“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Bethlahem Bible College Update September 2002

BBC would like to encourage church pastors and leaders in North America to participate in a project by which their congregations send letters of encouragement and solidarity to church pastors, leaders, and congregations in Palestine.

Academic News:
The Israeli military withdrew from the Bethlehem area on 19 August, exactly two months after invading on 19 June. Consequently, the 2002-2003 academic year was allowed to begin on schedule, with public schools starting on 26 August and the BBC campus opening its doors on 9 September. Enrollment for the BA program totals approximately 50 students. The Gaza extension program has started and has an enrollment of 10 students. The tour-guiding program and the two other extension programs (Ramle and Nazareth) will begin slightly later, in October. A new TOEFL session resumed with 12 students enrolled for this semester. Two teacher’s meetings were held on 4 and 5 September to welcome the faculty back and prepare for the challenges of the coming year. Political challenges include continued closures, invasions, and curfews, restricted access to the town and campus for commuting teachers and students, and the possible outbreak of war if the US goes forward with plans to attack Iraq. Academic challenges include staff shortages due to the absence of several teachers (Hanna Katanacho is completing a PhD in the US, Janice Curcio decided not to renew her contract) and disruption of the semesters. Despite these and other challenges, BBC faculty and staff continue to pray for a productive year and for the opportunity to follow through on many activities and plans for the upcoming year.

BBC is seeking ways to encourage its graduates and invest in human resources for the future. Nadine Boulous, who graduated in July, is seeking an opportunity to enter an Arabic-language Master’s program in Theology in a neighboring country and BBC has expressed willingness to provide financial support. Niveen Saras, who is in her final year of studies, has been accepted at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo to complete her fourth year and continue into a Master’s program, and BBC has agreed to provide financial support for her studies as well. Both students may be invited to serve on the BBC faculty upon their return, depending on their performance and the needs of BBC. Samar Mizher, who also graduated in July, was hired to work at the campus reception desk. In addition, the mass media project will soon be interviewing BBC graduates for a secretarial position.

BBC is hoping to sponsor Souhail Daoud, a graduate of BBC’s tour-guiding program, for a theology MA in the US, possibly in the Orlando  area, for the year 2003. In the meantime, BBC has agreed to pay the fees for Souhail to participate in a 6-month Discipleship Training Program which will begin in Egypt on 1 October. We pray that Souhail will be issued the requisite visa for his journey so that he can participate in this
training opportunity.

Munther Ishaq, another BBC sponsorship candidate, was accepted in the MA program at Westminster Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey for the fall 2002 semester and was due to begin his studies on 4 September. Because of the curfews throughout the summer, he was unable to submit his visa application until July. The US consulate assured him that the process would not take more than 6 weeks, but as of the end of September, he still had not received his visa and so was obliged to postpone his entry into the program until January 2003. We pray that Munther, who was approved by Westminster for a full academic scholarship, will not encounter any further delays.

BBC teachers Jack and Madleine Sara were blessed by the birth of a boy, Nathaniel, on 18 September. Jack’s testimony, accompanied by a picture of the happy couple with their new baby, will be included in the Fall 2002 prayer letter.

A new teacher, Khader Zoughbi, was hired to teach ED110 Speech and Communications. Dr. Zoughbi is a professor of English Studies and heads the Department of Linguistics at Bethlehem University.

BBC, in cooperation with World Vision, is hoping to provide another course in Community Development this semester and we are looking for a suitable teacher. Nassim Nour, World Vision’s officer in the Bethlehem area, may agree to teach a follow-up course to the introductory class conducted last semester by Mazen Badra. Most of the students who participated in that class have expressed eagerness to continue with the Development training.

Dr. Bishara Awad will travel to Singapore from 8-30 October for the purpose of participating in a 10-day Leadership Training Seminar
sponsored by Haggai Christian Leadership Institute. He will also make a short journey to New Zealand upon the invitation of TEAR Fund director Stephen Tollestrup to promote BBC ministries there and to meet with interested churches, organizations, and individuals.

BBC’s accrediting agency MEATE will hold its annual general assembly meeting in Amman, Jordan on October 28-29 and academic dean Dr. Salim Munayer will be representing BBC. A variety of issues will be on the agenda, including Software Resources, Distance Education Scenarios, Curriculum Recommendations and Consultations, Infrastructural Projects, and Executive Committee Elections.

The college hosted a picnic barbeque for the students, staff, and faculty on Tuesday 1 October 2002 at the site of the new Bet Al-Liqa in Bet Jala. Several visitors joined the festivities, including a group of 15 tourists from New Zealand and an American couple who came to Israel for the occasion of the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Project News:
Rizik Sleibi implemented another phase of his trauma counseling project during the months of June, July, and August. The summer phase consisted of three parts. In the first part, art and music therapy was provided for fifteen Bethlehem-area children previously identified by social
workers to be exhibiting symptoms of acute trauma. This therapy was provided on the BBC campus and photos were taken of the sessions. In the second part, small-group training sessions were provided for professional caregivers for three hours every Saturday. In the third
part, individual consultations were held with field workers regarding treatment strategies and follow-up activities for specific clients. The
three-part summer counseling phase was disrupted numerous times due to the military presence in the town and the ongoing curfews. However, all participants were eager to continue with the activities on days during which curfew liftings were scheduled, even for brief periods.

TOEFL instructor Samia Ata also succeeded in completing a 40-hour TOEFL course over the summer months. Students met each curfew lifting in order to complete their assignments and they were awarded with certificates recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education at the end of August.

The BBC staff is currently preparing the Fall 2002 prayer letter and hopes to have it ready for mailing by 30 September. This prayer letter will contain a flyer specially created by gift shop manager Marie Gidcumb for our Christmas promotional campaign, whose objective is to encourage BBC friends and partners to purchase Holy Land crafts as Christmas gifts in order to support local Christian artisans whose businesses have suffered greatly as a result of the violence of the last two years. Marie is working on a variety of other graphics projects including a new gift shop catalogue which we hope to make available early next year; a 2003 calendar featuring BBC faces—students, teachers, staff, and  volunteers; and a selection of new brochures promoting the ministries of BBC and the Shepherd Society as well as the International Studies Program (which has been suspended since January 2001 due to the political situation).

BBC received funding for fifteen new computers for the computer library. Ten of these computers will be available for the Mass Media Project. United Methodist missionary Bob May has agreed to return for the fall semester to teach another course in Web Site Construction. Jihan Nassar has also returned to teach classes in computer literacy to BBC undergraduates. Replaced computers will be made available for BA students. Alison Nassar, one of BBC’s two English administrators, will take the web site class and be responsible for renovating BBC’s web site. We hope to make the site much more dynamic, with frequent updates, a greater focus on BBC personalities, and other features such as alumni updates, faculty publications and activities, student scholarship profiles, testimonies from the files of the Shepherd Society, and news from the BBC extension campuses.

BBC would like to encourage church pastors and leaders in North America to participate in a project by which their congregations send letters of encouragement and solidarity to church pastors, leaders, and congregations in Palestine. A similar project was initiated by Open Doors with great success. For persons interested in receiving a list of local churches and their contact names and addresses, please write to BBC at this address.

Murad Massoud has accepted the position of Mass Media program director and began working in a part-time capacity from 1 September. Murad’s main responsibility during the fall semester will be to purchase equipment, prepare the curriculum, and hire teachers so that the Mass Media program and training center can be officially launched in January 2003.

BBC recently received the gift of a new Sony Portable LCD Projector. This gift was made possible through the donation of funds collected as a retirement gift for Pastor Keith Berry, an old BBC friend in the Kansas City area. Equipment needs were discussed with faculty members and a projector was at the top of the list. The projector will also be made available for use in the Mass Media center.

Johnny Shahwan, the Bethlehem liaison for Operation Christmas Child, was invited to attend an OCC conference in Malta from 11-14 September. Although travel abroad is increasingly difficult for Palestinians, Johnny made every attempt to make arrangements for the trip. He received a visa to Malta within 48 hours, and also received last minute approval from the Bethlehem district military office for a special airport permit. However, when he reached the airport in Rome, where he was scheduled to catch his flight connection for Malta, Italian airport officials refused to allow Johnny to continue his journey because he did not have a transit visa required only for Palestinians. Johnny was obliged to return to Bethlehem without attending the conference. BBC is continuing to update its database, so we will appreciate responses from those who did not respond already.

A three-week First Aid/CPR course will be taught by the Bethlehem Red Crescent Society in October for interested students and staff. BBC hopes to offer this course periodically for both the staff and for interested persons from the community.

Shepherd Society News:
According to Shepherd Society caseworkers: “At least one individual qualifying for medical assistance applies to the Shepherd Society office each day, and the number of cases qualifying for assistance have increased drastically in the last year. In some cases, the ongoing siege situation has actually exacerbated some medical conditions such as nervous conditions, skin ailments, and certain stress-related illnesses such as diabetes and asthma. In others, people are too distracted by the situation to realize that they have conditions requiring treatment until the conditions have become advanced. In still others, people simply do not have the money to seek proper treatment and, again, put off doctor visits until the condition has worsened to the extent that they are forced to seek help.”

The following case describes but one of hundreds of situations requiring urgent financial assistance:
Doris George Elias Nassar is now eight years old. When she was four, a faulty hot water heater in her home exploded and burned her body extensively. She underwent numerous skin graft operations to repair severe third degree damage to her upper body, especially her back, face, and arms. According to doctors, she now has to have additional grafts to accommodate her body’s growth and weight gain. In particular, the skin in the area of her left underarm has tightened to the point that she cannot raise her arm to more than a ninety-degree angle. The Nassar family is currently plagued by many related and unrelated problems. The mother developed a nervous condition due to the fact that she held herself responsible for her youngest child’s tragic accident (there are a total of six children in the family) and now takes medication for depression and anxiety. Consequently, marital problems have arisen between the couple. In addition, the family owns the Central Hotel and Restaurant located near the entrance to Bethlehem, where they reside on one of the upper floors. Since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000, tourist-related business has plunged and they have earned virtually no income since that time. Recently, the Jerusalem municipality declared that the area between the main checkpoint and Rachel’s Tomb will soon be annexed to Jerusalem and included inside the separation wall/fence which is currently being built, effectively cutting this Bethlehem family as well as many others off from their relatives and support system, livelihood, services, and heritage. This action is being taken unilaterally by the Israeli government and affected families have no legal recourse to oppose the annexation.  Needles to say, any one of the above-mentioned difficulties would create severe stress within a normal family. The family of George Elias Nassar carries a very heavy burden indeed.

Volunteer/Visitor News:
PMU project liaison Maria Levander visited BBC from 23-26 September in order to help new program director Murad Massoud get started on preparations for the January 2003 launching of the mass media curriculum. Maria, a Swedish national residing in Cyprus along with her husband and four children, plans to conduct frequent visits for the purpose of providing media consultations and also to serve in a part-time teaching capacity along with her husband Mats Levander.

“Beyond the Mirage” is a new documentary about the Intifada by David Neuneubel, director of Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East. This documentary features comments from BBC student dean Rev. Alex Awad and academic dean Dr. Salim Munayer. It can be obtained through the Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East web site (www.ajpme.org) and they are prepared to cut $5.00 off the retail price for anyone who indicates that they heard about the documentary through BBC.

BBC’s UK representative Rev. John Angle paid us a visit at end of August for the purpose of providing encouragement, updating our UK database, delivering funds, and helping to organize Dr. Bishara’s November trip to the UK (All Saints in Bath area).

Charles and Marie Gidcumb have settled in well and are busy with a variety of projects. We are thankful to Charles for the vast patience and persistence he has displayed in sifting through the accounts and searching for ways to systematize them. hosting A summary of Marie’s activities can be found under “Projects.” The couple produce their own prayer letter which can be requested via their address: cmgidcumb@yahoo.com 

In addition to all their other projects, Charles and Marie host a Monday night devotional attended by many BBC students and some staff. Boutrous Azar is taking over as maintenance person in the absence of Jihad Salman, who has gone to the US for a brief period to visit his brother.

Prayer Requests:
Pray for an end to the conflict in Israel/Palestine.
Pray that a US attack on Iraq will be averted.

September marks three grim anniversaries: 11 September (the attack on the WTC), 17 September (the twenty-year anniversary of Sabra and Shatilla), and 28 September (the date marking the two-year anniversary of the outbreak of the second Intifada).

120 homes in Bet Sahour have been scheduled for demolition in the near future, possibly as early as the end of October. The homes, built by the Greek Orthodox Church to serve as a building project for congregation members, were completed a year ago after securing the proper permits from local authorities. Unfortunately, their location just down the hill from the settlement built at Jabal Abu Ghneim (known in Israel as Har Homa) made them very vulnerable to settlement expansion, and the reason cited for the demolition order is to make way for a new settlement bypass road. The appeal submitted by the residents was rejected by the military court and the case has now been taken to the Israeli Supreme Court.

Jiries Taljiyeh, the one-year-old from Bethlehem suffering from congenital bilateral glaucoma, had surgery at Hadassah on Monday 2 September. According to doctors, the operation was successful and he should not require further surgery. His parents are extremely grateful to Dr. Pat Grom of News Service 2000 for her assistance in financing the treatment.

BBC has been receiving a lot of junk/spam/hate mail in the last month. Some of the mail is in the form of anti-Palestine “articles,” others are racist caricatures or cartoons. We have been informed by some American partners that this mail is the result of a massive “hacking” campaign and the case is currently under investigation by the FBI. We pray that this mail is not also being forwarded to people in our address book and apologize for any inconvenience that may have been caused.

2016-10-24T07:33:01+00:00 October 10th, 2002|Categories: News|