Palestinian Children have the Right
to Education and Wellness

By : Dr. Mitri Raheb
Dr. Nuha Khoury

Israeli Tanks Occupy Dar al-Kalima School

It is 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