The Study Tour of the Holy Land with the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary has turned out to be an eye-opening experience.
A few days ago, I was fortunate to be able to visit the Vocational Training Centres in Beit Hanina (East Jerusalem) and Ramallah (in the West Bank) which are operated by the Lutheran World Federation and supported by Canadian Lutheran World Relief. The schools’ hallways and classrooms were conspicuously empty due to the weeks long Easter Holiday of the Orthodox Church. Yousef Shalian, Program Director for The Vocational Training Program of the Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem gave myself and the group a very informative tour of the schools.
The East Jerusalem campus has been operating since 1949, originally on the grounds of the August Victoria Hospital. The campus was moved to Beit Hanina in 1964 in order to expand its programming for the increasing number of students. Yousef informed us that he had himself been a graduate of the Beit Hanina campus, which also explains why he is so passionate about helping other Palestinians in acquiring vocational training for success in the job market.
The Beit Hanina campus offers programs in wood-working, metal-work, auto-mechanics, plumbing and central heating repair, catering, mobile/electronic maintenance, pottery-making, and office administration. They have 2 or 1 year programs as well as courses for continuing education; in this ways they try to serve the whole community. The graduates finish as skilled workers and often find work in companies or they start their own businesses. Because part of the programming involves employment support and apprenticeship training, 90% of graduates are employed at least 6 months after graduation.
In 2004, due to the construction of the separation wall, the Ramallah campus was built for students in the West Bank. This campus served students who could not attend the Beit Hanina VTC due to restrictions in crossing the Israeli checkpoints. The Ramallah campus has 2 locations, one in the industrial zone where it is easy to get apprenticeship opportunities with nearby service providers, and the other in a downtown mall that opened in September 2012.
The Ramallah campus also offers diverse programs in carpentry, drafting, aluminum-work, auto-mechanics, office administration, telecommunications, mobile maintenance, and air-conditioning and refrigerator repair.
The Vocational Training Centers also maintain a relationship with their graduates, and give them start-up support for their businesses if they need it. Oftentimes, the graduates who start their own businesses will give back to the VTCs by allowing students to apprentice for them.
Seeing the schools and understanding about the difference they are making in the lives of Palestinian youth and the Palestinian community in general, was certainly awe-inspiring. Knowing the difficult circumstances in which Palestinians lived and the obstacles they needed to overcome to acquire quality education and training, I couldn’t help but admire their resilience and determination.
That same day, I visited the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope, which is run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land and also supported by CLWR. It’s currently located at the Lutheran Church of Hope in Ramallah. There, we met with Rev. Imad Haddad who gave us a tour of the classrooms and playing yard. The school was certainly in need of renovation. And it was being renovated; not for a school but for space for youth and community programming. The Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope will actually be moving to a newer building that is currently in construction!
Let’s pray for God’s blessing on these programs, for their impacts and sustainability, and for peace in the Israel and Palestine.
CLWR Church Liaison and Volunteer Coordinator
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