March 01, 2020
Pilgrims visited the Hope Secondary School in Beit Jala on the West Bank. The nondenominational Christian school, founded in 1962 by the Mennonite Church, was built to educate and support disadvantaged Palestinian students.
The school began as a secondary school, but is continuing its expansion so that it will serve students all the way through their education. They have added grades kindergarten through three and plan to add grade four in the fall.
The Hope School, said General Director Khader Saba, is a “second-chance school.” Many of the students have been rejected by other private schools for behavioral or academic problems. The public schools, he said, are severely neglected.
These students’ difficulties, Saba said, often grow out of poverty and a lack of family support. Some students even reside at the school, which offers them a caring home.
Saba said there are many stories of transformation once students come to Hope and get the caring and support they need.
One such student is Simon, whose parents split up when his father converted to Islam. He was rejected by both his Muslim stepmother and his Christian stepfather, so could not find a home with either of his parents; he lived in an orphanage for several years.
He found his way to Hope School, and since graduating does woodworking in a workshop created for him at the school.
A small gift shop at the school sells his work and other items to support itself (see photos in the galleries at right).
The school’s chicken farm is another revenue source. There are now 2,500 chickens producing eggs for sale.
On a pilgrimage in 2014, Northern Maine District Superintendent Jackie Brannen visited the school and learned they wanted to raise chickens, but needed funding to get started. She helped form a small committee with others in Maine to raise funds for the project.
Hope School is also an Advance Special of The United Methodist Church #12018A. Click the link to learn more or donate through the Advance.
Saba said the school is grateful for the strong support of United Methodists, and is happy to host visiting groups at the school.
“Such visits always let us feel we are not alone,” he said, especially as the Christian community in the Holy Land continues to shrink.
The Gospel of Luke tells us, an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds tending their flocks. These fields in Bethlehem are where shepherds traditionally grazed their sheep. The pilgrims stopped here to sing The First Noel.
The Church of the Nativity
The original church was dedicated in 329 by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine, over the cave/stable said to be the birth- place of Jesus. A silver star on the floor of the cave is a place of veneration for pilgrims, who kneel at that spot. (click the image to enlarge).
Pilgrims also visited Bethlehem Bible College, an Advance Special of The UMC, which has the mission of training Arab Christian leaders to serve and strengthen their church and community in the Holy Land.
See photos from the journey in the gallery at right.