Palestine Museum of Natural History

Achievements First Year

First Annual Report


According to survey that Qumsiyeh and Isaac did for UNESCO and the Ministry of Higher Education in 2012, Research & Development in Palestine suffers from significant obstacles but has certain potentials and possibilities for improvement. Particularly deficient R&D areas include biodiversity, agriculture, and healthcare (including environmental issues affecting human health). We need research, we need education, and we need active intervention to conserve our nature and to for sustainable development. The Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) and the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) were established at Bethlehem University to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world and our Palestinian culture and heritage, and to use this knowledge to promote responsible, empowered human interactions with all components of our environment

The university provided us initially 12 dunums of land and 800 square meters of indoor space and $45000 for infrastructure improvements. Professor and Mrs. Qumsiyeh donated $250,000 to be delivered over 4 years (2014-2018). Much was accomplished including refurbishing and remodeling existing rooms and structuring landscape. We have also built a pool and an aviary. We spent on some projects like the science festival that accommodated hundreds of school children to do experiments (20-29 November 2014). We also did and continue to do significant biodiversity research and documentation of Palestinian fauna and flora as well as human impact on the environment. The initial finances also allowed us to begin to do permaculture systems on site. Much more remains to be done. We have dozens of volunteers but we have substantial financial needs required to go to the next levels in the many existing projects and new projects.

Vision: Our vision is to arrive at an informed and involved society living in healthy sustainable environment that is safe for all living things

Mission: Our mission is to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world and our Palestinian culture and heritage, and to use this knowledge to promote responsible, empowered human interactions with all components of our environment.


1) Started and developed the museum (PMNH) so that it is now a functioning institution and involved in research, education and conservation. We received visitors including students, researchers, volunteers, and community members. We have now two employees one for the botanical garden (Mohammad Najahreh)  and one research zoologist (Elias Handal). The (volunteer) director Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh taught and did research for many years at institutions including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, University of Tennessee, Duke University, and Yale University. Since returning to Palestine in 2008 he has engaged in teaching, service, and research at Birzeit University, Al-Quds University, and Bethlehem University. The volunteer financial and administrative officer (Jessie Change) is certified public accountant. Dozens of other volunteers work at the museum.


2) Held a science festival that brought hundreds of school children and volunteers together for activities such as experiments and discussions on topics ranging from critical thinking to physics to environmental protection.


3) Published significant research with high impact . Examples include “Decline in Vertebrate Biodiversity of Bethlehem,” “Genotoxic effects of Israeli Industrial settlements”, fauna (biodiversity) in the Wadi Al-Quf area the first Palestinian-administered protected area, two research papers on scorpions, one on amphibians, and one on butterflies.  We had also established a research and service clinical cytogenetics lab for cancers, infertility, and congenital birth defects. Currently we have ongoing research projects by master’s-degree students, undergraduate students, and volunteers, on various topics including ethnology; early education; biodiversity of arachnids, grasshoppers, snails, bats, and other animals; genotoxic effects of computer recycling in Idhna; effect of the apartheid wall on water and other natural resources;  study of medicinal plants; research on best educational methods for reaching school children with ideas of environmentalism and self-empowerment (such as critical thinking, questioning attitude, etc), and much more.
4) Worked intensely on our land site to both reclaim and create an integrated ecosystem of endogenous Palestinian animals and plants, in an attractive setting. We also began to develop permaculture and aquaculture.


5) Held over a dozen workshops including on such areas as Scorpions (14 July 2015),  water innovation and project development (15 June 2015), Peace Gardens and Trauma Relief (24 May 2015), Museums in Palestine (23 April 2015), bee keeping (April 2015),  Mushrooms (24 March 2015),  geology and paleontology (31 March 2015), environment day at the museum (30 March 2015), Cancer (3 March 2015), Research Methodology and Ethics (27 January 2015), Taxidermy (December 2014).
6) Began to rehabilitate some injured and abandoned animals, mostly wild.

7) Began recycling and upcycling waste material.

8) Expanded our digital library for fauna and flora.
9) Expanded our digital photo collection.

10) Undertook partnership with many organizations and government entities. For example: involved in preparing the 2015 national report on biodiversity in compliance with the Convention on Biologic Biodiversity (in cooperation with Environmental Quality Authority); with ministry of Agriculture for Also traveled to Europe and developed good working relationships with universities, individual scientists, and others planning student and faculty exchanges etc.
11) Raised some needed funds for work projects. Individual donations (mostly from Palestinians) for the first year was >$25,000. We also got two contracts for specific consulting work.
12) Carried out over 50 field trips in various parts of Palestine.  Over forty volunteers have worked at the Museum in various capacities such as agriculture, education, research, and conservation.
13) Media and Publicity: Developed a webpage (, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and published several articles about the Museum in major magazines such as “This Week in Palestine,” and in books such as Museums in Palestine. We were featured in several articles and we commissioned a film for encouraging volunteerism for the museum.

Botanical Garden plan 
Site map of the facilities and gardens as they exist today
We have 12 dunums (some 4 acres) of land that we rehabilitated the area not merely a botanical garden in the classic sense but an integrated ecosystem. This means having the land productive for all living things and an oasis of tranquility and model of human coexistence in harmony with nature. Already the garden has crabs, 17 species of butterflies, many species of water and land snails, four species of dragon flies, three species of frogs, three fish species, over 30 species of birds, mammals (from small mice, shrews, and bats up to a fox family), and many species of reptiles. In terms of plants both aquatic and terrestrial species are found including rare orchids and even the star of Bethlehem (endangered).

Star of Bethlehem

The pool that harvests rain water is used for both a wetland system (fish, dragonflies, frogs, aquatic plants) and as a nitrogen rich sources of water for plants in the summer. We already started bee keeping and use that as an educational system on importance of bees and other insects. We planted endogenous Palestinian trees in the garden successfully (over 10 species) and these will soon serve as educational center for agroforestry.

Our five goals for the second year of operation (academic year 2015/16)  are:
a) publish five research papers,
b) do five educational workshops,
c) develop five interactive exhibit areas (three indoors, two outdoors),
d) add five partners (governmental or non-governmental),
e) study five Palestinian geographic locations intensively.

The Museum now provides direct linkage and collaboration with Bethlehem University’s Cytogenetics Laboratory which was established by Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh. We also work closely with the M.S. program in biotechnology (Polytechnic and Bethlehem Univesrities) and the Biology Department at Bethlehem University and the new M.S. program in Environmental Science at Birzeit University. We have international collaborations with the Jordan University of Science and Technology (Irbid, Prof. Zuhair Amr), Berlin Museum Fur Naturkunde, Senckenberg Museum, Vienna MNH, Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (Amman, Jordan), Museum of Natural Sciences (Brussels), Jeunes Palestiniens en Chemin, Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York), and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC).  Locally, we have collaborative arrangements with the Palestinian Museum currently being built on the campus of Birzeit University, with the Palestine Center for Rapprochement Between People, with the A.M. Qattan Foundation (focused on education), Al-Rowwad Center in Aida Refugee Camp, and with local schools and other non-governmental organizations. These partnerships center on education for empowerment, including sustainable living and environmental work. Additional partnerships are being sought in order to increase our activities in other high-priority areas, particularly behavioral changes needed in society for a sustainable world.

Education and conservation through increased respect:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948) states: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” Various other international conventions have been promulgated to protect the environment and ensure sustainability of natural resources. We believe the key to this process lies in human capacity; hence our goal to increase respect:  a) for ourselves (self-empowerment), b) for our fellow human beings, regardless of background, and c) for all living creatures and our shared earth. PMNH has embarked on an ambitious program not only to research and document nature around us but also to conserve and educate in the spirit of humanity living as part of an integrated balanced ecosystem. We have engaged in education at all levels in Palestinian society: elementary schools, secondary schools, undergraduate colleges, graduate schools, and the public at large. We consider our task as coaches to be facilitation of active learning—rather than “teaching” or “lecturing.”  We believe in the Chinese proverb “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”
Much more can be done in our second year with your help: email us