13 November 2007

In our Lord's Holy Land

For the past several years our parish school has had a sister-relationship with the Latin Patriarchate school in Ain Arik, Palestine. We’ve shared letters and pictures. Our students have been able to raise funds during Advent and Lent to send to the school there. It’s been an eye-opener for our children, as they’ve gained a little better idea of just how difficult it is for the students there, living as they do with road-blocks, security walls, little water, poverty.

We’ve been asked now to give our support to the school in Aboud, just north of Ain Arik. I’ve looked on the Latin Patriarchate website to learn more about Aboud:

Aboud, a small village of about 5,000 inhabitants, lies about 30 kms. to the north-west of Ramallah. The people of the village are mainly farmers; olive trees surround the village from all directions and form the main income of the people there. Citrus fruit, grapes and figs are also planted there in large quantities.

There are four schools in this small village, two secondary government schools; one for boys and the other for girls, a third private protestant school, and the Latin School, which is the oldest.

The Latin school was started in Aboud in 1910, when the late Fr. Bishara Sa'adeh came to the village. He bought a small piece of land and constructed a three-room house; one room was used as a chapel, one as a living room and one to be used as a one-classroom school. Later in the same year he built two more rooms to be used by the Rosary Sisters who came to the village, as well as a school for the girls, also cared for by the Rosary Sisters. In 1932 the late Fr. Zakariyya Shomali came to the village as a parish priest. He built a second floor of two rooms to be used a girls school.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Arab Israeli war, many families returned to Aboud from Jaffa and Lud. This resulted in an urgent need to enlarge the school and build new classrooms to cope with the large numbers of refugee students.

The late Fr. Pascal Appodia rose splendidly to the occasion. He added a new floor to cope with the unexpected and sudden increase in the numbers of students. The school soon became the pre-eminent school in the area during the British mandate on Palestine. It had 11 classes at the time when very few other schools even existed in the area. It consisted of two sections, one for the boys with a student body of 120 students, and a girls’ school for 54 girls run by the Rosary Sisters.

Later on, the school was affected by the opening of the other two government schools in the village, and the classes were reduced to grade 7.

Several renovations and additions had been done to the school building. In 1975, Fr. Dominic Vigilio built a multi-purpose hall to be used by both the school and the congregation. This was followed by a two-storey building being erected and the first kindergarten was started in the ground floor of this new building. The second floor was used as a computer lab, a library and a staff room.

The school now has a student body of 146 students from the village and also from the neighbouring villages in grades from kindergarten to grade 9. The school is run by a staff of one principal and 16 well-experienced and highly-qualified teachers.

The extra curricular activities also have their fair share in the educational policy of the school. These include voluntary work in helping the farmers ingathering their crops, mainly in the olive season, boy scouts and girl guides, sports and embroidery classes for the girls.

I look forward to corresponding with the Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Aboud. Fr. Firas Aridah is a dynamic young priest who is very involved with his parish school and with the people of Aboud. Here is an article written by him, describing the situation in which he carries on in his priestly ministry. And please – pray for the Christians living in the Holy Land.