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Bethlehem University: Peacebuilding in a troubled land by fostering education, prosperity, and sustainability thru the Nursing Program

Bethlehem University, uses education, collaboration, coexistence, and encounter to build bridges between people, employment & sustainability

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Bethlehem University was the first University registered in Palestine and came into existence primarily to provide higher education to the local population so that they would not have to leave their homeland to obtain a degree because travel for people in Palestine is restricted. It is a co-educational institution that offers two-year diplomas, four-year bacalaurate degrees, higher diplomas (post bacalaurate), and four master degrees. The curriculum has been developed in a manner to provide educational programs suited to provide employment in Palestine to graduates of the University. Enrollment has steadily grown at Bethlehem University to over 3,300 students today. More students have required more classrooms. This coupled with the increasing popularity of the Nursing and Health Sciences program has necessitated the need for additional classroom and training space for the Nursing program. One of the most compelling reasons for the interest in the nursing program is employability in a region with high unemployment for young adults. Upon graduation 100% of Nursing Students are employed. In 2016, because of demand, Bethlehem University, doubled the acceptance rate from 40 to 80 students in nursing in two cohorts. This year, the Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences interviewed 1126 applications but was only able to accept 191 students due to the lack of facilities and space. To meet the increased demand for space, a decision was made to expand an existing one-floor building, constructed in 2001, but with a foundation that could support four additional floors. The additional 4 floors will provide adequate space for the Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences: including Nursing, Oncology/Palliative Care, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Midwifery. Utilities are controlled in Israel. Bethlehem does not received electricity every day. The expanded nursing and health sciences building will include solar panels to solve this.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are the 3,300 students and 432 employees of Bethlehem University. Our students are 75% Muslim and 25% Christian. 78% of our students are female. The students who live in the West Bank are not always able to travel outside of the West Bank. Their travel is restricted. Bethlehem University students, who are all commuters, face hardships every day as they cross the checkpoints into Palestine. 46% of Bethlehem University students travel from Jerusalem, through the wall into Bethlehem. Another 9% come from Hebron and other locations, with 44% coming from Bethlehem. The majority of our students come from below the poverty line. Most of our students are the first in their families to attend a University. Graduation day at Bethlehem University not only includes extended families, but often the majority of a village will come to celebrate the accomplishment. And one job in Palestine, usually supports an extended family.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

If education is the key to peace, then the work that Bethlehem University does every day is bridging peace. Bethlehem University provides a place of encounter where young Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike, encounter one another in peace and friendship. The University is creating the leaders of the future, who have known peace and "the other" in the context of their educational program. Employment provides another building block to peace. With a curriculum that is geared towards employability, the University fosters a sense of peace, prosperity and self-determination. Expanding the Nursing Program, which provides for near 100% employability for its graduates, not only provides a living, but also expands health care in a region in desperate need of healing. And, "overcoming" the obstacle of controlled resources by installing solar panels on the roof of the new building fosters a sense of pride and self-sufficiency for our students and the campus.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Full Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Bethlehem University Foundation is a U.S. registered not-for-profit organization entrusted with the sole mission of supporting and promoting Bethlehem University. With offices located in Beltsville, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., the staff encourages and solicits donations from individuals, corporations and foundations to support the work of Bethlehem University in the Holy Land. The Foundation's url is The University's url is

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Our students are the inspiration. The Nursing and Health Sciences students, are educated not only on campus, but also in a remote village called Qubeibeh, located 11 km northwest of Jerusalem. A small village with about 3800 inhabitants. Qubeibeh is one of 13 villages that is surrounded and isolated with the separation wall created by the Israeli military. Bethlehem University established a satellite nursing program there, in collaboration the Salvatorian Sisters, in addition to on-campus.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is complex when it comes to the Holy Land. Religious difference between the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Muslims, and Christians is a part of the problem, but the real problem is the differences in lifestyle, freedoms, and access. Israel controls the movement, employment, and utilities of the people in Palestine. Youth unemployment in the West Bank can lead to despair, lack of regular electrical service and water service to homes on the West Bank can lead to anger, inability to travel for education or work can lead to hopelessness, but somehow the people of Palestine are joyful. They are hopeful, and Bethlehem University is a part of that hopefulness. Tying education to employment adds to prosperity. Adding solar panels to new buildings leads to self respect while providing a sustainable energy source. Combined these activities marry peace, prosperity, and sustainability into one project.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Bethlehem University is a Catholic co-educational institution opened to students of all faiths. A joint venture between the Holy See (Vatican) and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the University has broad international support, and is a part of the worldwide network of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who educate nearly 1 million students in 80 countries. Though located in the Middle East, the University has been linked to the USA Region of the De LaSalle Brothers through the Christian Brothers Conference. Bethlehem University is a member of the Association of Arab Universities since May 1981, its degrees and diplomas were officially stamped by the Jordanian Ministry of Education from 1981 until 1996. Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, its degrees and diplomas are officially recognized by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education. The degrees of graduates of B.U. are accepted in Arabic, European and American Universities.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Palestinians are resilient people. Education is important to parents and families, and the fact that a fully accredited University is in their midst brings forth great hope. The fact that Bethlehem University will expand their nursing program is a source of pride as employability helps families stay together. Bethlehem works closely with the hospitals in the West Bank, who not only employ graduates, but who work with the University to place interns and provide continuing education credits.

Geographic Focus

This idea targets Palestinians in the West Bank who are restricted in their movements and education.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The building, which is breaking ground this June, should be completed within 12 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)

Photo of old and proposed Nursing building at BU.docx

This document shows the original one story building that will be renovated to add 4 more floors to house the Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences as well as classrooms, offices, and simulation labs. The rooftop of the new part of the building will contain solar panels to ensure smooth operation.


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