November 13, 2001
A new scholastic year has started on the first
of September amidst tension, pain and worry. Worry about the
grim future, and the daily safety of the children and staff. The children
at the school are the second generation which has been brought up during
the thirty four years of the Israeli Military occupation. Our main
concern is to be able to rekindle hope continuously in the hearts of those
children and their families. It is this hope that will enable
them to foresee a brighter future, be committed to public welfare, and
look forward to justice, and peace in this Holy Land. The Land from
where the first message of peace was proclaimed seems to be further away
from peace than any other place on this Globe.
At a time when the whole focus of the world has
changed since the tragic events of September 11, the Palestinians more
than anybody else could empathize with the people of the USA for the great
loss and the devastation that befell on them. For we have been there
also, trying to cope with the daily loss of life and devastation ever since
we were dispossessed of our country and identity in 1948. To all
our friends in the USA we want to express one more time our shock and grief
for the loss of so many innocent lives. Our hearts ache for all of
you and especially for the bereaved families, and particularly those whose
dear ones simply vanished in the air, or could not be retrieved from under
the rubble. It would have been so much more comforting had they been
able to see them at a burial service. May God bless their souls,
and spare you and humanity further tragedies. We were hoping and
praying that the USA would find an alternative for this war on “terrorism”
than vengeance, which is simply inflicting more devastation and suffering
on innocent people without achieving its real goal.
2002 is a special year for Rawdat El-Zuhur.
We shall be celebrating our fiftieth anniversary and remembering the role
of Elizabeth Nasir, the woman with vision who founded Rawdat El-Zuhur in
1952 as a home for destitute girls. The spirit of loving care which
prompted Elizabeth to start this home continues to prevail all through
the work which has developed as a coeducational elementary school. Thanks
to the staff and women who continue to run Rawdat El-Zuhur with vision
and dedication. We are writing at this time to invite you all to
come and join us on the 4th and 5th of April 2002 for the celebrations.
The music and art teacher are preparing a musical for the occasion.
We hope the situation will allow as many of you to be with us on this meaningful
occasion. April is a lovely time of the year to be in Jerusalem.
It will be the first week after Easter, and you can seize this opportunity
to come earlier and enjoy Easter and Spring. The program will be
posted at our website www.rawdat.org after January. Check it out
for updates also, and for our news.
We seize this opportunity to thank you for being friends of Rawdat El-Zuhur
and to send you our best wishes for a peaceful year. We are
not sending our regular newsletter this year, so we hope you can check
our news through the web site. But we are sending you
the special anniversary calendar with The Rights of the Child as its theme.
The featured drawings, are all contributed by the school children, and
are inspired by the various articles of the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, as an expression of the children’s hopes and dreams for a brighter
future. We hope you can make a special contribution this year on
the occasion of our fiftieth anniversary, and help those children realize
their dreams. Your gifts will certainly help us cope with all the challenges
that face us as we continue to provide the children with quality education,
special programs, and counseling which will help them overcome during those
With warm greetings,
This week in Palestine – issue No. 48, April 2002
Elizabeth Nasir- ( 1909-1987) The dynamic woman behind the story
of Rawdat El-Zuhur.
Fifty years ago on a cold February day in 1952, Elizabeth Nasir who
was the first woman director of the social welfare department in
Jerusalem (Jordan at that time), was on one of her inspection
tours in the area. She ran across two little girls around six
and five years old hanging around one of the streets of Ramallah.
Their sight meant a social problem to Lizzy as she was known by her
friends. Immediately she got out of the car and spoke to the girls
to find out that they were begging because they had no food at home. Upon
accompanying those girls to their home, which was a bare hovel with torn
sack cloth on the floor, she found out a blind mother, and a sick father
with no food whatsoever aound. She immediately got a court
order to put the girls in the reformatory to spare them further destitution
This incident was the turning point in the life of Elizabeth Nasir,
who had been evicted from her home in Jaffa in 1948 where she was working
as a social worker. She committed herself to shelter
destitute girls and help them earn a living by honorable means. To
fulfill that goal, she used part of her home for this project, and
she was personally on the streets looking for destitute girls, and searching
for them in hovels and caves. She even sat in coffee shops
in the old city, to the shock of passers by, so that she can talk
to drivers and laborers who knew the whereabouts of those girls.
With financial support of her many friends, Elizabeth was able to
train the girls with the necessary skills for work. She
believed very strongly in the power of music in lifting the
spirits, and she was the talk of the town as she danced and
skipped with those barefooted girls. In 1955 she was
awarded a special certificate from the National Recreation Association
of the USA for “Enriching the Human Spirit through Recreation.” She
intentionally named the home of those girls Rawdat El-Zuhur, (Garden of
flowers) to spare them any stigma and to make them feel like
flowers in a garden. She was avante-garde for her generation, and
she always had original ideas and her friends and colleagues never ceased
to be amazed at her energy and her progressive thinking, and her
determination to achieve what she set out to achieve. She gets credit for
playing a very important role in putting an end to the begging phenomenon
in Jerusalem before 1967.
Elizabeth had started her career as a teacher, and then she
shifted to social work. But she was truly a mixture of both, a born
teacher and a dedicated social worker which were a great asset to
the spirit of Rawdat El-Zuhur. The loving care, compassion
and the respect for the human dignity continue to prevail up till this
day. She never allowed anybody to sulk or be violent with the girls.
Only a pleasant teacher could work at Rawdat El-Zuhur, and the only
time she was forced to ask a teacher to leave was when that teacher
referred to the girls as “street girls”.
After the Israeli occupation in 1967, the new challenge for
Lizzy was to meet the arising need for Palestinian schools in East
Jerusalem. By 1971 Rawdat El-Zuhur developed into a coeducational
elementary school, with an emphasis on moral values and quality education.
A kindergarten was added in 1979. Music and dancing, along with
art, and sports continue to be an integral part of the school curriculum.
The dream of Elizabeth Nasir was fulfilled before she passed away
on April 2, 1987.
Elizabeth and her twin sister Victoria were born in Nablus
in 1909 to Rev. Hanna Nasir, the Anglican pastor in Nablus
at the time, and his wife Sa’ada Shatarah. She studied
at St. Mary’s School in Jerusalem and was amongst the first Palestinian
women university graduates, as she got her B.A. from the American University
of Beirut in 1933. She was probably one of her kind as head
of an organization who had resigned in her life time, against the
norm in the Arab world of holding on to a seat “until death
do us part”. But then Lizzy was a confirmed non conformist,
so she was able to enjoy being honored in her life time by the board,
staff, and children of Rawdat El-Zuhur and her friends in July 1986.
The Elizabeth Nasir Trust Fund was established from donations in her honor
on that occasion, and donations in lieu of flowers for her funeral
were added to that fund as well. Celebrations for the 50th
anniversary of Rawdat El-Zuhur will take place on the 4 th and 5th of April
2002, and a special musical will be put up in honor of the memory of
Rawdat El-Zuhur continues to be a very busy place. And
with the preparations for the Jubilee celebrations on the 4th and 5th of
April there is never a dull moment. In spite of the drop in
the number of visitors to the Holy Land, yet the school does receive a
trickle of them every now and then. Friends, who have been very concerned
and want to see first hand what is happening, and to express their solidarity
with the Palestinian people living under military occupation for almost
thirty-five years, have made a special effort to come.
An Unexpected gift -Bequest of Anna Baker
An old friend of Rawdat El-Zuhur and its founder Elizabeth Nasir, Anna
Baker passed away on August 13th 2001 in Connecticut leaving
a bequest for Rawdat El-Zuhur for the amount of $10,000. Bless her soul,
she will always be remembered and will be specially recognized during
the Jubilee celebrations.
Wisdom and Compassion
Shortly after school started, one of the parents came into the office
and asked for his son. The son came in and the father ordered him
to get his bag. “Is anything wrong” asked Mrs. Zananiri. “Yes, you
sent a note that he should pay his fees, and I cannot afford to pay a penny;
I have been out of work, so I am getting him out of school.” “My
goodness” thought the principal; “a school which has been established for
destitute people, and has been serving the lower income community for so
many years cannot possibly lose a child for the sake of $300.” The
boy came back to the office with tears in his eyes as he had already said
goodbye to his classmates. Realizing how desperate the father was,
Mrs. Zananiri had to think quickly and take the right decision. “I
can’t let you go because of the fees; go back to your class, and I will
deal with the matter”. The boy rushed to her and hugged her to express
his gratitude. Feeling good that she let the boy stay but worried
about the school budget if more fathers were to do the same, one of the
teachers came to her rescue. She had watched the whole scene and
was so touched by the wisdom and compassion of the principal and especially
by the boy’s reaction and hug to his principal, that she offered to pay
the fees. The teachers’ salaries are just as minimal as the children’s
fees, but this caring and sharing is what makes Rawdat El-Zuhur so special.
Two other teachers have also paid fees for two students.
ANERA Grant for The Computer Laboratory
Thanks to a special grant from ANERA, ten new computers have been added
to the computer laboratory making the total number 23. The grant
made it possible also to have a network and an Internet service.
This will help the children in their research work and in communicating
with other school children. Through donations from other friends,
the Future kids program has been installed at the beginning of this year
also, and the children are learning a variety of skills and producing nice
To promote reading and the use of the library, the upper classes have
been encouraged to read stories for the younger children on a one to one
basis. This has been a very fruitful exercise, and the children enjoy
finding a cozy corner for the story reading. Asides from the enjoyment
that both the older and the younger children are getting, it is one way
of training children on cooperation and volunteer work.
Training and community Service
Teachers of Grades one and two attended a two-week course for the application
of the new curriculum that is being introduced in the Palestinian schools.
Four senior students from Al-Quds University spent a whole term
training at Rawdat El-Zuhur as kindergarten teachers. Their supervisor
was so impressed with the training, that he is sending another set of students
to train as elementary school teachers.
From the nursing school we had four trainees for a whole term
also as part of their community health course requirements.
But this year we missed the students from Birzeit and Bethlehem Universities
who used to do their community service at the school. They
were a great help, but with the closures and the checkpoints they have
not been able to come.
Recognition of Kareem (grade 6)
The sixth graders ran an exercise in democracy as they elected the
most distinguished student in their class. Kareem was recognized
for his special effort in making strides to comply with the values of the
character tree of the school and in his grades as well.
A special program at the National Palestinian Theatre (Hakawati)
As part of the Jubilee celebrations, The Hakawati hosted the children
of Rawdat El-Zuhur, their parents, the alumni and some of the children
of Helen Keller school for a special program by Nakhleh El-Shiber.
The name of this special character in itself is paradox because Nakhleh
in Arabic means a palm tree, and shiber means a hand span.
The performances are actually done by two persons appearing as one in the
size of a midget, and there is always a special message that comes across.
On that occasion Nakhleh concentrated on the Rights of the child which
were expressed by the children in the special calendar produced for
the Jubilee. The children danced and sang and the function was very jolly.
Many thanks to the Theatre and Nakhleh for offering their services as a
gift to Rawdat El-Zuhur.