Holidays ended and the second semester began January 15 in the Lutheran Schools. The traditional school break spanned one month this year in order to respect the various religious traditions of students and staff. During this past month, our Muslim families observed Eid al-Adha, or the Great Feast, on December 19 and New Year’s Day on January 10. While the Western calendar observes Christmas December 25, the Eastern Churches marked the holiday as January 7 with New Year’s falling on January 14. The ELCJHL web site illustrated through videos and photos on its electronic Advent calendar the school celebration at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah December 18 and those at Dar al-Kalima, the Evangelical Lutheran School at Beit Sahour, and Talitha Kumi School December 22.
While students enjoyed their vacation, administrators and teachers were not idle. Local staff facilitated and participated in Math and English workshops designed to upgrade teacher skills in these subjects. A third workshop organized by a specialist in learning disabilities helped teachers to identify and address classroom problems faced by pupils. A fourth workshop took place January 2 for administrators and selected teachers who worked together to teach their colleagues how to incorporate and individualize components of the Action Plan for specific subjects and grade levels. This workshop will help teachers to complete the implementation of the Action Plan, which will be evaluated at the end of the school year. Director of Education Dr. Charlie D. Haddad foresees this workshop as a combination workshop and retreat for the entire Lutheran Schools’ staff, who have not been able to meet together for such a purpose since 2005. He is currently seeking funding and a suitable site to support this project, which is not already part of the Schools’ budget.
Such evaluation and planning are even more important now that the Lutheran educational ministry will within the next two years expand to include two new schools. In addition to the four existing Lutheran Schools, the Good Shepherd Swedish School for Palestinian Girls in Bethlehem is now in partnership with the ELCJHL. As students and staff begin to participate in school activities and workshops, the school of approximately 450 girls will gradually become fully integrated into the system.
A recent meeting of the Martin Luther Community Development Center Advisory Committee has recommended the establishment of a preschool and kindergarten program in the center. Such a program would provide much-needed classes for children in East Jerusalem and the Old City, two areas with 62 percent of their inhabitants living below the poverty line and a school drop-out rate of 45 percent. This ministry would improve educational opportunities for families who cannot afford the city’s private school tuition rates but desire for their children a holistic approach to education based on Lutheran school core values of tolerance, religious dialogue and non-violence.