We had a grand opening of the Biodiversity Center at the Palestine
Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University this
morning. Linda Majaj, Project manager MC’d the event and gave introductory
remarks. We heard from Joris Heeren, the EU representative as well as from
Brother Peter Bray (Vice Chancellor of BU). From the audience we heard from
Munib Al-Masri whose family foundation committed to donate towards
renovation of a building to house the upcoming new national museum of
Natural History. Below is a speech I gave on that occasion.

We thank those who were able to join us. Check our facebook pages (links
below) for pictures and videos. However, YOU can also  join us online this
coming Friday 25 June 4 PM (Jerusalem, Palestine Time) for our biweekly
Future Conversation. This week we will discuss the future plans touched on
the speech below and how we can together dream bigger.
Link to join: https://meet.google.com/xak-fogn-vqi
Please mark your calendar

We thank all who helped us in the past and are making dreams come true
*Prof. Qumsiyeh’s Speech (delivered in Arabic):*

Seven years of realizing bigger and bigger dreams.
In signing the agreement with the university to start this adventure, I
spoke on behalf of volunteers and others by thanking those who made that
step possible.
Now seven years later, we can look with pride and amazement at what we
accomplished together.
From the dream of Sana Atallah to study nature
From a dream of 7-year-old fascinated by creatures big and small
From a small collection in the basement of our house

We dreamed big: A Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability
A Palestine Museum of Natural history
A botanical garden
Many people told us our dreams were too big, too unrealistic
You can’t do this under occupation
You will be fought by the bureacrats inside and outside your institution
No one will appreciate your work
And on and on—The negatives were indeed there

But let no one tell you that something is impossible
The main thing is to liberate our minds (outr motto is respect: for
ourselves/empowerment, for others, for nature)
Believe in ourselves
Believe in our young people
Dreaming big and making it bigger every step of the way

We achieved our older dreams and each dream fulfilled gives us ideas to
dream and achieve the next target
We publish two papers a month now
We benefited thousands of school and university students
Thousands of adult visitors, local and international
We conducted Conservation efforts and were trusted to build the National
Report foer CBD and now working on the NBSAPs
We did animal rehabilitation
A Community Garden
An Exploration Playground
An Ethnography exhibit
A large collections of research specimens
A nascent Herbarium

We thank Sara Dominoni and Joris Heeren from the EU for another dream made
This biodiversity center is part of a three center, three partnerships
An Education Center at Galilee society
A Human Diversity Center at PCR
And this biodiversity center which has molecular labs, resources for
studying and conserving the rich biodiversity in Palestine.
It adds an even bigger step, a dream fulfilled that takes us to new heights

The key ingredient to making dreams come true is people. Those who
volunteer with us and some later become employees.

The dream of “Unity and Diversity in Nature and society” (the title of this
EUPI funded project) is a partnership Between us at BU and PCR and GS.
We thank George Rishmawi, Elias Awad, and Yasmena Qumsiyeh of PCR
Ahmed Al-shaikh, Sare Asali and Samaa Awad of GS
LindaMajaj, Project manager, and Hanin Saliba, Project assistant

Our other team of staff and volunteers are amazing and dream big with us
Mohammad Najajrah, Elias Handal, Amal Handal, Johann Gideon, Mohammad
We also had previous employees like Rami Abu Saad with us
We thank our volunteers who make dreams come true
my wife Jessie dreamt big with me and we both still volunteer seven years
There are Zohar, Majd, Defon, Andrea, Asad, Ibrahim and many more

We still dream big and overcome obstacles

Our next project is a new national level museum in this building to the
north of us which will be renovated – Munib Masri Family Foundation will
transfer a most generous donation and we likely will soon receive even more
from ASHA (Americans Schools and Hospitals Abroad). This will allow us to
launch a national museum of natural history including a gift shop, a
cafeteria and much more. Stay tuned.

With the Environment Quality Authority we work to achieve our dreams of
better protected areas, of expanding our animal rehabilitation unit, expand
our botanic gardens and much more. We also are now working with EQA to
formulate the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action plans for Palestine
including potential signing of new international conventions and updating
as needed the local laws to protect our environment. Thank you Dr. Issa
Albaradeya and Mohammaed Mahasna for your bountiful support.

For all these and future dreams to come through, we need your support. Join
us as we dream even bigger dreams…
Dare I say dream of ending the colonization
a free prosperous sustainable Palestine
Let us together make a better future for people and nature in our beloved
We need each and every one of you

PS: Mr. Jamil Mtour of EQA gave a nice speech explaining that the biggest
obstacle to our environmental work is the Israeli occupation. I then
expanded on that by explaining why diversity is a strength in nature and
society and that colonization is always a threat to such diversity. Zionist
colonization provides a great example of such negative effects. So we aim
for a society that is diverse and a nature that has rich biodiversity. For
more, see
The Palestinian Environment under Israeli occupation