Dar Al-Majus: housing Hope in Bethlehem
The first light of dawn shines in Bethlehem, and the first shadows of the day are drawn among the deserted streets. On this Friday in September, the cool, autumn air is still and silent.
Suddenly, the sound of a hammer and in the uncertain morning light the first men can be seen working on Star Street, a few metres from the Basilica of the Nativity.
In the construction site of the Community Home in Dar al-Majus people are already working. Here, where Jesus was visited by the Magi (and in fact Dar al-Majus means ‘place of the Magi’), the Community Home financed by Pro Terra Sancta is being completed. Today, the men at work are finishing laying the roof, and the structure is looking more and more like a real house.
The site is located in an old Bethlehemite building, which is being restored to make room for the new project. The challenge of this reconstruction has been met thanks to the involvement of the local community in the work, a point that has been stressed from the outset. The pandemic certainly prolonged the work, but with the construction of the roof, the end is truly in sight.
The place of the Magi becomes a gift for the community
Dar al-Majus, the place of the Magi, has always been a place of exchange and giving. This is why the Community Home that is being built will become a place of sharing and concrete support for the families of Bethlehem. Inside, people will find social and health care. Above all, the Dar al-Majus Community Home will be a vocational training school for all the young Bethlehemites who are now unemployed because of the Covid pandemic and its devastating economic consequences.
But the Community Home will also be a precious treasure chest for the history of Jesus’ birthplace. Pilgrims and tourists travelling to Bethlehem from all over the world will be able to visit a permanent exhibition illustrating the history and culture of the town. Visitors are guided through an immersive film starring Giovanni Scifoni, a well-known Italian actor.
Now that the dust from the work is beginning to clear, the final goal is truly in sight. Traces of the restoration that has made the old building the new home for the Bethlehemite community are visible everywhere. A restoration that has involved young people, local men and women. In fact, architects, engineers, workers, labourers and masons from Bethlehem were called upon, so that it would be clear that after the pandemic, hope is reborn thanks to the community.
Stories from the construction site
Among the large number of men and women who have passed through the construction site over the years, today it is Hossam and Daniel who tell us something about this final phase of the work.
Hossam is 33 years old, has a university degree and dreams of being a primary school teacher. “I finished university 10 years ago,” he says, “and one day I would like to be able to teach”. Life has turned out differently, however, and he has found himself without a job due to severe economic conditions that prevent stability. The pandemic has aggravated the situation, and now Hossam is called upon to give his wife and two children certainty about the present and hope for the future. The construction site of the Dar al-Majus Community Home is where these assurances became possible, and so Hossam says he is “happy to be doing this work”, however far from his aspirations.
Daniel is only 17 and will probably never enroll into university. In fact, the boy had to drop out of high school to help his mother and younger siblings who were left without a source of income. “At first I did a little bit of everything,” he says. Then, looking around the building site, he adds: “now I’m learning to be a bricklayer”.
His eyes light up when we pull out the camera to take a few shots of him and the building site: “I’m going to be famous! I’m going to be famous!” he shouts enthusiastically. How could we disappoint him? At just 17 years old, he already has the responsibilities of a breadwinner. Seeing him laugh and be happy with little is wonderful! Thanks to your support, making a positive impact on the community in Jesus’ hometown has become possible. We can’t wait to reveal the results of the work of Daniel, Hossam and our team! We look forward to welcoming you to our (and your) new home, the Dar Al-Majus Community Home!