Because of the horrendous attacks which took place in the US on 11 September 2001, it seems more appropriate to put prayer requests at the beginning of this month’s update rather than at the end. All of our e-mail contacts should have received the letter of condolences and condemnation which BBC sent out on the 12th. In response, we received many heartfelt and touching replies and once again we were prompted to give thanks for the numerous sincere and courageous friends of BBC whose support uplifted us not just through this latest wrenching experience but throughout the years and the many hardships that are the unique burden of Palestine.

Prayer Requests:

Because of the horrendous attacks which took place in the US on 11 September 2001, it seems more appropriate to put prayer requests at the beginning of this month’s update rather than at the end. All of our e-mail contacts should have received the letter of condolences and condemnation which BBC sent out on the 12th. In response, we received many heartfelt and touching replies and once again we were prompted to give thanks for the numerous sincere and courageous friends of BBC whose support uplifted us not just through this latest wrenching experience but throughout the years and the many hardships that are the unique burden of Palestine.

Following are a selection of uplifting comments that we received in the days and weeks following the attacks:

“We in America for the 1st time are experiencing what it means to be insecure.  Before terrible things like the destruction of the Trade Center always happened somewhere else.  We do not blame the Palestinians who rejoiced over that, since we have often felt some of their hopelessness and helplessness.  Perhaps this event may make our leaders reconsider their relationship to the Israelis and to the Palestinians.  I am sure our support for Israel has angered many and I have often felt we need to take a more balanced position.  I just hope this will not turn people against the Palestinians and more in favor of Israel than before. Those who don’t understand the realities of Palestinian existence may come to that conclusion.  I hope and pray not.”

“Thank you so much for your words of comfort and encouragement and specially for your prayers.  This is extra special coming from you, who have lived with so much terrorism all around you.”

“Please know that I share your hope and prayer that we will not speak or act in ways that will increase pain and suffering or add to the loss of innocent lives. On that terrible Tuesday morning, as I was leaving my office on Capitol Hill to travel past the Pentagon to my son’s pre-school, I feared that some road would close or bridge disappear and that I would not be able to get to him. I thought of how often those of you in Palestine must experience that anxiety and a much more horrible pain of loss.”

“In the midst of our pain as a nation, I pray that our leaders and public will reflect together on what we may be doing as a nation that would cause some so to hate us; and on the suffering of the Palestinians for whom this kind of pain is a daily, decades-old experience.”  “Your message reminds me of what relative peace and security we live with here in the States, compared to the uncertainties, fear & insecurities you live with all of the time in your country.  Our prayers are with you.”

“To the extent that good can come from evil I hope that we as Americans will have a renewed empathy for those around the world who have had to deal with this kind of horror for many years.”  “I feel ashamed to be an American, when I learn that across this nation, vigilantes are intimidating or attacking Muslims and mosques. We should hold some sort of rally at an important local mosque, to declare our solidarity with Arab-Americans–before it is too late.  My only family was rounded up and put in internment camps during World War II.  So I know what can happen here.”


The staff, faculty, and students of BBC continue to offer our daily prayers to all Americans who experienced loss and suffering as a result of 11 September, including the 1500 Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Muslims counted among the dead and missing. We pray for the American and world leadership as it struggles to formulate a response to the attacks which is both just and measured. We pray that innocent people-especially Arabs and Muslims residing in the US as well as in countries that have been identified as potential targets for retaliation-will not be made to pay the price for these acts. We pray that the Lord will use all of us as instruments of love, reconciliation, and healing rather than hate, division, and vengeance.

But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; And perseverance, character; and character hope: Now hope does not disappoint; because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Academic news:

The 2001-2002 academic year began on 10 September, with the highest enrollment in recent years. Twenty-one students are newly enrolled in the first-year Biblical Studies program, and a total of 54 students are seeking BA degrees this academic year.  Enrollment in other programs is also on the increase.  Thirty-two students have enrolled for this year’s Tour Guiding Program.  English for the community has attracted 90-100 students.  Extension classes in Ramle, Nazareth, and Gaza, have a combined enrollment of 50 students, and we have launched plans to upgrade the Nazareth program in order to accommodate even more students within the near future.  We will also initiate an extension program in Haifa very soon.  In Gaza, in addition to Biblical Studies, we are providing a special course on leadership for the Palestinian Authority Ministries.

On Tuesday morning 11 September, Dick Hart, executive director of our MEATE accrediting agency, made a special trip from Amman in order to present BBC with an official certificate of accreditation for its BA and associate degree programs.  We received both English and Arabic translations of this documentation, which are on display in Dr. Bishara’s office.  Copies of the certificate will be made available upon request for anyone in need of documentation of the school’s academic credentials.

For the last ten years, Bethlehem Bible College has been conducting extension courses in Galilee, as well as in the Gaza Strip.  Since the largest number of Christians in the land (approximately 120,000) resides in northern Israel (Galilee/Nazareth/Haifa areas), the College had the vision early on to offer courses by extension.  One or two Bethlehem Bible College teachers have traveled weekly to conduct the extension courses for the last six years and more.  These courses are conducted in the Arabic language and are geared towards the Palestinian Christian communities, though by no means restricted to just Palestinian Christians.  Only one other Bible College exists in the Galilee and it is a denominational one (Assembly of God).  Currently, we use a borrowed facility that belongs to a local church.  Current political and demographic factors have stressed upon us the urgent need to expand the Nazareth Extension program by establishing a more permanent study center in Nazareth.  Our goal for this project is to rent a building that will allow us to conduct at least four courses weekly, most of which will be held in the evenings.  We anticipate that such a building will consists of an office, a library, two classrooms, a bedroom (to house the commuting teachers), a large hall, a kitchen, and two bathrooms.  Needed furniture and office equipment will include:  classroom desks and chairs, dry-erase and/or bulletin boards, overhead projector & screen, office computer & printer, copy & fax machine, and furniture for the kitchen, bedroom, and sitting area. In addition, we will need to hire a part-time secretary and one or two teachers to run the program.

Project News:

On 16 December, Dr. Bishara will return to the US in order to attend the 3rd annual Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) Conference, to be held at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington DC on 19 & 20 October. Other participants in the conference include: Lynne Faris, Associate Pastor of the National Presbyterian Church; Professor Jad Issac of the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem; Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb of the Lutheran Christmas Church of Bethlehem and author of I Am A Palestinian Christian; Rev. Dr. Don Wagner, author of Dying in the Land of Promise; Donald Kruse, Executive Vice President of HCEF and former American Consul in Jerusalem; Mr. Phillip Wilcox, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace; and Emil Jarjoui, member of the
Palestinian National Authority Legislative Council.

Dr. Bishara will participate in three separate conference sessions.  In addition to discussing details of the impact of the military siege on every day life in Bethlehem, he will also do a presentation on Christian Zionism and participate in a workshop panel on Christian Education in the Holy Land.

Following the HCEF conference, Dr. Bishara will spend an additional week visiting area churches and organizations, among them Oakland UMC in West Virginia, Mustard Seed Foundation, the Christian Broadcasting Network and Regents University in Virginia Beach, and Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Chesapeake. He will return to Bethlehem on Friday 26 October.  Preparations continue for the Mass Media Center Project, which is scheduled to be launched in early 2002. This project will enable the college to expand its selection of minors to include specialization in mass media communication, and will offer a variety of appropriate courses including journalism, the art of writing, audiovisuals, computer skills, and radio communications.  All of these courses are designed to broaden the impact of and increase exposure to scriptural teaching and the message of Christ using methods and strategies of modern communications technology.  We feel this project has a great deal of potential and are looking forward to getting it under way.  Now is the time to start thinking about Christmas gifts!  Don’t forget that the BBC gift shop offers a variety of unique hand-crafted gift items including beautiful olivewood nativity sets and carved statues, ceramic plates and mugs, intricate Mother of Pearl charms, pins, and earrings, traditionally embroidered items, and Christian music recordings featuring the BBC Choir.  Not only are these items perfect for giving at Christmas, your purchases also provide income and encouragement for the artisans, who have had a very difficult year because of the disastrous decline in tourism and sales. Write to us today for a free gift catalogue, and share it with a friend!

Shepherd Society News:

The Shepherd Society has received $39,000 for distribution of humanitarian relief. These funds will provide more than three hundred families with food coupons and other forms of much-needed emergency financial relief.  With the start of the new school year, the office of the Shepherd Society has once again been deluged with pleas for assistance, in addition to the 1000 registered families awaiting relief from previous phases of the relief project. Desperation continues to mount as the military closure of the area becomes increasingly restrictive and brutal.  A Palestinian taxi carrying illegal day-laborers was fired upon by soldiers two weeks ago, resulting in the deaths of two of the passengers. Their only crime was trying to feed their families, families now without a breadwinner.  Israeli claims of easing the closure have so far proved unjustified.  Pray that these families will soon receive the relief they need.

Visitor/Volunteer News:

BBC would like to extend an invitation to our friends around the world to consider paying Bethlehem a visit this Christmas.  After a year of military siege and destruction, the Christian community in Bethlehem desperately needs to be uplifted with special gestures of solidarity, and what better time than Christmas?  As part of the twin-signing agreement that took place back in May, the Bethlehem governate is trying to organize a holiday schedule which will include a special Christmas parade involving the participation of characters from Florida’s Disney World. Not only would this activity give delight to the children of Bethlehem, who have suffered for more than a year from tank shelling and Apache helicopter attacks, it would also serve to remind people everywhere of their struggling brothers and sisters in Christ here in the Land of Christ.

BBC is thankful to recently arrived Heather Smeenk, who traveled from Syracuse New York to offer three months of volunteer service in our English administration office.  Heather will be helping to update our mailing database as well as other miscellaneous tasks. Her presence at this time is indeed a gesture of solidarity for which we are deeply grateful, and we thank the Lord for leading her to BBC at a time of such worldwide uncertainty and sorrow.  Other volunteers who are expected in the coming months are: Marie & Charles Gidcumb of Torrance California; Brian & Toni Whitehead from the UK; and Don White from Midwestern USA.