Palestinian Children have the Right
to Education and Wellness
: Dr. Mitri Raheb
Dr. Nuha Khoury
Tanks Occupy Dar al-Kalima School
Monday March 11th. It is a school day, but no children are in
their schools neither in Bethlehem nor in most of the Palestinian
areas. The 240 children of the Dar al-Kalima Model School are
no exception. It is only two days ago that three Israeli tanks
occupied the premises of their new school. We sent an urgent appeal
on Saturday to get the tanks out, and many of you responded immediately.
That same afternoon, and as a direct result of the pressure put
on the Israeli Authorities, the tanks were removed from the premises.
From the ICB compound and across the valley we saw the school
and observed the tanks withdrawing from School’s site. Yet, we
were prevented form reaching the site. The whole area was put
under curfew by the Israeli army. No one was allowed to move,
not even ambulances. Our church made several requests to the Israeli
Authorities to give us permission to visit the site and inspect
the damage. On Sunday morning, permission was granted to drive
to the school in the Bishop’s car. After the Sunday service, we
headed towards the school und drove through a “ghost town” of
empty roads. After a three-minute drive on the main road we encountered
the first “surprise.” We were shocked to see Bethlehem’s only
“highway,” known as the Jerusalem-Hebron road, torn down by the
deep trenches that the Israeli bulldozers made. To reach the school,
we had to turn back and look for another access. We soon discovered
that the Israeli military forces destroyed all access roads and
dug deep trenches.
While parking by one of these trenches, one family offered us
to drive through their garden. We did so and were able to get
to the school after an arduous drive. During the whole drive,
our Bishop was on the line negotiating with the Israeli Army.
They wanted to know what each of us was dressed like. After they
took detailed information about our looks and clothing, they decided
to allow the car to park in front of the school, but not to let
anyone get out. They told us that it was our security that they
were worried about, since surrounding us were Israeli snipers
who have orders to kill at sight. So here we were at the school
site, looking around and observing some of the damage done to
the terraces and garden. However, we were more concerned about
the amount of damage done to the classrooms, student files, children’s
artwork, the computer lab, and Wellness Center.
While writing this update, the Israeli army reoccupied Dar al-Kalima
Model School and Wellness Center. Around noontime, the tanks rolled
into the premises and soldiers were seen entering the school buildings.
We also have reports that snipers were positioned on the roof.
Israeli soldiers were also seen destroying the helicopter landing
area that is next to the school, which we often use as a parking
area when we hold our school events. We are afraid that the Israeli
army may use the school as a detention camp for the hundreds of
civilians that it has and continues to round up from the neighboring
Deheisha Refugee Camp and surrounding villages. Schools are for
educating people and should never be used to imprison them. As
no one is allowed to get close to the site, we do not as yet have
a full picture of what is going on in and around our school.
The physical and moral damage done to the site, the destruction
of the access roads leading to the school, the psychological harm
done to the school’s children and the children from the neighboring
refugee camps is of deep concern to us. The Dar al-Kalima’s deep
commitment to quality education, healthy and well community, and
to non-violent creative resistance is being challenged by this
occupation. Nevertheless, we are determined to continue providing
children with a place for wellness, which will help them to overcome
all of the traumas, including those created by this latest attack.
We hold to our vision of securing a safe educational haven for
Palestinian children, one that will allow them to shape a better
and brighter future for themselves.
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church- Bethlehem
General Director, International Center of Bethlehem
Dr. Nuha Khoury
Dar al-Kalima Coordinator