Birzeit Breaking Walls

The Paltel Virtual Gallery at Birzeit University

As a consequence of the siege of recent years and the confinement of Palestinians to their towns and villages, a situation has been created in which Palestinian individuals and communities are severely isolated from one another and the rest of the world. This situation has been intensified with the building of the partition wall. The results are that Palestinian students and the general public have little chance to practise their lives normally, let alone receive exposure to art and culture. In light of the continuing political situation the Internet has become an important tool for acquiring and disseminating information and for creating bridges between peoples.

This was the starting point for the development of a specialized website for contemporary art, The Paltel Virtual Gallery at Birzeit University (BZU). The idea of establishing this gallery came from Vera Tamari, art history professor at BZU. In order to supplement her limited teaching resources, she resorted to the Internet as a teaching tool and as a way of accessing information about art which, in turn, allowed for a wide scope of exchange and exposure. The Palestinian Telecommunications Company (Paltel) embraced and supported this new venture, generously funding the setting up of the project for its first three years… [more]

If you’re a student like me, especially if you are studying in regions such as Europe or North America, I want you to think about this. Not in the casual way, but really really think about what some must go through to get an education. If you have a vauge picture in your head by now, then allow me to color in the details.Birzeit University has another interesting virtual project titled the Right to Education, chronicling the struggle of students, teachers and citizens alike, in achieving a right to education for Palestinians effected by the wall. It includes photos, articles, studies & research.

Upon surfing the site, the following caught my interest:

Since September 2000:

– 495 School Children Killed
– 196 University Student Killed
– 38 Teachers/Professors
– 2,500 Children arressted
– 357 Children in Israeli jails
– 710 University students detained
– 196 Teachers/Professors detained

Concerning the Wall & Schools:

– Surda roadblock, on the road from Ramallah to Birzeit University blocked access to the university for 2.5 years (june 2001-december 2003)
– Number of new students enrolling at Birzeit from Jenin declined by 100% in 3 years due to Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement
– The Wall has an impact on the student intake of all the West Bank universities, especially Al Quds University in Jerusalem whose main campus is now cut off from Jerusalem along with 36% of its students
– In Qalqilya, a town in the north West Bank which is now completely encircled by the Wall, some teachers have to travel more than 25km to pass a checkpoint which is frequently closed or takes hours to get through, compared to a 5-10 minute ride previously 298 schools have been shelled or broken into by Israeli soldiers
– 8 universities have been shelled or broken into by Israeli soldiers
– 97 schools have had their property either vandalized or bulldozed by the Israeli Army
– 3 children were shot inside UNRWA school classrooms in 2004
– Hebron University and Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron were closed by military order for 8 months in 2003, denying over 6000 students their right to education27

Complete Fact Sheet Study (pdf)

Just recently, 8 Israeli soldiers entertained themselves at the enterance gates of Birzeit University. It was reported:

“In reaction to the provoking and obstructive presence of the Israeli soldiers at the gates to the University, a number of Birzeit students began to throw stones at the soldiers to try to force them to leave. The soldiers responded by shooting rubber and live bullets and throwing tear gas bombs on to the campus, injuring seven Birzeit University students who received medical treatment for tear gas inhalation and burns.”

Your Two Piasters: