The students of the parochial school of St. Mary’s of Piscataway, Maryland, have been writing since the year 2000 to the students of the Latin School of Aboud of Our Lady of Sorrows in the West Bank. This relationship has grown in spite of the troubles in the Middle East, 9/11, and the war against terror. This relationship between the schools has been a bridge of peace over troubled waters. Bill Keimig, Director of Religious Education, reflected this history in his lead letter to his counterpart in Aboud, Butros Fawadleh, the Director of English Education.
The students of the parochial school of St. Mary’s of Piscataway, Maryland, have been writing since the year 2000 to the students of the Latin School of Aboud of Our Lady of Sorrows in the West Bank. This relationship has grown in spite of the troubles in the Middle East, 9/11, and the war against terror. This relationship between the schools has been a bridge of peace over troubled waters. Bill Keimig, Director of Religious Education, reflected this history in his lead letter to his counterpart in Aboud, Butros Fawadleh, the Director of English Education. Bill wrote:
“It is a great privilege for me to once again coordinate this continued tradition of a strong relationship between our two parishes. We all look forward to hearing from your students again in the New Year.
Enclosed with this letter is a package of letters from the children in our school – kindergarten through eighth grade. Some of the letters are a personal response to certain students that had personally addressed their own correspondence to specific students here. Other letters are more generic.
The students here greatly enjoy engaging in this relationship between our parishes, as do I. It is of great value for our children and teachers to see and understand what is happening to your sacrifices under persecution that have been described to our students, and it has made a significant impression on them. We continue to pray for you.
In your next letter, if you could give a brief review of your situation over the recent past, that would be helpful to me. We have a couple of new teachers who would benefit from such a summary of what has been happening to you as a people in recent years in Aboud.
As Christmas approaches, know that you are in my thoughts, and that the Christians of the land of Our Savior’s birth are held in high esteem by us who are far away in distance, but close in the Holy Spirit. May the Babe of Bethlehem bless you this Christmas.”
The following is a review of highlights from the nine grades of St. Mary’s School, starting with the 8th Grade.
8th Grade Highlights
The flux of the student body is seen in the letter from Casey to Salem: “ My name is Casey Boswell. Jabie Escane has graduated and I will be writing to you… My dog Mandy takes my socks and hides them. I can never find the socks Mandy hides.” Casey goes on to introduce her family, pets, favorite sports and educational subjects. Most of the letters of the other children are the same sort of introduction.
Kayla wrote to Rana, and sent along her picture saying “America Y Palestine.” These are positive expressions of solidarity, not to be confused with negative thoughts toward Israel. Peace among people can only be achieved though solidarity between peoples.
When reviewing the letter from Kimberly to Jousef, the generational perspective of the new generation shows. Kimberly writes: “I’m a bit of a computer nerd. I’m really addicted to this game called The Sims. I played it for almost 20 hours straight. Do you like computer games? What kind of music do you like? I like mostly screamo and punk, but I like some old metal.” I grew up on the Everly Brothers and Elvis. But “screamo” and “punk”? One might think that metal was extreme and definitely new. Surprise, surprise – it’s definitely “Old”.
A few other comments:
“My name is Katie (but you can call me Curley. It’s a thing me and my friends do.)”
“I would like to know why you want to come to the U.S.A.”
“I’m Alyssa but I like to be called Larry. Thanks for the superman sticker… I have a weird brother. I don’t want to talk about that… I love cartoons. That makes me feel immature. Oh well… I usually have songs stuck in my head. Sometimes they are good songs, but most of them are annoying because they get old.”
“Sorry about all the conditions over there. I wish our President didn’t keep on supporting the Israelis. Oh well.”
“I’m sorry about the soldier killing your people.”
7th Grade Highlights
Wa’d had two people writing to him. John wrote: “Your other pen pal Hiwote isn’t here anymore. In her place a girl named Maya Swann will be writing to you.”
Jennifer wrote to Juilana: “How’s it going girlfriend. I’m so glad I can talk to you. I’m starting to get the hang of writing & speaking Arabic. It’s really fun. My friends are jealous that I can write in Arabic and they can’t. Uh!… You want to know how I can write Arabic now because you taught me.”
Joseph wrote to Ramez: “You say that you want to learn about America. Well in America the Redskins are the best football team.” Joseph’s father has an antique fire truck that he takes to antique shows. Joseph sent a picture of himself alongside the fire truck.
Jessica wrote to Kareema: “I felt so bad because I haven’t spoken to you in a while… During the summer I went to a major competition in karate and got 10th place. I now have a boyfriend… I really feel bad for you seeing all that violence just on your way to school. I just hope one day you can live how I’m living now… I agree with you for people to stop war and bring peace… just to let you know you are always in my prayers and that I will always be your friend forever… I forgot about my dog. He got hit by a car and died. I have to get over it because I know he won’t come back.”
6th Grade Highlights
Elena writes, “You are very brave to stay Christian.”
Zachary writes, “I hope you do not abandon your faith.”
Marvin writes, “Remain strong in the faith. Thank you for the letters you sent us. Praise the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies. You guys are wonderful Christians and remain brave in facing such terrible persecution. We are all praying for you, your safety, and comfort.”
Billy writes, “Stay strong in your faith and don’t give up in it. I think this is cool to write to you. I hope you stay safe. We are praying for you dudes.”
Michael writes to Jamel, “I am praying for you and for your safety and comfort. Thank you for your letter. I also have 3 pet frogs.”
St. Barbara’s church was blown up by an Israeli patrol a couple of years ago, and was referred to by Camry in his letter to Ghadeer: “I am sorry that your churches got damaged by explosion. I hope you and your friends were OK. I am praying for you and your safety. Just keep on praying to God and you will be OK. I want you to be brave if someone explodes your churches again.” Then again, the plural form of the noun church suggests confusion with the conflict in Iraq.
TJ writes, “I think it is terrible what is happening to you. It is a wonderful witness you are giving to be Christian.”
Jasmine writes to Aseel, “I think it’s great that Catholic children can talk to each other on different sides of the world. Our whole school prays for you every week. Remain strong in the Catholic faith.” What Jasmine doesn’t fully appreciate is that the Latin school of Aboud has about half Christian and half Moslem. The Christians are composed of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The return letters may educate little Jasmine of the variances in the school.
5th Grade Highlights
Marlena writes to Luay, “I got your letter. It is very nice. Your drawing is beautiful. I like the flowers and the stickers.”
Remington writes to Hani, “I am so excited to finally be writing to you again. If you are wondering who is writing to you it is Remington from last year!”
3rd and 4th Grade Highlights
Sean wrote to Waleed, “Christmas is coming up and I can’t wait! Christmas is when Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn.”
Tyler wrote to Eveif: “ I am going to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to play. Also go fishing. It will be great! We will have a campfire with roasted marshmallows.”
Brandon wrote to Saja, “My favorite thing to do in the winter is sledding, snow boarding, and ice skating. I just put up my Christmas tree, it was fun.”
Juliana wrote about her field trip to Mount Vernon and drew a picture of the children going in the school bus. She ended her letter with “And we very good friends once we get to know each other.”
The situational contrast is evident with Arielle’s letter to Sejal as she wrote about her expectations of going on a Disney cruise with her family.
The thrill of victory and the loss of defeat is evident in Alan’s letter to Evait where he said, “Our soccer season has gone well so far except when we played against St. John’s they beat us 9 to 4.”
Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade Highlights
Chris writes, “I am praying for you and Jesus is too. I am 7 years old. I am in 2 ed grade.”
Alexander asked, “Can we be friends?”
Marix drew Christmas tree with an extraordinary trunk. Two kids swung on ropes from the tree. He wished “Have a good Christmas.”
Jordan drew a rainbow saying, “God and Jesus will bless you all. God bless all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white.” He then had a postscript identifying the words “This is a song.”
Guisza wrote, “And the best part is I believe in you.”
Courtney understood that there was some sort of distress in Aboud. She wrote, “I hope get better.”
As a small child said, who forgot to sign his/her letter, “Merry Christmas!”