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Archive for the ‘Bethany’ Category

Still thinking about the everyday life of some of the people of Israel and Palestine.   Two visits in Bethany had a big impact.  

The Jeel al-Amal Boys Home (founded in 1972) and the Lazarus Home for Girls (founded in 1997) in Bethany had so many stories.   We had been asked to bring along some small gifts in the form of pencils and notebooks and toothbrushes – two thoughts – we didn’t take enough, and they should have asked for more than they did. 

Jeel al-Amal Boys Home

Jeel al-Amal Boys Home

Our first stop was at the Boys Home, where we were greeted by a dozen or so boys who were still staying at the home during the holidays (normally 100 boys live in the home, but some have relatives who will take them in for a short period of time, while others have nobody).   The boys come from Jerusalem and from towns and villages in the Palestinian Territories.   Many are orphans or have endured terrible domestic problems or physical abuse.   There is little material wealth evident in their rooms (usually 4 or 5 share a room) but the love and devotion of the staff is evident in the way the boys respond to them.   The older boys also take care of and mentor the younger boys, their ages ranging from 2 ½ to 18 years.  The home is also a primary school and over 200 attend, some older boys have gone on to further education at secondary schools and then to have jobs and families of their own – all continue to support the work of the Home, which they continue to see as their home, and without which they feel they would have had no future.   Jeel al-Amal means generation of hope, and I have to say that despite the awfulness of the situations that these young boys have faced and endured,  this is what I saw there – hope.

The Lazarus Home for Girls was started because although there were many heart-rending moments encountered at the Boys Home – the one that came up again and again was the fact that girls always had to be turned away.  Eventually, with the help of a visiting tourist, funds were raised to rent an apartment and it was turned into another orphanage.   They now have four apartments, and house approximately 40 girls, 4 house mothers and the woman who set it up – Samar.  Conditions are cramped, sanitation poor and rents high, but it is a safe and loving place, with much laughter.   There is a new purpose built home nearing completion, as long as funds can continue to be raised (usually from abroad, and usually by pilgrims who have visited the home, heard the awful stories and seen the amazing work).   Two sisters (aged 18 and 14) entertained us with their singing – along with 3 others they receive music lessons funded by a Japanese visitor.    The elder of the two had been physically abused by their father,  the tops of her ears were cut off and then slashed.   He’d still on occasion come to the home demanding their return and threatening violence.   Samar, on one occasion, standing up to him and keeping him at bay for 6 hours.    Many of the girls had been victims of rape and the subsequent scorn associated with it meant they were put out of their homes, and had they not been taken in by the Lazarus Home they would be living on the streets.   Their ages range from babies (both boys and girls) to 18 yrs.

I think the heart rendering thing about this is, that we knew this was just the tip of the iceberg, and the thing that came to my mind again and again was ‘what would I do in such circumstances?’   Would I, like Palestinian Christians – Alice and Basil Sahhar, open my home and start an orphanage, or would the words of James remain just that – words that I read as part of Scripture?   

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