bright future, and is the first Arabic choir in Palestine after the Nakba, that aims to maintain Palestinian identity, culture and folklore.

Birzeit University President Abdullatif Abuhijleh offered Hana and the choir a chance to become students in the Bachelor Program of Arabic Music at the university, or be  part of the annual Layali Birzeit Festival.

All through the ceremony, there was a gentle, melancholy tone to all the recollections mentioned in the ceremony, echoing songs and old poetry.  Hana remembered the rich cultural life of Birzeit University, including extra-curricular activities, music, and song. But as Hana’s focus returns to the present, her voice grows steelier: “This is Birzeit that I have been talking about for seventy years. Now my dreams are complete!.”

Hana touched our hearts, and gave us hope, faith, and more dedication to continue our mission to spread knowledge and culture and touch the hearts of all.