by the Rev. Dr. Ann J. Broomell
The first time I traveled to Jerusalem was in 2004 with a group of other clergy and spouses. The trip was planned to be a mix of visiting the holy sites and learning some of the life of people living on the West Bank. We toured Jerusalem, the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum. I was deeply moved to look over the Sea of Galilee from the hillside where Jesus had preached, to touch the rock on which we believe he was crucified. We also visited the Arab Evangelical School in Ramallah, a ministry of the Diocese of Jerusalem that AFEDJ trustees visited again in October.
On that first visit we saw an end of the year Science Fair and Art Show. As is the norm in Science Fairs most everywhere, we saw posters of the blood flow in and out of the heart and projects on magnetic fields. The Art Show brought me up short. In the midst of drawings of flowers and hillsides of olive trees, there were drawings of soldiers with guns and the dividing wall that was just then being built.
Towards the end of that visit we met with the principal and academic staff of the school. It was a time of young Palestinian suicide bombers. I have carried in my heart since that day the conversation during which we asked about the well-being of the children. We were told that many were depressed, and one of the main goals of the school was to prevent them from losing hope and committing suicide. Sadly, we knew what they meant with those words.
In visits to schools of the Diocese since then I have been impressed by the overriding goal to make school a joyous, happy place with bright colors, uplifting posters. Committed teachers and aides in all the schools we visited focus on transmitting Christian values, on building confidence and hope alongside academic and vocational skills.
When we reflected as a group at the end of our recent trip on the many excellent schools we had visited and their very committed staffs, one trustee said, “Remember the boys.” At home in New Haven, blocks from the campus of Yale University, I remember the boys. We had met with several senior boys at the very fine St. George’s School. They talked with us about their favorite school subjects and sports and their hopes to go to college in the U.S., Canada, or Germany. In talking with their teachers later we learned that their lives are extremely difficult. Much like African-American boys here in the U.S., they are automatically suspect. Those bright young men had probably been detained, harassed, targeted—this is the life of Palestinian youth, especially boys. And so again the schools build confidence and strength. Values are passed on from teachers to students, from class to class.
When you think about the fine ministries of the schools and medical facilities of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, I especially ask you to remember the boys. Know that your donations offer them places of calm in turbulent lives. Your donations offer them promising futures with the academic ability to pursue their dreams. Your donations let them be teenagers who can play soccer boisterously after classes end.
Your donations offer them hope.
The Rev. Dr. Ann J. Broomell is an AFEDJ trustee who lives in New Haven, Connecticut.