Recipient of the Middle East Institute Issam M. Fares Award at MEI's 70th Annual Awards Banquet and Conference.

Vera Baboun is a Palestinian politician and the first female mayor of Bethlehem. She was elected in 2012, leading a party list of both Muslim and Christian candidates. In office she has sought to advance the local economy, improve services, and spur job creation and civic engagement despite obstacles posed by Israel's administrative control over 80% of the municipality.

Mayor Baboun has contended with significant challenges in office, including Bethlehem’s high unemployment rate, resulting from expanding Israeli settlements and the separation barrier. She has worked to improve infrastructure and services, including the aging public water network and roads. As part of her efforts to create more jobs in Bethlehem, she has strongly promoted the city’s tourism industry, highlighting the city’s religious, historical, and cultural attractions internationally.

Baboun taught English language and literature at Bethlehem University, where she also served as dean of student affairs and published several notable research papers on human rights. As mayor she is a leader in the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities, a member of the Permanent Conference of the Historic Cities of the Mediterranean, and a member of the Council on Arab Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.


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