Academics, projects, people, events and activities of BBC. Read about the experiences of a Christian Institution in the Holy Land.

Academic News:

During the academic year 2001-2002, the governate of Bethlehem was invaded by the Israeli military five times. During the first four invasions of October 18-28, March 8-18, March 29-May 10, and May 27-30, a total of 68 days was spent under home confinement, 48 of them (almost seven weeks’ worth) working days. In order to make up the lost time and material, an intensive teaching schedule was devised following the April/May invasion which would allow instructors to complete their classes and exams by 28 June, with graduation exercises tentatively scheduled for 8 July. However, this schedule was completely dependent on the assumption that no further military invasions would take place before the close of the semester. Unfortunately, in addition to four days lost at the end of May in a brief incursion, tanks once again rolled into Bethlehem on 19 June (nine days before the completion of classes) and this most recent incursion is now in its forty-first day.

Bethlehem has since been under curfew approximately two-thirds of that time, with curfews being lifted by the army once every three or four days. BBC’s 15th graduation ceremony took place on 11 July at noon, when the curfew was briefly for a six-hour period, with 13 four-year BA degrees and 9 two-year Associate degrees being awarded. Brother Andrew flew from Holland specifically to accept BBC’s invitation as guest speaker and gave the uplifting commencement address. For additional details of the ceremony, please take a look at the full-length article “Bible College Celebrates Graduation under Closure in Bethlehem” posted on Thursday 25 July at (Come and See: The Christian Web Site from Nazareth). Classes were finally completed on 26 July, two months beyond the normal closure date for the academic year.

Dr. Bishara Awad, president of BBC, and his wife Salwa are in the USA for the wedding of their daughter Dina Awad which will take place in New York City on 18 August. Rev. Alex Awad and his wife Brenda are also stateside for the occasion. The administration offices of BBC are officially closed for vacation from 20 July to 19 August, when the staff will return for the opening of the new academic year. The official start of the Fall 2002 semester is scheduled for 9 September. However, according to recent statements issued by the Ministry of Education, continued periods of extended curfew will oblige the Ministry to suspend the opening of public schools until movement conditions within the town are improved. Higher institutions may also be adversely affected.

Dr. Richard Hart, director of BBC’s accrediting agency MEATE, was originally scheduled to provide a professional consultation on the Nazareth Extension Program in early June. This consultation was postponed because of the delay in the completion of the academic year and has been tentatively rescheduled for October/November 2002. In the meantime (and in the absence of any forthcoming external funding to date), plans for developing permanent facilities for the program continue to move forward. A local steering committee has been formed which hired a secretary, a catalogue specific to the program is being printed, and permanent space for a center is being negotiated with the YMCA in Nazareth. BBC currently contributes funds for rent, utilities, and salaries for three part-time instructors. We hope to recruit two more part-time instructors, and we have announced five courses to be offered in the Fall 2002: Survey of the New Testament, The Book of Romans, Christian Ethics, Church History II, and Systematic Theology. In addition, Mr. Nabil Samara, who is currently completing his Master’s of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary in the USA, has accepted a contract as a full-time teacher in the Fall, and he will direct most of the activity at the center over the next year. We are also investigating the use of virtual technology which would allow students at all three extension campuses (there are also programs in Gaza and Ramle) to view lectures and interact with instructors located at the main campus.

Following the April departure of BBC accountant Vicky Hanoush to the US for her wedding in July, Arabic secretary Sania Bandak covered briefly in the accounting office. Fayrouz Saadeh also helped out, before the timely arrival of Charles and Marie Gidcumb to the Holy Land on 15 July.

Charles and Marie are members of Rolling Hills Covenant Church of Southern California, and their missionary service at BBC was arranged through the sending agency Go Ye Fellowship. They hope to serve BBC for a period of three years, with Charles organizing the accounting office and Marie taking over all aspects of gift shop management. However, they will really be serving a wide variety of functions here at BBC, from delivering packages to the post office in Jerusalem to hosting devotional meetings. They are God’s all-purpose ambassadors to the Holy Land, and we are truly thankful and encouraged to have them with us.

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BBC’s Tour-Guiding Program was subject to many of the same disruptions and delays as the BA program. Classes still have not been completed, and graduation exercises had to be postponed from mid-July to early September (with 23 students expected to receive their diplomas). According to program director Rev. Attalah Esawi, the start of classes for the new academic year is uncertain, due to the continued imposition of curfews throughout the town.

Possibilities for teleconferencing and other systems of virtual technology are being explored at BBC as a way to minimize disruptions to the schedule caused by restrictions of movement affecting faculty members and students, curfews, and etc. Strategies being considered include assigning e-mail addresses to students and sending lecture notes as attached documents, videotaping lectures, teleconferencing, digital conversion of printed text into audio presentations accompanied by a multi-media interface, and virtual technology which would allow students to view lectures and actually interact with instructors situated at remote locations. As mentioned previously, this technology would also be employed to allow greater communication and interaction between the central Bethlehem campus and the three extension campuses at Gaza, Ramle, and Nazareth.

At a recent teacher’s meeting, the faculty discussed the negative effects of the curfews and disruptions as they are being manifested in student academic performance, motivation, and discipline problems. Suggestions for counteracting these negative manifestations included creating a variety of concrete incentives for academic excellence and one-on-one student supervision and counseling via an “Adopt a Student” program.

English instructor Joanne Lucas is moving forward with plans for a two-week compulsory Intensive English course to help BBC students improve their English communication skills. Originally scheduled for July but postponed due to the ongoing curfews imposed by the military,

Joanne now hopes to launch the course in early August. She will be assisted by a fellow English teacher living in the Bethlehem area and will offer skill-building opportunities for both spoken and written English. With the introduction of new courses such as Mass Media Communication and Community Development, the BBC administration concluded that BA candidates need to demonstrate more fluency in the English language.

BBC full-time faculty member Hanna Katanacho will take a three-year leave of absence to complete a doctoral program at Trinity International University at Deerfield, Illinois starting this summer. Although we are hard-put to do without Hanna, we know that we are making a worthwhile long-term investment in BBC’s future by making this short-term sacrifice, as Hanna is one of our most gifted and committed instructors.

Jack Sara and Janice Curcio are doing distance PhD’s, in Missions and Theology respectively, so that they can continue to fulfill their teaching commitments here at the campus. Jack just returned from a two-week residency at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in the US. Janice is expected to return from her summer residency at Oxford for the Fall 2002 semester. Jack’s wife Madleine Sara is enrolled in a distance Master’s program in counseling, as is Fatin Sayegh, one of our recent graduates, and Dina Katanacho who is pursuing a related degree in Clinical Psychology. Counseling is one of several subjects (including Music, Business, Mass Media Communication, and Community Development) which we hope to introduce soon into our minor curriculum, so these are all worthwhile investments for the future development of BBC as a Christian academic institution of quality and integrity.

Project News:

Despite the ongoing military disruptions, plans for a children’s summer library camp based on last year’s successful trial session moved forward. Originally scheduled for the middle of June, head librarian Hala Docmaq was subsequently obliged to reschedule the camp several times due to the ongoing imposition of 24-hour curfews, the delay in completion of classes, and the postponement of graduation exercises. An abbreviated two-week session finally started the week of 22 July. Like last year, undergraduate BBC students majoring in Christian Education were recruited to work with the children and were able to earn credits toward their practical requirements. The curriculum included sports activities, story hour, puppet theater, crafts, and dance performances. Unlike last year, a closing presentation for parents had to be cancelled because of the unpredictable curfew schedule. Approximately thirty local children participated in the camp.

Sales for Rev. Alex Awad’s book Through the Eyes of the Victims are going extremely well and a second printing of the book will go to the printers soon. Many people seem to be requesting copies of the book on the basis of word of mouth praise, and we pray that a real grass-roots movement will develop in which this book, as well as other balanced resources on the conflict, is not only read widely but also used widely as an educational tool to increase factual understanding and compassion while decreasing and correcting the vast number of myths and fallacies surrounding the conflict which have led so many people to have misguided conclusions about Palestinians and the Palestinian conflict. Again, the toll free number in the US for ordering individual copies of the book is: 1-800-825-0192. Multiple copies of the book may be ordered by churches, organizations, and study groups at a discounted price from BBC.

BBC administration has been working on funding and launching the Mass Media Project for more than two years. The main obstacle standing in our way over the past year, apart from the political situation, has been the identification of a qualified and committed project director. As of now, identification of a local director is 99% confirmed, and plans are moving forward to launch a selection of relevant courses in September 2002. Maria Levander, who is the Swedish technical advisor and liaison to the project, was originally hoping to visit the Holy Land in June in order to coordinate with project team members on the implementation of phase one of the project. Although her visit was cancelled due to the security situation, the Levanders will soon relocate to Cyprus where they will be able to operate in very close conjunction with BBC to oversee progress on the project. Maria also foresees many brief visits back and forth to the region toward this end, and we look forward to having her.

Marie Gidcumb’s first project as BBC gift shop manager will be overseeing the publication of a new gift item catalogue. Once the new catalogue has been completed, BBC hopes to launch a concentrated promotional campaign beginning in September aimed at encouraging BBC friends to purchase gift items for Christmas 2002. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the severe economic crisis affecting the craftsmen and artisans of Bethlehem, whose sales market has been virtually extinguished due to two years of escalating violence and military operations in the area. The local tourism industry, which experienced devastating blows from the collapse of the Jubilee events, is not expected to recover for several years following the resumption of formal peace negotiations, and many families are suffering unimaginable hardships as a result of the prolonged slump. We encourage all our friends and supporters to consider purchasing beautiful locally-crafted gift items made of olivewood, mother-of-pearl, and ceramics (along with a wide variety of other items including t-shirts, CD’s, and books) to give as gifts this Christmas season. Your purchases will bring a touch of “Christ’s earthly homeland” to the homes of your loved ones while enabling the Christian community to continue to be a vibrant testimony to the power of Jesus Christ in the town of His birth and throughout the Holy Land.

On July 2-10, at the invitation of Bethlehem Bible College, Dr. Rand Michael of Jerusalem conducted two three-day series of workshops in Crisis Care Training. These workshops were made possible by the hard work and coordination of Rev. Rod Green, the pastor of the Nazarene Church in Jerusalem. Sessions included “The Healing Power of Listening,” “Self, Others, and Awareness,” “Our Stories and the Need to Tell Them,” “Styles of Listening,” and “Strategies for Coping.” The workshops, arranged in response to the rapidly intensifying need for mental health coping strategies being demonstrated within the local population, involved the participation of twelve local pastors, care-givers, social workers, and public health personnel. According to one enthusiastic participant, “I was very happy to be invited to this event, because we are encountering a lot—an overwhelming number, really–of needs of this type in town. We have never really experienced a crisis of these proportions and people don’t know what to do, how to deal with all the problems they are witnessing. This is a good start. There needs to be many more events of this type, and I think that, slowly, with God’s help, we can help people to recover.”

The BBC faculty retreat for 2002, funded by a discreet BBC supporter and organized with the support of Overseas Council International,  which offered to provide a guest speaker for the event, has been postponed three times so far due to the ongoing political situation. Although it is unsure at this point when it will be rescheduled, a tentative date has been identified for late September 2002.

A formal luncheon was held in the BBC dining room on 11 June as a gesture of thanks to Bethlehem officials who helped to mediate the Church of Nativity crisis to a peaceful closure. Included in the gathering were lawyer Tony Salman, Bethlehem governor Muhammed Al-Medini, mayor Saleh A-Tamari, and Brother Ibrahim Faltas, the brown-robed Egyptian monk who could be seen in the famous concluding footage of 10 May escorting the Palestinian activists one by one out of the church and into the hands of Israeli officials for deportation.

A community English course which was scheduled to begin on the grounds of the campus on 1 July was cancelled because of the erratic curfew lifting schedule.

Community Development is another subject, along with Mass Media  Communications and Counseling, that BBC hopes to integrate into the minor curriculum within the next few years. An introductory course, funded as a student outreach activity by World Vision, was offered in the Spring 2002 semester and the response among students was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The instructor, Mr. Mazen Badra, provided them with an excellent foundation in the theoretical issues of development and the practical implementation of projects which will serve them well should they decide to pursue these studies further. Many students experienced a renewed sense of intellectual motivation and spiritual excitement as a result of the class. According to one student who performed exceptionally well in the class, “This course gave me a whole new perspective on creative ways of serving my community and acting as a Christian witness. I did not really feel called to be a pastor or a teacher or spiritual group leader in that sense, and I began to wonder whether I would ever find a way to devote my life to Christ which would be appropriate for me. I didn’t feel a whole lot of motivation for my studies because I couldn’t imagine where they would take me. But taking this course opened a very exciting door, and I was thrilled to realize that I have real skills and potential in this area.

Development offers great future possibilities for rebuilding the town, restoring the community’s Christian roots, and transforming the society using both my professional skills and my sense of Christian values. I am very anxious to continue studying this subject next semester, and I pray that Jesus will use me to make a valuable contribution for the glory of His Kingdom.”

Mr. Nassim Nour of World Vision, who observed and evaluated the class on several occasions, recommended that the project not only be  extended but also expanded into a full curriculum on the basis of his observations. He is actively working with organizations such as Eastern Mennonite University and AMIDEAST to develop undergraduate curriculum requirements and set up a Master’s level scholarship fund with sister institutions for BBC students who successfully complete a BA with a minor emphasis in Development and want to continue their training in this field. BBC and World Vision feel that this curriculum will open up a vast potential job market for qualified graduates and provide a much-needed incentive for indigenous Christians to remain in their homeland and contribute constructively to its future.

Shepherd Society News:

George Abdo and Muna Noor were recently hired to work in the office of Shepherd Society alongside Lana Mansour and Rev. Nihad Salman. Their tasks include interviewing applicants for relief aid, distributing relief aid, and making home visits for the purpose of assessing the economic status of aid applicants.

A 1.5 million dollar proposal for humanitarian assistance submitted jointly by BBC and Shepherd Society received tentative funding approval from PMU/SIDA in July. This proposal, which emphasizes the creation of temporary jobs for the vast numbers of people who have become unemployed due to the situation, will be implemented immediately upon final funding approval and is designed to be implemented over a period of one year. In addition, it will extend beyond the area of the Bethlehem municipality to cover most of the West Bank including Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Tul Karm and the smaller more isolated villages toward Jenin such as Zababdeh and Taybeh. Other types of assistance activities designated in the project include payment of tuition fees, distribution of food coupons, utilities payments, and trauma counseling, with emphasis on long-term recovery strategies.

Volunteer/Visitor News:

Pastors Rick Lunsford and Brent Watkins were guests of BBC during the period 17-22 June, and they were able to witness first-hand many of the experiences Palestinians must endure as they try to go about their daily lives. Their week-long itinerary included visits to refugee camps and Christian homes, to prayer groups and churches and isolated villages in the area between Ramallah and Jenin. Rev. Attalah Esawi, who escorted the guests on their visit to the small Christian villages around Zababdeh, said that they had to pass through more than ten military checkpoints on the way, each time having to get out of their car, lift their shirts, and be bodily searched for explosives. They spent inordinate amounts of time waiting for passage and had assault rifles pointed at them on more than one occasion. In subsequent e-mails, Pastor Rick wrote, “Words cannot express the wonder I feel in my heart when I think of all that our Lord is doing in and through you.” Pastor Brent wrote, “I can’t tell you how much my experiences with all of you did to open my eyes and perhaps confirm my suspicions about the ‘story behind the story’ we westerners need to learn.” We are thankful to both of them for having the willingness to have their eyes, and their hearts, opened to the suffering in Palestine.

Members of the Christian Peacemakers Team also stayed in the guesthouse in June. BBC has a long-standing relationship with this organization, and we always welcome their visits to the campus. Rev. Bill Flanagan of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, postponed a group trip he was scheduled to make at the end of June until October. Subsequently, we learned the reason for the postponement: Bill had surgery on 23 July to remove cancerous growths from his lymph tissue. He is now recuperating at home and the prognosis looks good for a full recovery. Still, we ask all our BBC prayer partners to lift Bill’s health concerns up to the Lord, and to ask for healing for one of BBC’s oldest and dearest friends.

Prayer Requests:

Please pray with us that the new academic year will commence without further disruptions caused by curfews, and that the coming year will proceed according to a (more or less) normal schedule. Also pray with us for the safety of all BBC students, staff, and faculty as they struggle to remain faithful and to keep the light of BBC ministries shining through the darkness of war and violence. We also lift up our prayers for all those innocent people, Israelis and Palestinians, who continue to suffer losses and sorrows daily as a result of the conflict. We pray for the Prince of Peace to vanquish the real enemy, who seeks to create antagonism between Christians, between friends, between family members, between communities, and between nations, by distracting us from the real goal: service and obedience to the message of Jesus Christ. Jihad Salman, BBC’s all-purpose handy man, and his wife are the parents of a new baby girl, born at the end of July. This is their second daughter.

Jeries Taljiyeh is a six-month old child whose Christian parents reside in Bethlehem. He was born on 25 December 2001 with a rare congenital condition in which excessive pressure from blood vessels behind the eyes is being exerted on both corneas, inexorably leading to total blindness.

Jeries’ father approached the Shepherd Society in desperation, saying that his son must have immediate surgery in order to arrest the blindness, and that such surgery is not remotely possible in the West Bank. At six months of age, Jeries has already had two partially successful operations in Bet Jala to suction pressure and decrease inflammation, but the build-up of pressure returned both times. BBC friend and supporter Pat Grom, of News Service 2000, has expressed interest in the sad case of this small child, and she is attempting to raise funds for the child’s upcoming surgery to take place at Hadassah in West Jerusalem. We ask all our prayer partners to pray that the Lord will work through the hands of the doctors and restore sight and health to this small child, and that He will comfort Jeries’ parents in this time of stress, worry, and fear.

Imm Raja’s husband Simone (Abu Raja) successfully recovered from a cardiac catheterization on 12 June after a two-day delay because of the Ramallah invasion, which caused his surgeon to be trapped in Ramallah until an ambulance could evacuate him to hospital in Jerusalem where  the procedure was scheduled to take place. Abu Raja is now resting comfortably at home. Periodic tests reveal that he is stable and in no need of further surgery.

A close friend of BBC was taken from his home in Bet Jala by Occupation soldiers one night in late June and used as a human shield as the soldiers conducted nighttime house-to-house searches in the neighborhood. Although it was an intensely frightening and humiliating experience for him, he says that he believes the Lord used him as a tool of reconciliation. The soldiers told him that he was “a nice guy” and did not mistreat him. Also, he used the occasion to deepen his relationship with his neighbors, creating opportunities for fellowship and calming the families while the soldiers went about their searches. He returned home unhurt and strengthened in his faith.

Lily Hanoush, the sister of former BBC accountant Vicki Hanoush, was designated to be Vicki’s bridesmaid at her wedding in New Jersey in July. Unfortunately, Lily’s visa application to the US Consulate, as well as that of her sister’s, was denied. BBC tried to amend the situation by writing a character recommendation on Lily’s behalf (she is a former BBC graduate), but the attempt failed and Lily was prevented from attending her own sister’s wedding. We were sorry and disappointed to witness this unfortunate incident.