Schools of the Holy Land, schools of hope

Amy Rodighiero3 September 2021

Jerusalem, 7 am. The shutters of the shops in the Christian Street souk in the Old Town rise slowly, while the stone streets still deserted and the buildings all around turn pink and beige in the first late summer sun. Then, wearily, the shopkeepers begin to set up the stalls, to clean the windows, to polish objects and gadgets that probably even today – as for a year and a half now – nobody will buy.

The lockdown is over, almost all people are now vaccinated, but pilgrims and tourists are still not seen and with a new wave of covid cases in Israel, they probably won’t be seen for a long time.

For a few days, however, despite the difficulties and uncertainties, there is something new: the schools have started again and the streets of the Old City are once again filled with children and young people who, with their rucksacks, hurry to return to the benches of the Earth. Terra Sancta School, the school run by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. It happens in Jerusalem, but also in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho and Acre. In all these places the Franciscans have been welcoming generations of young people into their schools for a very long time.

Here young people not only find an excellent education, but they are places of encounter between Christians, Muslims and Jews, places of coexistence and construction of a concept of peace that is very rare to find in this land where hatred winds and also a small spark can trigger violence. For this, the Pro Terra Sancta Association is committed to providing all possible support to these forges of peace.

This commitment in the past year was even more important because we had to face new challenges related to the pandemic and repeated lockdowns. In the Holy Land, the lack of pilgrims and the consequent economic crisis have brought many families to their knees, who, alone, would never have been able to pay school fees and send their children to school. Thanks to the help of many generous people, we have taken care of the fees and what is necessary to allow everyone, even students from poor families, to follow the lessons at a distance.

In May, then, the outbreak of new clashes and violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, in Gaza and in many Israeli and Palestinian cities, created a lot of fear and uncertainty. We have seen unprecedented violence on both sides. An explosion of hatred and rejection of the other that has been brewing for some time and that suddenly exploded. It is an open and painful wound that has never been healed.
It will take a long time to rebuild good relationships and the only way to do it is by starting from school and education.

In addition to support activities for families through the coverage of school fees, in the hope of being able to make an even greater contribution to this work, this year Pro Terra Sancta Association will support the implementation of online connection paths with Italian schools, to learn more knowledge and comparison with different realities; projects of knowledge and visits to all places, especially in Jerusalem, which embrace the three Abrahamic religions, to provide children and young people with knowledge of the differences that exist in the area and help them to deepen the traditions and faiths of different cultures. Finally, it will support psychological and educational support activities for young people, starting from listening to and identifying their fears and uncertainties.