Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Back from two weeks in Israel/Palestine

Software engineering class at Bethlehem University.  That's me toward
the back wearing a cap. There were 17 students in the class, 14 females and 3 males.
     Returned Sunday from twelve days in Israel, sight-seeing and renewing family ties; and two days in Palestine, checking out Bethlehem University (BU), a Catholic school established by the De La Salle Christian Brothers.  The whole complicated story will be on the Wood St. blog in a week.  For now, just
Caffeine station on Yussef Plaza,
the main social space
a note explaining why you may wish to donate to BU, even if you happen to be a recovering Catholic, or a skeptic like me, with no affinity for faith-based anything.

Your money will be put to good use.  The nominal annual tuition at BU is $4,000, and your donations go directly into tuition subsidies ensuring that no student actually pays more than 2K.  The per-capita GDP in Palestine is approximately $3,000, and the unemployment rate hovers above 25%.

BU is open to all.  The 3,290 students are 3/4 Muslim, 3/4 female, and in Yussef Plaza, the main social space, women with and without head coverings chat amicably.  You could imagine this means that the Muslims and Christians students get along fine.  If you're an inveterate dreamer, you could even imagine it portends a day when Jews and Arabs will be on friendly terms.

The Computer Science students are familiar types, with important differences.  Fellow programmers, think back to our difficulties in learning our trade, when the greatest physical hardships we faced were all night coding sessions fueled on sugar and caffeine, sprawling over uncomfortable chairs. Our brothers and sisters at BU endure far worse.  They pursue their studies under martial laws that can turn a five mile commute to school into an odyssey.  And that's when the military checkpoints are open.  Just like for us, one of their motives for learning how to code is to escape to an exotic land of decent pay, respect and dignity.  But their starting point is further back, in a world of endemic humiliation — and those great humanitarians Trump and Netanyahu are not about to make their lives any easier.  Writing a check is one small thing that can help.

BU Guest Relations Officer Brother Michael Andrejko (center) posing
in front of the library.  The round hole on the upper right was
made by a tank shell.

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