The Al-Quds University, first established in 1984, is the biggest and leading public Arab Palestinian academic institution in East Jerusalem which provides education for over 8000 students. It was recognized by the Palestinian National Authority after the signature of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Today the majority of the activities and structures of Al-Quds University are in the Abu Dis Municipality (the Jerusalem Governorate which is part of the West Bank). There are also some important offices in the area annexed by Israel such as the Rector’s office and Fine Arts Faculty.
In 1999 Al-Quds University created the “Community Action Center” (“CAC”), an independent association, which aims to empower the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem. The CAC, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, is a Palestinian non-profit community rights-based organization. The headquarters of CAC is situated in a beautiful 800-year-old building, originally a St. Julian Church, renovated by Al-Quds University in cooperation with the Welfare Association. Through its professional staff of different backgrounds and expertise, the CAC aims to empower the disadvantaged Palestinians of East Jerusalem to access their rights and entitlements and negotiate the complex bureaucratic procedures that control the flow of these rights. This mandate translates into empowering local residents to organize to solve collective problems with particular attention to social and economic inequality, and to mobilize their own volunteer capacity. From the establishment of the Center in 1999 until its tenth consecutive year of service, the Center has served and benefited over 264,516 people in the Palestinian community.
The problems in East Jerusalem, as in the remaining Occupied Palestinian Territories, arise from the social, economic, and political upheaval stemming from 45 years of Israeli occupation. The poor suffer the most in obtaining what is due to them, or even in changing the decisions that affect their lives, which enhances their feelings of marginalization,impotence and victimisation. These factors are exacerbated for East Jerusalemites whose status as (conditional) residents of Israel does not afford them in reality the human and civil rights required by the international law. What is more, they have neither the legal skills nor the fluency in Hebrew to navigate the complex Israeli government bureaucracy in order to protect themselves from eviction or to access basic health, education and other social services benefits.
The Center is one of the first of its kind in the Palestinian community to engage marginalized groups and empower them to fully participate in their community. This is accomplished by activating the community's volunteer capacity to advocate for its entitlements through individual social and legal advocacy, community organization, and participation in decision-making bodies.