Valletta, Malta comes to Birzeit University
“Palestinians and the Maltese are pretty similar, we share the same ancestors – the Phoenicians – our languages are similar, and our food is comparable,” noted Mr. Reuben Gauci, head of the Representative Office of the Republic of Malta in Palestine in a lecture he delivered at Birzeit University on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
Gauci’s lecture introduced Valletta, the capital of Malta and the 2018 European Capital of Culture, to English Through Current Issues students.
Valletta, said Gauci, who was accompanied by his wife, Ms. Olga Gauci, has always been a cultural melting pot connecting the Mediterranean countries, and has been the target of many occupying armies throughout the ages.
“Valletta was founded in 1565 by the Order of Saint John, more specifically, by Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette. The city, and the country itself, sustained the attack of Napoleon and his armies and the following British Mandate, which lasted until 1964, when Malta achieved independence,” Gauci added.
Fast forward to 2018, and Valletta is chosen as the 2018 European Capital of Culture. The one-square mile capital city is usually brimming with culture that fuses European and Mediterranean lifestyles, but the people of Valletta added an extra dose for the year of activities and events that illustrate why it was chosen as a capital of culture.
“It is true that Valletta itself is small, but each and every one of its alleys and backroads hums with life, especially in 2018 now that it was nominated as the exemplar for cultural vibrancy,” said Gauci.
The lecture included a small video that showcased Valletta and its many wonderful experiences, which Gauci used to show students how closely intertwined Maltese and Arabic really are. [VIDEO]
Students, buzzing with excitement, asked Gauci questions that ranged from the country’s national dish (rabbit stew) and the visa application procedure to the academic programs offered at the University of Malta.
After the lecture, Mr. and Mrs. Gauci met with Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Faisal Awadallah, External Academic Relations Officer Dr. Amir Khalil, and Assistant Director of the Public Relations Officer Tina Rafidi.
Awadallah briefed Gauci on Birzeit University’s history, from its earliest days as an all-girls school to one of the foremost educational institutions in Palestine. Awadallah also informed Gauci of the challenges to the educational process put in place by the Israeli Occupation.
“When the Israeli military authorities locked down our campus, we taught in homes, churches, mosques, apartments, hotels, any place that could house students and professors,” remarked Awadallah, referring to the 15 times that Birzeit University’s campus was closed down by the Israeli Occupation.
Despite the obstacles, Birzeit University continues to be a bastion of higher education focused on graduating internationally-conscious leaders who operate from a variety of perspectives and standpoints, and to that end, Amir discussed academic relations with Gauci.
The two explored possible channels of academic cooperation between Birzeit University and the University of Malta – including faculty and student mobility – the three annual master’s degree scholarships offered to Palestinian students, and the creation of a Maltese language and culture course for students at Birzeit University.