Letter from Bethlehem University

 In spite of nightly gunfire, travel restrictions and arbitrary decisions made at Israeli checkpoints, the University continues its academic programs. Through extraordinary efforts of many, the Fall 2000 Semester was finally completed at the end of February 2001. Two months late, the Spring Semester began in mid-March with final exams now set to end on 7 July. Since the end of September 2000, the physical and psychological pressure on both staff and students has been considerable. Many of our staff from Beit Jaia, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour have had their homes damaged or destroyed by Israeli machine gunfire or tank shells. Many are traumatized at night as they lie in fear of the next Israeli barrage. The University property was hit in October and again in November, Although recent shelling has come very close to the University, fortunately there has not been property damage since fall. For whatever protection it may afford, the University is now flying the Vatican flag. The hostel for women students located nearby on Hebron Road has not been so fortunate. On 16 April it suffered heavy damage from Israeli gunfire. Particularly vexing are the continuing arbitrary decisions made at the Israeli checkpoints as to who may cross into Bethlehem. It is never certain from one day to the next which teachers and students will be allowed to reach the University. Travel out of the Occupied Territories is also affected. We believe that the travel restrictions on Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories violate their human rights to education and freedom of movement under international law. What you can do to help: Contact your governmental representatives asking them to insist on Israeli compliance with the IV Geneva Convention of 1949, with regard to the protection of civilians living in the Occupied Territories. Thank you for your understanding and support. Brother Vincent Malham, FSC President-Vice Chancellor

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