My Service in Bethlehem
Where You Served and How Long?
I served in Bethlehem, Palestine for three months, from September to December, 2019 with the Diyar Consortium. Specially, I helped teach English at Dar al-Kalima University College of Fine Arts and Culture. I worked with the local staff to teach three types of majors: Fine Arts, Culinary and Tourism students. I enjoyed working each day with University students, staff, and administrators. During this time I lived at the International Center (Dar Al-Nadwa), associated with Christmas Lutheran Church in the center of Bethlehem.
Why Did You Choose This Location?
For many years I have been interested in the Middle East and specifically Israel and Palestine. As a former world history teacher and active lay person at our church, I continue to be amazed at the multi-faceted aspects of the history and current life in this part of the world. The more you look, the more you discover. I previously visited this area in 2012, on a two-week tour of the Holy Land sites with our local church group from St. Charles, Illinois. Like so many people, I became “hooked” on this place. Several years later, my wife and I hosted an AFS high school student from Nablus during the 2017/2018 academic year. It was a great experience. This past year I retired from my work in corporate training and was ready for an adventure.
My Impression of the Work of Diyar and Dar al-Kalima University College
My first impression was how new and innovative were so many of these programs and activities in Bethlehem. Diyar only began as an idea by Bethlehem Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb in the mid-nineties. It started with inviting elderly women into the church buildings and providing an assortment of services. Next, the local children came for after school activities that led to sports and dance classes. Just over a decade ago Pastor Raheb issued a call for a fine arts college to promote Palestinian culture and the arts. Today Dar al-Kalima University College has over 300 students studying in a wide array of fine arts disciplines.
I worked directly with staff and students living through these challenging times of military occupation, apartheid systems, and a lack of freedom and justice. Palestinians are remarkable- now as a third generation living under occupation. They are resilient survivors, in spite of all the setbacks, controls and imposed frustrations.
Dar al-Kalima staff and students truly live out their mission. They provide hope, encouragement and opportunities for people who don’t often see the possibilities. It’s a very practical educational program, focused on various fine arts and associated skills that contribute to society and provide an avenue for success to these students who come from throughout Palestine. It was my distinct privilege and honor to serve this community in the past year.