The Catholic world has done everything in its power to try to stop the Israeli military from constructing an annexation wall in the Cremisan Valley on land belonging to both the Catholic Church and some 60 Palestinian families from Beit Jala. A new report published by the Society of St. Yves — Catholic Center for Human Rights, The Last Nail in Bethlehem’s Coffin: The Annexation Wall in Cremisan, documents this long legal battle meant to bring justice to the church and people of Beit Jala. The report also underscores the advocacy efforts by the governments of the European Union — as well as various Catholic bishops’ conferences — to prevent the construction of the wall in the area.
From our perspective, CNEWA — through its operating agency in the Middle East, Pontifical Mission for Palestine — has been quietly working on the ground to solidify one of the most important and historically significant Catholic institutions in the area, the Salesian Sisters’ Laura Vicuna School. Over the past few years, CNEWA has provided several grants to help with the operating costs of the school, such as teachers’ salaries and the utility bills, especially the high electricity bill during the cold winter months. Over the past year or so, financial support for the school from our donors has intensified, ensuring that the school continues to provide a solid education for its 420 children (60 kindergarteners and 220 elementary students in addition to 140 youth club members of the school) despite the wall’s path.
In the next few weeks, the school will have a new solar power system that will generate free electricity, which will help reduce costs. The school will also be academically expanded to the 7th grade level; an old unused annex building was transformed into additional classroom space and a new multipurpose hall. The new space will be used for catechetical activities and an indoor play area for the younger students during the winter. With financial support, the school has also been able to save a retaining wall that was about to collapse after the last few snowstorms damaged its foundation. The wall has now been fixed and reinforced, which will allow the school to reopen the children’s newly equipped playground.
The underlying message of funding and implementing projects like the Salesian Sisters’ Laura Vicuna School and others is one of hope and perseverance. It demonstrates that the church is present and its institutions are alive — active and even expanding despite the difficult circumstances of the occupation. This also sends a message that these institutions are continuing to serve all people in various sectors — education, health and social services — with Christian values of tolerance, forgiveness and love, along with a continued call for peace and justice. CNEWA is proud of its work which brings together donors worldwide with the local partners in the Holy Land to improve and enhance these services that benefit all.
We convey our sincere thanks to the donors who saw the need to support the Laura Vicuna School and believed in its sacred mission: the Archdiocese of Cologne, Polish Aid, and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Holland. This vital work would not have been possible without their moral and financial support.