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Palestine Museum of Natural History opens in Bethlehem
From Mazin Qumsiyeh

We opened the Palestine Museum of Natural History and our botanical gardens
(part of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability at
Bethlehem University) to the public after an official ceremony on Wednesday
attended by University officials and dignitaries. Brother Peter Bray
pledged the universitys continued support. Eng. Adalah Ateerah gave an
important speech about the relationship with the Environmental Quality
Authority and suggested the need to enlarge this to become truly a national
monument. Below I included my speech at the opening where I summarized
progress and laid out plans going forward. There was a big team of
volunteers and staff who worked very hard to see this day. Words of thanks
are too small to do justice to all who contributed to making this day
possible. Many of you receiving this message who were not there have
contributed (some in time and efforts, other financially). We welcome and
appreciate all support (see below). We are very grateful for that and
invite you to come visit us. I posted selected photos here:

And here is one video of the opening

And a video about our work before the opening
(now the museum looks much nicer as you saw in the photos:

Opening talk by Professor Qumsiyeh

On behalf of Bethlehem University`s Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and
Sustainability and Palestine Museum of Natural History and Botanical
Garden, our staff and volunteers I welcome you. Thank you Brother Peter for
the introduction. Welcome to our distinguished guests representatives of
the university Brother Peter Bray and other officials, Honorary Minister
Adalah Ateereh and other representatives of the Ennvironmental Quality
Authority, agriculture and education ministry representatives, Mr. Munib
Masri, representatives of civil society organizations, our colleagues,
donors, and friends.

This is a dream come true to arrive at this stage, a culmination of
countless hours and countless volunteers. It reflects the ten pillars of
transformation from the Buddhist philosophy: generosity, ethics,
renunciation, wisdom, effort, patience, truthfulness, determination,
kindness, and equanimity. We started preparing and working here in Mar
Andrea in August 2014. We had a strategy to officially open the museum
after five years but here we are with an opening ceremony in about half the
time. We consider this a Palestinian national accomplishment. You received
a brochure that highlights our mission and goals in research, education and
conservation. I want here to quickly highlight our accomplishments (because
you will see them on the ground) and highlight our vision going forward and
seek your further support without which we could not do any of this.

In research, we managed to publish over two dozen research papers in areas
ranging from genotoxicity, to biodiversity of various groups of animals
(ranging from scorpions, snails, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals),
to museology (museum science), to environmental education. This is applied
and collaborative research that helps accomplish our other goals of
education and conservation and elevates Palestines name in international
scientific standing. You can see our research table and display board down

In education, we hosted dozens of schools, did workshops educating our
children on areas like reducing waste, recycling composting, respecting
nature, biodiversity, critical thinking, science, anthropology, ecotourism,
and more. We also worked with university students and faculty not just at
our own Bethlehem University but also at other universities in Palestine
and abroad. You can see our education table and display board down below.
We also held workshops ranging from taxidermy to math in nature to

In conservation and sustainability, we built models of sustainability
including in composting, aquaponics, rain harvesting, organic gardening,
solar electricity, and more. We transferred knowledge to farmers and
agriculture engineers, for example 12 who came from Gaza and learned
aquaponics. We also worked with Environmental Quality Authority to create a
management plan for Wadi Al-Quff protected area and are working now on a
similar plan for Wadi Al-Zarqa al-Ulwi near Salfit.

Our plans going forward are ambitious. We plan to build our PIBS to offer
degrees (diplomas and higher degrees) in areas like environmental
conservation, permaculture, and museology. We plan a future green museum
building of nearly 2000 square meters right here where we are. We plan a
mobile museum to go to remote villages. We plan to have a virtual tour of
the museum so that people around the world can visit Palestine and learn
about areas like its fauna, flora, ethnology, history, and the human spirit
that guides us. We will develop museum exhibits that are interactive. We
will develop an animal rehabilitation unit. We plan to develop our
botanical garden to be a permaculture research facility and a place for ex
situ conservation of wild plants and some animals threatened with

This is a huge effort done largely with volunteer efforts and initially
only with our own funding and with partnership with you representatives of
NGOs, governments, and academia, and others who could not come to join us
in this celebration. I would like now to acknowledge those who made this
work possible and ask you to stand up. We thank the PMNH advisory board
Brother Peter, Dr. Ghassan Handal, Dr. Irene Hazou, Youil Samour, Isaac
Shahar, , the departments at the university that made this possible like
the finance Department (Youil, Luda, Elie, George, Diala, and others),
engineering and maintenance (Nagib, Maher, Jiryis, Raed, Philip, etc),
Biology (Dr. Ghassan and students). Please stand up and remain standingز

We thank donors from the American Consulate in Jerusalem, the
Representative Office of Canada, Consulat General de France Jerusalem,
UNDP/SGP/GEF, Cultures of Resistance, GIZ, Tetraktys/Masar Ibrahim, Hanns
Seidel Foundation, Telemachus Foundation, Hope and Play UK, and individual
large donors such as Nader Qumsieh, Makram Qumsiyeh, and Rajaie Qubain.
Please stand up. We thank all the international and local volunteers (so
far over 100 internationals and over 100 Palestinians have volunteered with
us and several of them are here with us. Stand up (please name each one of
them who are there).

I spoke to you on behalf of our internal team whose work is exemplary and
relentless. I start with Jessie who spent seven days a week as a volunteer
administering and dealing with little and big things. Elias, Mohammad
Najajreh, Mubarak, Mohammad Abu Sarhan, Khawla, Reena, Dany, Majd, are core
team members that made this possible. Standup please and come here to the
front. And I am sure there are some people still seated who either helped
us and I forgot to mention them or plan to help us so stand up. Now
everyone give yourself an applause.

As I said in the beginning, we consider this step a Palestinian national
accomplishment. We will now proceed for the opening, and everyone is
welcome to take a tour of the museum and garden after the ribbon cutting
ceremony. There are 14 garden stations and two halls open to you, and there
are paths with maps at each station. Each map shows where you are and what
is next. But you do have a choice right after the opening and station 2:
you can either go to the museum area and downstairs (Blue arrows) to watch
a film and see photos or continue in the garden path along the red arrows
and do the films and exhibit room at the end. At 3:30 we will come back
here for the reception with delicious food prepared by Bethlehem
University`s Hotel Management faculties and students. I hope after you see
what we have accomplished with very limited resources and hard work you
will agree to give us more of your support.

To support us:
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