ADDRESS:  NORTHWESTERN LIEUTENANCY KNIGHTS OF HOLY SEPULCHRE
                       Sacramento, California
                         September 30, 2001

By Brother Vincent Malham, FSC
President / Vice Chancellor of Bethelehm University


Your Excellencies Archbishop Levada, Grand Prior,
Archbishop Vlazny, whom I remember so well from
Winona,
Your Excellency Lieutenant Robert Begley,
Esteemed Clergy and Religious, Knights and Ladies,
Distinguished Guests,

It is with great pride that I address this assembly this
morning and I thank all who were instrumental in affording
me this privilege: H. E. Lieutenant Robert Begley,
Councillors Sir Michael Hall and Sir Frederick Lee,
organizers of the Meeting, and, of course, my friends, Sir
Albert and Lady Lily Hazbun.  This is a significant
moment in history: a time of national crisis and grieving in
the States, of grave concern in the world about terrorism,
a time of continuing struggle and suffering in the Holy
Land.   I believe it not only important, but also fortuitous,
that I have this opportunity to be with you and to share
with you some of my insights, in particular about the
political situation in the Holy Land, and about the strategic
mission of Bethlehem University in the country.  Before I
begin, however, permit me to read a message from our
university community which I have been asked to share
with you.

"Bethlehem University represented by its Administration,
Academic Staff and Student Body extends its deepest
condolences and sympathy to the American people at the
inhumane and reprehensible acts of terror perpetrated in
New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on black
Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

We Palestinians deeply understand what killing of
innocent persons means and we identify personally and
communally in the tragic experience of the American
people at this time.  We value the sacredness of human life
and condemn this evil act in the strongest possible
manner.  We are also appalled by and reject the
irresponsible actions of a small group in this country,
actions which in no way represent the feelings and
convictions of the vast majority of our people.

We at Bethlehem University share the profound grief and
loss of all the bereaved families, whether Americans or
non-Americans, Christian, Jewish, Moslem or those of
other faiths.  May we join in united efforts and prayer to
work together for a world where all can live together in
peace and freedom, a world where the sacredness of
human life is respected and human dignity and basic
human rights are accorded to all.

At 11:00 a.m. on Monday, September 17, on the front lawn
of the campus of the University, the Administration, Staff
and Student Body stood  together in solidarity to
remember and pray for the victims of this terrible tragedy."
 

My presentation is divided into the following sections:
(1) A brief history of Bethlehem University
(2) A brief overview of the present political situation in the
Holy Land
(3) A few consequences of the situation on the University
(4) Some challenges we face this year
(5) A few final reflections.
I will be delighted if in some small way these remarks
enlighten your understanding, pique your curiosity and
prompt you to ask questions afterwards.

1.  Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University was founded at the request of Pope
Paul VI.  During his visit to the Holy Land in 1964 the
people asked him to assist in the founding of a university.
At the time there were no institutions of higher education
in Palestine
and young people who wished a college education were
forced to travel abroad.  This created a serious problem
because many young people, after spending years outside
the country, did not return.  Many of the best qualified
Palestinians, especially Christian Palestinians, were
leaving their country.  The Holy Father asked the De La
Salle Christian Brothers, who had been in the Middle East
for over 100 years, to establish a university, and in 1973
three Brothers from the U.S.A., along with 12 Palestinian
educators, set up Bethlehem University.  The doors were
opened to 112 students in an 1893 high school building
belonging to the Brothers.  Since those humble beginnings
the school has grown to some 2,100 students and five
colleges.  It offers a number of majors including Religious
Studies, English, Arabic, Social Work, Business,
Accounting, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Nursing,
Education and Hotel Management.  The university has
focused on fields where the graduates can find
employment, in the early years these being especially in
teaching and in tourism.  We also have an Institute for
Community Partnership which serves the local community
by offering a wide variety of short courses and training
programs.  Although we are primarily a teaching
institution, we are very proud of significant research
accomplishments, in particular a recent discovery in our
UNESCO Biotechnology Center of a new species of
nematodes, (Steinernema Palestini), the first in the world,
and the work being done on hearing deficiencies in young
people, a research project which has been  featured in
National Geographic.

Our student body is 32% Christian, 68% Moslem, 68%
female, 32% male.  This is because Christians in the Holy
Land account for only 2% of the population, although the
Bethlehem region has about 50% Christian.  There is a
higher percentage of young women because they score
higher on the entrance exams and because families tend to
send their sons abroad if they can afford it.  Our staff is
comprised of 12 De La Salle Christian Brothers, one
Jesuit priest and  five religious sisters out of a total of 250
employees.  The university staff numbers approximately
two-thirds Christian employees and one-third Moslem.
We are the biggest employer in the Bethlehem region.

Keeping the university running has been a struggle
because of Israeli occupation. In 28 years the university
has never completed the academic year on schedule.  It
has been closed 12 times by Israeli military orders, the
longest closure occurring during the first Intifada (1987-
1990) when the university was shut down for three full
years.  During that period the teachers conducted classes
clandestinely in hotel lobbies, restaurants, schools, tourist
centers or wherever they could find space to meet with up
to eight students at a time.

In spite of terrible obstacles and continuous struggle
throughout its history, Bethlehem University  has been
forged into one of the premier institutions of higher
learning in the region.  Almost 7,000 students have been
graduated in 27 years.  Most have remained in their
homeland and contributed to their society as teachers,
catechists, nurses, business people, tourism managers,
scientists, hoteliers, entrepreneurs and as public servants
in the ministries of the Palestinian Authority.  68
graduates are presently on the faculty and staff of the
University.  A unique accomplishment of the university
has been to provide an opportunity for Christian and
Moslems to study and work together in an atmosphere of
mutual respect and cooperation.  This has been a
significant contribution to the promotion of peace and
understanding in the area.

2.  The Present Situation in the Holy Land

2.1.  Most people say that the present Intifada is more
difficult than the previous Intifada of 1987-1990.  The past
year has been characterized by much uncertainty, closure
of the Occupied Territories, deaths and funerals of many
Palestinians (and fewer Israelis), with the ritual marches
and protests that follow, solidarity strikes, intimidation at
checkpoints, sealing of towns and villages, brutal attacks
from soldiers with rifles and machine guns, shells from
tanks and rockets from helicopters.  The homes of many
of our faculty and staff who live in Bethlehem suburbs of
Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have been badly damaged,
some destroyed.  In his Easter message last spring, Latin
Patriarch Michel Sabbah poignantly implored the Israelis
not to attack and destroy the homes of innocent persons
but, rather, if they had to attack, to target churches
instead; he also entreated Palestinian inciters not to
endanger lives of innocent people.  The university has
been shelled on several occasions, one time in the
bedroom of one of our Brothers, once in the library of the
Brothers' residence, and several times in some
classrooms.  In addition, a dozen bullets hit the almost-
completed Classroom and Office Building (substantially
funded by American Schools and Hospitals Abroad of
USAid) when a university employee attempted to hoist a
Vatican flag on the top floor of the structure.  In a press
release from the university sent out on August 31st, I
commented: "Although in comparison to the suffering of
our faculty and staff living in Beit Jala we have been
lucky so far, it seems a bit ironic for the American
taxpayer to be funding this new building and at the same
time paying for the weapons the Israeli army is aiming at
it."

2.2.  Violence.  Decrying violence as an unacceptable
means of resolving conflict, in his address to the US
Catholic Bishops this past summer in Atlanta Patriarch
Sabbah told his audience that while violence on the
Palestinian side expresses itself in stone throwing, gun
shooting, mortar fire, and, unfortunately, in suicide
bombings, it takes other forms on the Israeli side: the
sealing of Palestinian towns and villages, the plowing
under of agricultural fields, especially at harvest time, the
cutting down of thousands and thousands of olive trees,
the bulldozing of houses and buildings, the indiscriminate
shelling and bombing of civilians and the protection of
settlers who themselves use violence. Unfortunately,
Sabbah said, the voices of Christian Palestinians go
unheard in the United States, where U.S. politicians and
the media look only at the manifestations of the conflict in
the Middle East rather than its cause: Israel's continuing
illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

2.3.  Another form of attack on Palestinians which the
world needs to know about is the loss of freedom of
movement.  In 1995 Israel withdrew from seven of the
largest Palestinian cities and towns, but kept its troops in
the villages and the areas surrounding the towns.  As a
result, they can, at will, isolate all the population centers in
the West Bank and Gaza.  Each town, in effect, becomes a
large jail for all its people.  One young student has
described it as living in a "bird cage."  Palestinians are
often forbidden to travel from one town to another.
Military checkpoints obstruct some roads.  Others are
blocked by deep ditches dug across the road or piles of
earth and stones which prevent vehicle traffic.  At one
time during the year the Israeli Physicians for Human
Rights took out an ad in the Sunday paper challenging the
Israeli Government to lift military closures prohibiting
passages of provisions, food, medicine and doctors to rural
areas, and of patients and ambulances to hospitals.  Just
this week Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, spoke
out against Israel's creation of what it terms "buffer
zones" in the West Bank.  He described the move to
create these zones as "a unilateral and provocative act,
contrary to the signed agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians".  The Secretary General also stated that this
move "can only undermine ongoing efforts to find a way
out of the present crisis".  He went on to say, "The
creation of such a zone will impose additional restrictions
on the Palestinians' movement".

As you can imagine, our faculty and students, especially
those from the Jerusalem and Hebron areas, have a very
difficult time reaching the university.  Some students take
as many as five taxis each way.  They take the taxi until it
reaches a block, get out, climb over the obstruction, catch
a second taxi as far as it can go, then repeat the process
until they reach their destination.  It took one of our
students five and a half hours to get to school this past
Monday, a regular trip of 45 minutes.  Our students and
staff are long-suffering, determined and heroic.

2.4.  A couple of months ago our Dean of Business was
traveling by van to Bethlehem from his home in Nablus.
On the way the 7-passenger van/taxi was stopped by an
Israeli patrol, who forced the passengers, the Dean, two
bankers from Bethlehem, a professor from Bir Zeit
University and two students to get out, park the van
across the road to black any traffic, surrender their
identity cards and the keys to the van to the soldiers.  The
soldiers then drove away leaving the passengers stranded
in the countryside.  Of course, because an identity card is
absolutely necessary for every Palestinian, they could not
leave the spot.  The soldiers drove by periodically,
laughing at these professional men whom they had, in
effect, imprisoned on the side of the road for no reason.
Three hours later they returned and gave the driver the
keys and the passengers their  ID cards and allowed them
to continue to work.  Similar humiliation is often faced by
Palestinians whenever they have to pass through Israeli
checkpoints.

2.5.  One Saturday afternoon after a make-up day over
100 of our students from Hebron were not allowed to pass
through the checkpoint to return home.  After entreaties
with Israeli officials, we were able to get permission for
them to pass, but only, as we were directed, in convoys.
We scurried about to rent three large busses, had the
students board them with one administrator on each bus,
and returned to the checkpoint.  On arrival we were
informed that there was a change in plans and that the
students could not return home.  We were forced at c. 6:00
p.m. to find lodging in town for all these students.  Similar
incidents happened on two other occasions.  When the
Holy Father visited in March of 2000, we had tremendous
difficulty in obtaining permits/buses for our students/staff
to attend the Student Rally at Korazim in the Galilee.

2.6.  Whenever Bethlehem University faculty want to
leave the country to attend a professional conference or
meeting they must first get a permit to enter Jerusalem to
visit the consulate of the country to which they are
traveling in order to obtain a visa.  They then must get a
permit to travel to the airport near Tel Aviv.  The permits
are never issued until the last minute and often permission
to travel is received, not by accident, one day after the
conference begins.

2.7 Effects on the Economy
The current situation is destroying the Palestinian
economy.  As you can imagine, much of the local economy
in Bethlehem is based on tourism.  Before the Intifada
there were as many as 60 or more tour busses per day
coming to Bethlehem.  Now we are fortunate to see one
per day.  Hotels are empty,  souvenir shops are closed and
restaurants are without customers.  Workmen stand
outside the gates of the university begging for work, any
kind of work
to be able to put a little food on the table.  According to a
report in June from the Palestinian Minister of Finance,
the Palestinian economy had lost more that 20 billion US
dollars in trade and wages since last October and
unemployment had risen over 50 percent due to Israeli
closures.  It is much worse now.

I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the picture.  I
will come back to the political situation later in the
presentation.
 

3.  Consequences of the Situation on the University

To give you just a little idea of some of the effects of the
political situation on the University I cite the following:

3.1.  We lost several weeks of classes last fall and spring
and were only able to complete the academic year on July
21.  Instead of a six-week summer session we were able to
have only a three-week session.  After losing the first
week of this present fall semester, we reconvened classes
on September 3rd.
3.2.  A large majority of our students are experiencing
increased difficulty in meeting tuition payments due to the
critical economic situation.  Our tuition is $1,000 per
student per year; it costs us c. $3,000 to educate a student
each year.
3.3  We continue to have a decrease in both auxiliary and
educational enterprises and to have to cut budgets across
the campus.
3.4.  For the second straight year we are unable to have
our annual fundraising dinner.
3.5.  We have had to cancel all recruitment visits of high
school students to campus.
3.6.  After a beautiful renovation of the kitchen in our
Hotel Management Institute, we have had only two visits
of Pilgrim Groups over the past year.
3.7.  Mail deliveries are dramatically reduced and
sometimes sent back after being held for months in Israeli
post offices.  Last week 25 pieces of mail sent to our
alumni and donors were returned to us.
3.8.  We have been forced to cancel two international
conferences, some smaller ones, concerts, lectures and
other events scheduled for campus.
3.9.  We are virtually unable to schedule future events
until greater stability in the region is assured.

4. Challenges

Despite all the continuing difficulties, we are not losing
hope.  Some of the challenges we face are the following:
4.1.  To try to deal creatively with an ever-worsening
financial situation.
4.1a.  Rising running costs (especially Salaries and
Benefits for Employees dictated by the Ministry of Higher
Education).
41b.  Decrease in funding from the Palestinian National
Authority (still owe us $160,000 from 1998, money from
1999 and we have received only a portion promised for
last year).
41c.  Weakening of effect of support from Vatican (we
receive five installments of $170,000 each year: $170,000
=monthly payroll five years ago).
Today a monthly payroll is between $240,000 and
$250,000.
41d.  Facing a financial deficit of a minimum half million
dollars (US) this year.

2.  To survive the present crisis and extremely volatile
political situation while continuing to develop
appropriately (Five-Year Strategic Plan).

3.  To keep the university open.  Let me share with you
some of the comments regarding the extremely vital role
the university has for the Church and for the Palestinian
people.
3.1  "The university is a beacon of hope and stability to a
people under siege by the Israeli government."
3.2.  "For the university to continue to exist means an
opportunity of higher education for thousands of
Palestinian youth as well as a source of living for many
others who live under occupation and siege, an opportunity
that would be absent otherwise."
3.3.  "Bethlehem University is the only Christian
university in the Holy Land serving a small Christian
population that is the people of the Gospel in the land of
the Gospel."
3.4.  "The university has been an island of stability for
many years, but in particular since the beginning of the
Intifada.  It is a place that promotes high ethical and moral
standards through a steady (sometimes slow) process.
The transformation of many of our students is amazing."
3.5.  "It is not only a Catholic university but a democratic
university.  We struggle with misunderstanding in both the
western and eastern world.  We not only educate but
struggle with the frustrations of young Palestinians who
crave for freedom."
3.6  "Education is the number one priority to get our
planet's peoples out of their prejudice, hatred, brain-
washing, skepticism, and spirit of accusation, prosecution
and extermination."

4.  And Concerning the Political Situation…There is so
much my colleagues have asked me to make sure you
know.
4.1.  "Violence and actions by the Palestinians is a
response and reaction to Israeli military occupation of
Palestinian land.  More than money we need  your
audience in the US to understand our struggle for a
homeland."
4.2.  "The international community should work hard
towards allowing the Palestinians a chance to one of their
basic rights: to live in peace, dignity and freedom."  Israel
must be made to observe pertinent UN Resolutions."
4.3.  "The occupation has been going on for 34 years without any intervention
from the outside world and without Israel showing any interest in ending it."
4.4.  "The media is not on our side and does not present all the facts.  The
celebrations of 20 people or so overshadow all the goodwill efforts that
thousands engaged in to show our true feelings as a nation." (Ex: use of
footage from 1991; no coverage of many prayer vigils, letters of condolence;
manifestations of sympathy , from Christians and Muslims).
4.5.  "Christians are caught in the middle and need support.   Christian
emigration continues and is a cause of great concern."  Request of Patriarch to
University to study: "In what way can Christian Palestinians make the greatest
contribution to the building of a new Palestinian society?" "In what fields
should we encourage young people to specialize in order to maximize impact of
their service to Palestinian society?"  Cardinal Law of Boston: "We cannot tire
of reminding our own Catholic community and the wider world that the Christian
presence is vital to the Holy Land, not as an historic remnant, but as a living
community of faith."   "There is great need to support a people
—especially the small minority Christian community-- who have so little to hope
for at the present time."
4.6.  The following quote is from a petition signed by over 600 Israelis and
Palestinians last week.  It was published in Hebrew, Arabic and English as
newspaper ads and sent as a letter to Kofi Anan and to the Embassies of the US,
UK, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, China and Japan.
"In the wake of the horrendous and tragic events in the US, followed
immediately by a most brutal Israeli onslaught on the Palestinian people
—today, Jewish New Year Eve
—more than 600 Israelis and Palestinians are appealing to the international
public opinion demanding an international force to be sent immediately to
protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli occupation and to protect all
of us from the reckless and dangerous policies of a belligerent Israeli
Government…We believe that in these days, when the US government is reviewing
policies in the Middle East and in the world at large, one of the necessary
conclusions should be that the Israeli occupation is illegitimate, dangerous
and explosive.  Furthermore it represents the denial of the Palestinian right
to self-determination and freedom.  Therefore we call on the US government to
act for the immediate end of the occupation, to achieve a just solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thus secure stability in the region.  We feel
it is our duty to support the call for the immediate provision of an
international force to protect the Palestinian people in its struggle for the
exercise of its right to self-determination and freedom, and to put an end to
the military occupation of its land."

5.  A Few Final Reflections

I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Equestrian Order for
financial support we have received through the years: BU has been the recipient
of a few $25,000 Endowed Scholarships through the Grand Magesterium, and in
addition we have received direct help from the Northern Lieutenancy in the
States and from Lieutenancies in Germany (which has been most generous to us),
England and Wales, Switzerland, Canada, Spain and Scotland. And we have also
received financial assistance from individual members of the Order for which we
are most grateful.

In conclusion, permit me a citation from the address of Pope John Paul II at
D'heisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem on March 22, 2000.
"Dear young people, continue to strive through education to take your rightful
place in society, despite the difficulties and handicaps that you have to face
because of your refugee status.  The Catholic Church is particularly happy to
serve the noble cause of education through the extremely valuable work of
Bethlehem University, founded as a sequel to the visit of my predecessor Pope
Paul VI in 1964."

I am deeply grateful to be with you and to have had the opportunity to share
these reflections with you.  If the occasion ever presents itself, we would be
honored to host you in a visit to the University, as individuals or in groups.
If your Lieutenancy is able to offer some financial assistance, we, of course,
would be most appreciative.  In the meantime I earnestly invite you to pray
with us that peace with justice will come to the war-torn land of Our Lord's
birth, and that our young people will someday know the freedom and hope for
which their hearts yearn.  Thank You.