Skip navigation

Frequently Asked Questions

To stimulate religious fervor and Christian pride, Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964. In his desire to support the Palestinian people, Bethlehem University was established in 1973 as a joint venture between the Vatican and the De La Salle (Christian) Brothers. From humble beginnings with just three Brothers, a small group of Palestinian educators, and 112 students, Bethlehem University became the first registered university in Palestine. 21,614 men and women have graduated from Bethlehem University since its founding, and today it remains the only Catholic University in the Holy Land.

Where is Bethlehem University?

Bethlehem University is located in Bethlehem, Palestine, near Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem is located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, about six miles south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem University serves the Palestinian population and most students come from Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Hebron, and surrounding villages.

The West Bank is divided into three different areas: Area A, B, and C. Bethlehem is located in Area A, which is under control of the Palestinian Authority. Area A covers roughly 18 percent of the West Bank and is the most densely populated.

Area B is administratively controlled by the Palestinian Authority and shares security control with Israel. Area B covers around 22% of the West Bank.

Area C is under Israeli administrative control and covers 60% of the West Bank. Around 180,000-300,000 Palestinians live in Area C along with over 325,000 Israeli settlers. Palestinians are essentially prohibited from expanding or building in Area C (even on their own land) and is used by the Israeli military for training exercises and settlement expansion.

Information sourced Visualizing Palestine 101

Area A,B,C, map courtesy SoWhAt249 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Who attends Bethlehem University?


  • 3,226 enrolled students
  • 77% women, 23% men
  • 81% Muslim, 19% Christian
  • 52% of students are from the Bethlehem governance, 37% from Jerusalem, 10% from Hebron, 1% other
  • Teacher to student ratio is 1 to 16

Faculty and Staff 

  • 50% women, 50% men
  • 68% are from Bethlehem, 11% from Jerusalem, 6% from Hebron, 5% from Ramallah/Al Bireh, 3% international, 7% other


  • Faculty of Arts: 545 students
  • Faculty of Business Administration: 646 students
  • Faculty of Education: 460 students
  • Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences: 956 students
  • Faculty of Applied Sciences Technology, and Engineering: 445 students
  • Institute of Hotel Management and Tourism: 174 students


  • 188 postgraduate students
  • 3,038 undergraduate students


  • 21,614 total graduates
  • 15,175 women graduates
  • 6,440 male graduates

*As of October 2023, many Christian families have fled the increasing violence in the West Bank. As such, the Christian population in the West Bank and at Bethlehem University is decreasing.

How does the occupation affect students?


Throughout the West Bank, Israel uses checkpoints as a means to terrorize Palestinians, cut off their freedom of movement, and isolate villages and cities from one another. There are over 700 permanent checkpoints that breakup the Palestinian landscape. These primarily affect vehicular traffic, but can also limit pedestrian movement.

Checkpoints come in many forms such as road gates, earth mounds, roadblocks, earth walls, trenches, and partial checkpoints. At any given time, a Palestinian may encounter a “flying checkpoint,” where Israeli Offensive Forces (IOF), will stop and check traffic. There is no strict schedule of when checkpoints will be manned. A simple half hour trip could easily turn into several hours. Entrances to cities or villages could be closed at any time.

Almost half of the student population resides in Jerusalem or Hebron. Students and faculty spend long hours traveling a short distance in order to get to classes. Going through checkpoints is an unsettling and stressful situation. Students may be accosted, threatened, beaten, or even killed.

Information sourced from OCHA (United Nations Office for Coordinated Affairs)

Passports and Identification

Palestinians are segregated into different categories of ID holders. Those who are born in Israel are able to freely travel, however face other discriminations. Students, faculty, and staff who have a blue ID, or Jerusalem ID, must show proof of living in Jerusalem. Jerusalem IDs are extremely difficult to apply for and married couples who have blue and green IDs must either live apart or live in areas like Kufr Aqab, a neighborhood outside of Ramallah that is technically a part of East Jerusalem, but is separated by the Wall. However, it is a dangerous and crowded area with no government services like sanitation.

Students born in the West Bank most likely carry a green ID, meaning they have to get special permission to travel to Israel. Many students living in the West Bank have never been to Jerusalem and seen the holy sites or traveled to the sea, just 45 miles away. If students need to fly internationally, they must travel through Jordan, a long and expensive process, as green ID holders are not permitted to fly through Israel’s major airport in Tel Aviv.

Do any BU Students live in Refugee Camps?

Yes. 4% or 133 Bethlehem University students live in refugee camps in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem, or Ramallah/Al-Bireh. Refugee Camps are areas of leased land, they are densely populated with poor socioeconomic conditions and insufficient infrastructure including roads, utilities, and sewers. Learn more about Palestinian Refugees.

How do settlements affect BU?

In violation of international law, Israel continues to build settlements within the West Bank. Settler violence has steadily increased over the past few years. At the beginning of 2023, there were reported 3 attacks a day in the West Bank, since October of 2023 there are now reported seven, according to to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA). *Note these numbers do not reflect instances of trespassing, harassment, or intimidation. Settlers routinely block access to roads, cause damage to crops, livestock, and water resources. Settlers also use firearms to intimidate and even kill Palestinians, often with impunity and aid from Israeli soldiers.

Information sourced from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA)

Ten percent of the BU population comes from Hebron. Israel established several settlements within the Hebron city center, and as a result, Palestinians living in the area have had to deal with extreme restrictions imposed by the military. Palestinians residents are restricted from walking on several main streets, while settlers may roam wherever they wish. There are also 21 permanently staffed checkpoints. Settlers routinely harass and attack Palestinians residents.

Information sourced from B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

*As of October 2023, Bethlehem University moved classes online to keep students, staff, and faculty safe from rising settler violence.

What is the Separation Wall?

The “separation wall” began construction in 2002 as a means to separate Palestinians and Israelis and break up the Palestinian landscape. 85% of the wall lies within the West Bank (not on the Green Line or in Israel-proper) and cuts off cities and villages from one another. The wall has allowed for settlement expansion and cuts off 150 Palestinian communities living in enclaves between Israel proper and the wall from their farming lands and the rest of the West Bank. Israel refuses to grant permits so that Palestinians may cultivate and farm their land.

The wall is a mix of 8-9 meter high concrete walls near larger urban populations and barbed wire fences and ditches. East Jerusalem is entirely cut off from the West Bank by the separation wall.

The wall is in violation of multiple human rights. It severely limits freedom of movement, “consequently impinging upon their rights to work, education, medical care, family life, earning a living and an adequate standard of living.” Additionally, the International Court of Justice found the wall to be in violation of international law.

Information sourced from B’tselem, the Israeli Information for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Graphics sourced from Al Jazeera.
Where are BU alum?

Bethlehem University alum are all over the world. Many stay in the West Bank to start their own businesses or enter the healthcare field. Some students study abroad and continue their studies. There are over 400 alum currently living in Gaza.

BU alum Hanna recently graduated with a degree in physics and computer information. Hanna currently teaches high school physics at the American School in Beit Sahour. Hanna hopes to continue his studies abroad so that he may return to Palestine and continue teaching. Very few high schools in the West Bank offer physics courses, and it is Hanna’s dream to bring his favorite sciences to all students.

BU alum Hanna ’22

What can I do?
  • Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date with the university
  • Check out our Pilgrim page
  • Contact Director of Development, Kathy Carver, at [email protected].