Nihad 'Ulayyan Abu Gharbieh
Nihad Abu Gharbieh is considered one of the pillars of education not only in Jerusalem but possibly in all of Palestine. He is a living witness to the turbulent history of his homeland. Despite his 92 years of age, when one sees his extraordinary liveliness and listens to his narration of interesting anecdotes with his well-known sense of humour, in addition to important historical incidents that he personally lived through, one has no choice but to bow with respect to this exemplary personality and its defiance of both age and the ordeals of life that he has passed through. Married to Nadira Abu Ghazaleh, they had only one son, Wajdi, who passed away in 1999 when he was only 38 years old.
Abu Gharbieh was born in Jerusalem in 1913 to a Hebronite family. His father, 'Ulayyan, was a district director in Khan Younis. When World War I broke out in 1914, the family moved to Hebron where he received part of his education. In 1925, the family moved again, this time to Jerusalem where his father found employment with the Jerusalem Municipality. Abu Gharbieh joined Al-Rashidiyyeh School, where he completed his secondary education in 1929. He then enrolled at the Arab College and obtained his certificate in 1931. He later earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in general history from London University as an external student.
Upon graduation from the Arab College, he worked as a teacher at a private elementary school called Ibrahimieh National School, which was founded in the Musrarah quarter of Jerusalem by three Hebronites: Sheikh Rashed Qawasmi, Sheikh Izziddin Ash-Sharif and Ibrahim Bader. But due to differences among the three partners, they all sold their shares in the school, one after the other, to Abu Gharbieh, who became its sole proprietor by 1935. Abu Gharbieh has since dedicated his whole life to that school, expanding it year after year till it reached its present state as a fully integrated educational institution that comprises an elementary and secondary high school and the Ibrahimieh Community College, which offers an Associate Degree (Diploma) in child education, business administration, accounting, and office management and automation.
Despite his dedication to the administration and development of Ibrahimieh College, Abu Gharbieh has rendered great services to various educational and social institutions in Palestine in general and in Jerusalem in particular. He was either a founding or an active member in different councils and boards of trustees of several Palestinian institutions such as the Jerusalem Municipal Council (till 1967), the Higher Islamic Council, the College of Science and the College of Islamic Sciences – Abu-Dies, the University Graduates’ Association, Hebron, and the Al-Aqsa Schools’ Administrative Committee. He is still an active member of the Industrial School of the Arab Orphans' Committee, and is the chairman of the Private Schools' Committee in Jerusalem. Abu Gharbieh is currently the president of Ibrahimieh College as well as the chairman of the Board of Trustees of both Ibrahimieh Community College and the Wajdi Institute of Technology (WIT).
The Abu Gharbiehs decided to establish WIT in order to preserve the memory of their beloved son. Occupying a section of the Ibrahimieh's sprawling building, WIT boasts state-of-the-art equipment for its BA degree in computer science and information technology.
Furthermore, the Abu Gharbiehs launched this year the Wajdi Abu Gharbieh Prize for creative writing in Arabic, including prose and poetry. The competition was open to all school students in the Jerusalem area and considerable monetary prizes were given out to the winners.
Abu Gharbieh wakes up every morning at 5:30 am and goes to work from 8:30 till 2:00 pm. In the afternoon, he practises his favourite hobbies that include playing the violin and the lute, listening to old songs, particularly those of Abdul Wahhab and Um-Koulthoum, gardening, painting, and calligraphy in which he is an expert. He also enjoys reading books and magazines and surfing on the Internet.