Bir Zeit University

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

BIR ZEIT UNIVERSITY

Palestinian university located near the town of Birzeit, south of Ramallah, about twelve miles north of Jerusalem in the West Bank. Founded in 1924 as an elementary school for girls, it became a secondary school for boys and girls in 1930. In the 1950s and 1960s postsecondary courses were added and the school became exclusively a two-year postsecondary institution in 1967. In 1975 it became a four-year undergraduate university. Graduate programs were first introduced in 1977. Because of its location and circumstances, the Bir Zeit student body (now about 6,000) has always been highly active in Palestinian politics and anti-Israeli resistance. Student groups affiliated with Palestine Liberation Organization member groups such as Fatah have claimed the loyalties of many students. An Islamist current has also appeared, as it has in the larger society. Israeli authorities have regarded the campus as a dangerous center of militant activity and have shut the school down numerous times since 1973. In 1974 the president of the university, Hanna Nasir, was deported and not allowed to return until 1993, after the Oslo Accords. In the 1990s the university suffered from strict Israeli censorship and foreign faculty members were required to sign loyalty oaths, resulting in some deportations. During the first Intifada, Bir Zeit remained closed from 1988 to 1992, and during the al-Aqsa Intifada classes continue to be disrupted by closures, curfews, and Israeli military activity.

SEE ALSO Aqsa Intifada, al-; Fatah, al-; Intifada (1987–1993); Oslo Accords; Palestine Liberation Organization; West Bank.