Syrian Orthodox Christian School in Bethlehem Project
For many years Syrian Orthodox Christians in Bethlehem dreamed of a school for their children where their traditions, especially the Aramaic language as spoken by Jesus, could be taught.
During a Coventry Diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy land in 2000 led by Canon Andrew White, we witnessed at first hand the plight of this community, and on our return a SOCS (Syrian Orthodox Christian School) support group was formed to raise awareness and funds to help the community realise their dream.
Land was purchased located in Beit Jala the suburbs of Bethlehem with support from Barnabas Fund, Building commenced using local labour ( some being the parents of the children) and volunteers,.In September 2003 the school opened with 15 children.
The quality and care and education was quickly recognised and the demand for places grew rapidly necessitating the need for more accommodation. A third floor was added in 2006 providing 5 more classrooms. The school was officially opened in September 2006 with many foreign and local dignitaries attending. Canon Justin Welby represented Coventry Cathedral on behalf of Bishop Colin and presented a new Cross of Nails. A further 3 classrooms were added in 2011.
In September 2012 the school will open with 350 children from 3 to 12 years of age. 97% from Christian and 3% from Muslim families.
There are 9 Kindergarden teachers, 10 for Elementary level ( 2 males) and 4 Teaching Assistants. Further extensions are planned to accommodate children to Grade 12.
Subjects taught are :- religious studies and ethics, Arabic, English and Aramaic languages, Social sciences, mathematics and science, physical education, computer, arts and music.
The aim of the school is to preserve the Aramaic language of Jesus.The Mission of the school is to educate the young in a healthy environment that cherishes and caters for the spiritual, psychological, mental, physical and social aspects that comprehends love, peace reconciliation and democracy with the full understanding of human rights
Community in incredibly important to the Syrian Orthodox Christians and the school has become a focal point (a refuge at times) of their lives. This is very important to many families, because access to the basic needs of life is difficult. Unemployment in the community is upward of 80%, the once vibrant tourist industry remains depressed and with an 8 metre high wall surrounding Bethlehem, a virtual siege scenario exists for the community.
There is no state funding because the school is Christian. Therefore like every Christian school in present day Palestine revenue depends on fee-paying students and outside financial help. ( School fees are currently £450 per year)
To help relieve this situation the support group has been sending approx £10,000 each year since 2000 to help pay school fees for the children from very poor homes, help pay teachers salaries, pay for furniture for the new classrooms.
Due to the generosity of the SOCS supporters in the diocese and throughout the country our commitment has always matched our income. Sadly this ceased in 2009 and we have been forced to use our small reserves to continue our support.
With the present situation in Bethlehem. The school is “ a Beacon of Hope in this troubled land” please help us to keep it shining.
The SOCS committee raise these funds by encouraging Church members and local school children to support the project with their prayers and financially. We also organise social events to raise funds. Members of the committee are always happy to come to your church or group and give a presentation
Why support this project
Families will remain together as a unit
Young people will have a good Christian Education
The project will encourage other Christians in the Holy Land.
Education will bring greater opportunities for work.
Respect for a marginalised Christian community will increase.
HOW Can You Help?
Pray for peace in the Holy Land
Pray for the school and head teacher Mrs Amal Behnam, and the children and teachers.
Raise awareness of the situation (invite a SOCS group member to give a presentation).
Buy a piece of equipment for the school or give a donation.
Sponsor a child
If you can help to improve the lives of the children in Bethlehem. Please send your donations to the Finance dept. Coventry Diocesan Board of Finance, 1 Hill Top, Coventry CV1 5AB.
Make cheques payable to :- Coventry Diocesan board of Finance Ltd ( SOCS Support Fund)
For further information please contact John/Jean Radford 01926-854475 or Peter Morrell 019226-332488