The ribbon was cut for the new classrooms in the Terra Sancta School in Beit Hanina, one of the Arab quarters in the outskirts of Jerusalem on the road that from the city goes towards Ramallah.
A renovated school
Just a few weeks after the start of the new school year, the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton, visited the school, which was completely renovated over the summer. He was welcomed by the head of the Terra Sancta schools and Vicar of the Custody, fra Ibrahim Faltas, and the two Franciscans of the community: fra Raffaele Tayem, who has been parish priest for one year, and fra Paulo Paulista, the new head of the school. The former head, fra George Haddad, now responsible for the Terra Sancta school in Bethlehem, was also present.
After the ribbon was cut and the school was blessed in the presence of a large number of pupils, the Custos went into all the classrooms to say hello to the children. He was welcomed in each class by a special greeting prepared by the school’s pupils, who wanted to express their affection this way for the friars, who accompany them every day on their educational journey. The greeting prepared by the children with sight and hearing problems, who sang for him, was very special.
At the heart of the school
Children with special problems are the origin and the heart of this school. Named after Helen Keller – the US writer, activist and teacher who was deaf and blind – it was taken over by the Custody in 2016. Since then it has joined the network of the Terra Sancta schools. The friars decided to open up the lessons to children who are not disabled to foster an environment where the children with special problems could be accepted and integrated in everything and for everything – while keeping their special education, which includes specific aids. The wager was successful, and in a few years the school has grown from about ten pupils to some 500 at present (of whom about 90% are Muslims), providing an essential service for the neighbourhood as well. The school is equipped with modern technologies, new furnishings and open-air spaces: useful but also beautiful, to encourage not only scholastic learning, but a complete education of the individual and relations that are healthy and respectful of every diversity.