Report on Christian institutions in Gaza
In previous visits, I was unsuccessful in meeting with Sr. Davida Twal, Director of the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza. We were all so glad to finally have a chance to meet this energetic dedicated educator. She shared with us many stories, some disturbing ones of the difficulties of running a Catholic “mixed” school in a predominately conservative Muslim environment. The school is built on land donated by the late President Arafat, who personally inaugurated it when it was opened along with his wife Suha. The kindergarten was later named after his only daughter, Zahwa, who attended the kindergarten in her tender years. Currently the school runs through the 10th grade and includes 600 boys and girls — only 50 are Christian. We discussed with her the needs of the school, which includes a long-term expansion project to bring the school eventually to the 12th grade (Phase one would include building a multipurpose hall for various activities on school property located adjacent to the school). We asked Sr. Davida to provide us with tentative plans and cost estimates for phase one so that we try to match her needs with potential donors.
Greek Orthodox Cultural Center and Scout Troop
Our last stop was the Greek Orthodox Cultural
Center and Scout Troop, where the society’s summer camp was held in an unfinished building that they hope one day will be a vibrant cultural center serving all Gazans. The organizers of the scout troop discussed their needs, especially the need for new scout equipment, tools and tents in order to hold scout activities throughout the year. Given that Pontifical Mission has a long history of supporting youth and scout movements, we pledged to be of assistance in the very near future.
The building’s skeleton and infrastructure including the basement and the first two floors: a gymnasium, indoor athletic rooms, a large kitchen and cafeteria, an amphitheater, meeting rooms and other facilities is already standing tall. The huge structure was the dream of the largest denomination of Christians in Gaza. Once the financial resources were no longer available, the project was put on hold until the situation improves and additional funding is secured to complete this cultural center with a hotel on top to ensure self sustenance in the future! The society needs some $1.7 million to complete the building, finish the work as well as furnish and equip it. Those in charge of the project have no doubt it will be completed one day, a truly Christian Gazan spirit!
Final Observations and Thoughts
This third visit may have been the most difficult for me given that we had more time than previous visits. This allowed me to observe and discuss with a wider constituency. I was very proud of the quality services that are provided by the church-affiliated institutions to the people of Gaza without consideration to creed, gender or age. Men and women, boys and girls, youth and seniors, Christians and Muslims, refugee camp and city dwellers all benefited from these institutions’ services. All I could think of is how we can strengthen these institutions and ensure they remain solid pillars of the health, education and social service horizon of Gaza. Through them, we also need to strengthen the indigenous Christian presence to ensure these institutions stay open and stay strong.