Bethlehem, Palestine – On July 18th, Bethlehem University was pleased to welcome the “Know Thy Heritage” Palestinian-American Youth Group. Greeted by Mr. Rizek Sleibi, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Guest Relations Officer, Mr. Demitri Awwad, and a team of student ambassadors, the delegates spent part of their first full day in Palestine touring the first university established in the country.
The HCEF “Know Thy Heritage” program is an initiative developed to preserve the Arab-Palestinian heritage, and highlight the importance of Palestine as part of the Holy Land by connecting youth of Palestinian ancestry, who live in
the United States and elsewhere,
with their ancestral homeland in Palestine.
After touring the university, the delegates were able to sit down with their fellow (local) Palestinians to learn more about life for their peers in Palestine. “It was an amazing experience to witness so many youth, whose roots are in Palestine – whichever part, reconnecting and bonding with fellow Palestinians and students,” says Mr. Awwad. Student ambassador Lucy Qasrawi ’13 was asked by several delegates to help them retain and develop their newfound connection through social networking, such as Facebook and even asked about the possibilities of student exchanges, where they could study at Bethlehem University.
Bethlehem University representatives were also present later that day at the Bethlehem Convention Palace to attend the welcoming ceremony for the “Know Thy Heritage” group, also attended by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, Mr. Rateb Rabie, President of the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation, Mr. Hashem Shawa, Member of the Board of Trustees of Bethlehem University and General Manager of the Bank of Palestine, as well as other key Palestinian institutions such as the Welfare Association.
The three distinguished speakers gave resonating speeches highlighting the power of the delegates to spread the word about Palestine. Mr. Rabie described how the delegates landed in Amman, amongst people who share their Arabic heritage, before heading to the Allenby Bridge, the point where the group entered Palestine, as must all Palestinians. Delegate Bareek Bartawi felt that crossing the bridge was an uncomfortable experience but even such a difficult incident could not deter her or other delegates from making the effort to come to Palestine.
Bethlehem University representatives Dr. Qustandi (ret’d), Arabic Department professor, Ms. Sawsan Shomali, Department of English lecturer, Ms. Angela Hawash – Abu Eita ’11, Communications Officer, Mr. Demitri Awwad, Guest Relations Officer and Lucy Qasrawi ’14, student ambassador; attended the event to show support for the initiative and its partners, such as the Bank of Palestine, an active supporter of Bethlehem University.
Bethlehem University shares with the HCEF the mission of supporting and developing the people of Palestine and preserving them in their homeland. In 2010, the HCEF recognized the efforts of Bethlehem University by awarding them the 2010 Living Stones Solidarity Award in Bethesda, Maryland.