November 6, 2002
Dear Friends,
Salaam and greetings to you all from Jerusalem.

Welcome to the third month of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem Book Campaign.

The Diocese of Jerusalem has a powerful educational ministry, witnessing the love of Christ to almost 6000 students this academic year.  We believe that children are our future, and that a quality education gives them the tools that will enable them to become productive and creative members of society.

The School Book Campaign aims to provide a sizable addition of books to the libraries, in each of ten Diocesan schools.  The campaign will profile a different school each month, for the current academic year. This month we will introduce The Arab Evangelical Episcopal School, located in Ramallah, Palestine.  The headmistress of the school is Mrs. Samira Nasser.

We ask that you make a commitment to sponsor a certain amount each month, for the ten-month period. This is an ideal way to make a link between Sunday school classes, Church school classrooms, youth groups or individual families and the children of the Holy Land.  As the holidays approach, please consider giving the gift of a donation in a loved one’s name.  We will provide a holiday greeting to the recipient in your name, with a description of the gift.  What could be better!  Five pounds or ten dollars will buy a book.

We have an additional goal, in that we hope that you will develop a personal relationship with the children of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and that this will evolve into a long term and sustainable friendship.

The Arab Evangelical Episcopal School

Ramallah is a city of 100,000 inhabitants (2000 estimate), situated on a crest of the Judean Hills at an elevation of 872 meters above sea level, 10 miles north of Jerusalem. The name Ramallah can be translated from Arabic as the "height of God" – Ram Allah.  The city is situated in a fertile area, with olive trees and vineyards. Ramallah today is made up of two cities, Ramallah and Al Bireh, which are both of about the same size. Ramallah is predominantly Christian, while Al Bireh has a Muslim majority.
The Arab Evangelical School is co-educational from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  The enrollment for the current scholastic year is almost 600 students from Ramallah and the surrounding villages.  The girls boarding section is home to twenty-five students and the remainder commute daily to school.  During the 2001-2002 academic year, 150 students received scholarships, due to the debilitating hardships facing the community.  In the last year families experiencing economic hardship have increased immensely.  Funding for the school is barely able to satisfy basic services.  The World Bank estimated in July 2002 that 75% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were below the poverty line, with a daily income of less than $2 per day.   Since then the situation has continued to deteriorate.

The school faculty consists of 60 members: six administrative, forty-four teachers, nine workers and one volunteer.  The school offers continuing education and workshops for all staff members in order to maintain and update their knowledge and skills.

The Evangelical School is active on many levels aside from education.  The students and staff participate in activities, which take place in the school, and in conjunction with other schools and community.  These activities include sports competitions, plays, folk dancing and a school choir.

Recently, and since the onset of the political turmoil, the children of the Ramallah community have been significantly affected.  The school has been under continuous pressure to provide programs to help children cope with the distressing socio-political conditions they encounter.  Children are in need of more attention and programs that will help them to forget about the reoccupation of their neighborhoods and the general lack of normal activities that will otherwise take their attention away from the conflict.

The Impact of the Current Conflict on Youth

The situation in Ramallah is a serious challenge to all who live within the city and surrounding villages. Although the Israeli military forces have moved their tanks and vehicles from the center of the city, the military forces remain very close and surround the perimeter of the city.  Tanks continue to enter Ramallah periodically during the day, at which time people in the streets come under fire.   Three times this year, Israeli soldiers have occupied the School, and at one point the new secondary school building, still under construction, became military barracks.

Curfew is currently in effect from 7pm to 5am. Anyone who does not abide by the curfew is subjected to humiliation and arrest. Gunshots and sound bombs are commonly heard. Between June 24 and September 6th, there were 1319 hours of curfew and all aspects of normal life ground to a halt.  These months are no different than the previous several months, and the psychological, social and economic consequences of such an atmosphere are cumulative. Students were not able to go to their schools, adults were unable to reach their jobs, and reality of a bride and groom walking across a checkpoint for their marriage became a well-documented phenomenon.  For the residents of Ramallah, it is almost impossible to travel in or out of the city.

Though a new scholastic year began on September 1st, and the Arab Evangelical School has only been open a portion of these days due to repeated curfews. A decision was made to attempt to open the school during the curfew as a trial, for the primary students. No doubt the parents felt deep concern, though they faced the challenge with full faith and confidence, and encouraged their children come to school with no fear.        “Let the children come to me, and forbid them not”.

The Arab Evangelical School succeeded in breaking the curfew, with an attendance of 97%. The children were very happy; and felt courageous in claiming their right of education.

Many families have been forced into unemployment and cannot pay their children’s school fees. Others are unable to find the way to their schools due to multiple checkpoints, closures, and curfews. Teachers cannot access their place of work and many schools have had to hire substitute teachers. All this is in addition to the psychosocial trauma inflected on the children as a result of all the violence and counter violence.

In February 2001 the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported that the average Palestinian household had 17 months of financial reserve for consumption spending.  That interval concluded in July 2002 prompting concern that Palestinian households may currently be at the end of their reserves for basic items such as food and water.

Helping these brave children and their families is one of the most urgent needs, and we provide this trough an active Scholarship fund.  Parents come to the school daily, asking for assistance to cover the fees and other requirements.

Please contact me for banking information.  We accept direct transfers to our account in Jerusalem, checks through the post, or offer contact with organizations that support our work, in your home community.

Thank you for your support of this exciting project.  With my warm regards,

Nancy J. Dinsmore

Development Officer
Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
PO Box 19122                                                Fax:  972 2 627 3847
Jerusalem 91191                                  Email:  devedjer@netvision.net.il
 

We will profile the following schools:

September – The Princess Basma Center School, Jerusalem
October – The Saviour School, Zarqa, Jordan
November – Arab Evangelical School, Ramallah
December – Christ Church, Nazareth, Israel
January – The Schneller School, Marka, Jordan
February – The Bishop’s School, Amman, Jordan
March – St. George’s School, Jerusalem
April – The Ahliyyah School, Amman, Jordan
May – Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, Salt, Jordan
June – St. John’s Episcopal School, Haifa, Israel