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11 October, 2011

Meet Bethlehem University's Student Senate Executive Team

SenateOn a Thursday morning, Bethlehem University's Student Senate Executive Team sat down with our Communications Officer, to talk about their current role in the university, their past role, and different projects they'd like to work on. The team includes:

Mahmoud Zidane, President (third from left)
Mirna Jamal, Vice President (fourth from left)
Baha Al-Heloo, Secretary (first, on left)
Firas Gubran, Secretary of Finance (last, on right)
Mr. Mahmoud Hammad, Dean of Student Affairs

The young group is overseen by Mr. Mahmoud Hammad, Dean of Student Affairs. As the 1995 Student Senate President, he has seen a lot of changes take place:

"In our day, the role of the Senate was to operate within the confines of the political situation at that time. As students who lived in an occupied country, we had to struggle with occupation soldiers, just to come in to the university to take our classes."

SenateDuring the Intifada, Bethlehem University was closed by Israeli military curfews many times. It became a necessity for students to attend lectures in secret, off of the radar of the military. Through this, many Bethlehem University students were able to keep working towards their degrees. "In our day, the role of the Senate was to operate within the confines of the political situation at that time. As students who lived in an occupied country, we had to struggle with occupation soldiers, just to come in to the university to take our classes."

"I remember in 1995, when my fellow student, Muhammad Abu Srour, was killed during a student protest. As students, we were affected by any political event that took place and our education suffered from military orders, which were the result of those political events." Mr. Mahmoud says this helped to define the role of the Senate during the nineties. He says that since then, the culture on campus has changed and the role of the Senate is slowly evolving. He also says that today's students and even faculty, were changed by the events of the eighties and nineties. "Doctors, teachers, young people - all kinds of Palestinians were taken in by the Israelis as political prisoners. During their incarceration, they were able to continue to educate themselves, utilizing the rich expanse of knowledge that so many educated people were able to offer. Education did not cease at the cell door."

Today, as the student leaders say, the role is more geared towards helping their burgeoning nation achieve statehood, leading to complete student freedom to educate themselves, safely, according to president, Mahmoud Zidane. They also focus part of their efforts on helping disadvantaged students get the help and information they need, to successfully get into and finance their study programs. "Because we are students, we know the right people and opportunities that are out there for other students. We know who needs help the most and we can help lead them in the right directions to get - for example - financial assistance, in addition to the services already offered by the university," says secretary Baha Al-Heloo. More recently, the Senate have been setting up campus activities, which are part of a national movement to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have gone on hunger strikes to protest the exceptionally harsh conditions recently imposed in Israeli prisons.

Other projects, according to the team, are social and cultural projects, aimed to enhance campus life and to lighten the pressure on hard working students. On Valentines Day, they distributed flowers to female students. They also participate in civic life, volunteering to help overworked Palestinian farmers harvest olives - a mainstay of the local, agrarian economy. This year, the team also headed the student orientation, giving new students a better grasp of the in's and out's of the university. Their attention is also more drawn to academic issues. They have formed a dialogue committee, which is made up of the senate president, two additional senate members, two faculty members and other interested persons. According to Mr. Mahmoud, "This is to help us direct academics in a more positive way."

Recently, the Senate also organized a university wide meeting with members of the Palestinian political sphere, inviting Mr. Sabri Saidem, member of the Fateh council and representative of President Mahmoud Abbas and Ms. Khalida Jarrar, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The goal of the meeting was to inform Bethlehem University students of the Palestinian multi-party platform, in regards to the September 20th Palestinian UN bid for statehood. Mr. Mahmoud described the session as a great opportunity for dialogue between the students and the party representatives, where very relevant questions were posed by the audience. One student asked how the different parties, with their differing views, can struggle towards statehood? Ms. Jarrar replied that there are different ways to struggle.


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine