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Christmas is already here and the message of the Angels that was brought down to the earth over two thousand years ago is remembered and proclaimed all over the Christian world. These beautiful words, "and on earth be peace" get to the depths of our hearts and souls bringing peace, comfort and joy. But how unrelated these words are to the existing conditions in Bethlehem, the birth place of our Lord Jesus Christ, the town in which these words were first announced. Despite of all the problems and the increasing difficulties of every day life, yet the very few Christians that have remained in the Holy Land are determined to celebrate all the rituals of the occasion as best they can. The streets of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have already been decorated since the beginning of December and Christmas trees have been put up in most houses of Christian families and schools.
Christmas at Al-Shurooq
The excitement and joy of Christmas started at Al-Shurooq School on November 26th, when ten old friends of ours from Holland visited the school, bringing a gift for each child and a bag full of special Christmas sweets. The girls had a doll each and the boys had cars.
A delicious Christmas lunch was served and luckily we were joined by a couple who are very good friends of ours and constant supporters of the school, representing the McCabe Educational Trust. The children's great joy playing with their toys and enjoying their sweets, and the pleasure of entertaining so many guests felt like Christmas. We were also honoured to have quite a few visitors that particular week, including friends who had booked flights to come for the inauguration of the new premises that never took place in November.
On December 21st, the children attended the annual Christmas party at the YMCA in Jerusalem. The party this year was different than the previous years, a comedian was entertaining the guests and our children could interact by hearing him speak, unlike previous years where most acts depended mainly on visual interaction.
The school's Christmas party took place on December 27th. Former students and school's friends were invited to join us celebrate the season. Santa showed up after a delicious lunch and gave out presents to the thirty children.
However, the party was interrupted by the terrible breaking news of the start of the Israeli attack on Gaza, which sadly meant that our two children from Gaza will not go home for the holiday break.
Abdullah receiving his Christmas gift
All six girls who joined inclusive education at the beginning of the school year are doing well; each according to her ability. We strongly feel that students that join inclusive education still require to develop their special skills, particularly their daily living skills, crafts, computer skills, mobility, English and music. Once in the new building, we are planning to invite former students for a long week-end once a month and run a programme designed to enhance their skills. This will also give them the chance to remain in closer contact with the school. The parents were very delighted with the idea, although it will definitely add to our running cost, but it would certainly be worth while.
International Day of the Disabled
On December 4th, and starting with a march from Manger Square, hundreds of disabled adults and children walked the streets of Bethlehem to draw public's attention to the difficulties and challenges they encounter on a daily basis, inaccessible public buildings, high rate of unemployment and inadequate education, only to mention a few.
The event was organized by local institutes working with disability. Our children and five staff members joined the march and held up banners calling for equal opportunity with emphasis on the right of the disabled.
Al-Shurooq children joining the march
Library and Braille Unit
We are pleased to say that work in the Braille Book Production Unit and Library in Jerusalem has been going on extremely well. Over a thousand volumes of Braille books have been given out on loan to pupils, since the problem of getting the right sort of Braille paper has been solved. Three out of four of our Braille-n-Print machines are on loan to the various schools, in addition to thirty Perkins Braillers and several abacuses which we have become terribly short of.
By the time you get to read our newsletter, Christmas will be behind you and you will all be well into the New Year. I hope that you have had a wonderful Christmas and many thanks to all our friends, particularly those who remembered us so kindly with their special Christmas donations that went towards the Christmas celebrations in the school.
Last minute: Gaza under Fire
Death shrouds the streets of Gaza and its smell creeping in from all corners. Amputated bodies are scattered throughout and morgues in the city can no longer accommodate the dead. Despite the ugly scene, Gazan seeming not to notice the horror of blood and body parts as they hurriedly try to pick out clothing or personal items of loved ones hit by Israeli missiles. The majority of those killed in the attacks are civilians. The scenes remind us of the images that came out of the Sabra and Shatila massacres from Beirut in 1982. To date, 560 people are dead and more than 28 00 injured, 30% of the dead are women and children. God only knows when this massacre is going to stop. Please keep the people of Gaza in your prayers.