I mentioned a host during my trip, a Salesian priest working in Bethlehem, on my posts here and here. Fr. Jacques teaches at the Salesian Technical School and has been a Salesian for somewhere close to 50 years (starting in minor seminary), spending the majority of his time in the Middle East.
Anyway, one of the points he impressed upon me was the importance of education in the peace process. Even though the Salesian schools are Catholic, the majority of the students are Muslim, and of the Muslim students, most of them are women. In order to raise Muslim men with a heart toward peace, he noted, we have to start by changing the hearts of the mothers. By educating the mothers, we increase the likelihood that the children will not be raised as "martyrs" for the Palestinian Muslim radicals.
Of course, the school also teaches the small population of Palestinian Christians. Bethlehem has probably the largest concentration of Christians (where around 50% are Christian and 50% Muslim). This Christian community gets it from both sides, being treated as a lower class by both Muslims and Israelis. Unemployment in the West Bank is at around 40% since the wall was completed and the checkpoints closed, so times are very difficult for the people of Bethlehem.
I mentioned my desire to do something to support the school. It has few if any resources locally, and no doubt under the current circumstances, they receive only a fraction of the tuition they should be receiving. Fr. Jacques asked if I knew of how one might go about setting up some kind of fundraising effort here in the US. Now I have run the parish foodbank for the past three and a half years. I do some fundraising, but mostly I do bookkeeping and inventory. I can imagine there would be considerable bureaucratic overhead in setting up a larger operation, not to mention one that supported ministries in the West Bank, of all places. Anyway, if any of my few readers have any suggestion in this area, I would greatly appreciate some information.
For more on Salesian schools and the Salesian Preventive System, go here.
Here's an article on the Salesian Technical School in Bethlehem and their mission.