Bethlehem Students Hopeful for Palestinian Statehood

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — Palestinian students at Bethlehem University spoke of how their lives would change if the United Nations recognized Palestine as an independent country.

They could receive a visa to travel abroad without having to go to Jerusalem, since other countries would have representatives in Palestine who could issue visas. They could fly to other countries from their own airport rather than having to travel by land to use the Jordanian airport, since Palestinians are not allowed to use the Israeli international airport because of security concerns.

“Maybe there will be corruption and maybe we won’t have democracy as we would like it right away,” said Nagib Kasbary, 20, a Catholic and a business administration student at the university, which is run by the Christian Brothers.

“Look at us now … we have not had (presidential elections) for five years. It will be the same or worse, but it will become better with time,” he said. “That is normal for any new country.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would ask the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestinian state when he addresses the General Assembly Sept. 23.

“We want a state and we want it now,” said Kasbary, who acknowledged the bid is unlikely to pass a U.N. Security Council vote because of the announced U.S. veto.

For Lucy Al-Qassrawy, 20, who is studying translation at Bethlehem University but whose heart is in the fashion world, it would mean that her dream of opening a boutique would not be so far-fetched. Fashionably dressed with white slacks, a brightly striped tunic and a bright green hijab trimmed with orange covering her hair, she smiled as she fantasized about being able to freely export her own designer clothes to the outside world while also importing fashion from abroad without having to first go through the Israelis for a permit.

Jacoub Sleibi, 23, a recent business administration graduate, is in the midst of a job search, even though he has been accepted to numerous prestigious graduate programs abroad.

“I couldn’t continue my studies because I couldn’t find a scholarship. There were scholarships for different countries. Maybe if there is recognition of my state I could fulfill my desire to study for a higher degree,” said Sleibi, a Catholic. “I would like to see a Palestinian state before I die. I don’t want my children to have to suffer from water shortages as we do. It would be a real shame if I leave this situation the way it is for my children.”

The students noted that despite their support for the move, they had no expectations of peace coming to the region any time soon. There would still be extremists and attacks, said Sireen Nuaimi, 19, a business administration student, but she said while Palestinians have much to lose, they also have much to gain.

In some ways their lives would remain very much the same as now; no one is expecting the military checkpoints to suddenly come down and for the economy to begin to flourish, the students said.

But a Palestinian state would give them a window of hope.

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