December 24, 2012
Although I have kept silent too long from writing to you, that means in no way forgetting to pray with thanksgiving for your friendship and for your continued support to Pilgrims of Ibillin.
I keep mentioning what you have done for the schools in Ibillin during the past few years; it was an extremely important help and an encouragement to our faith here in Galilee.
I am writing right before Christmas. During this week we are kept very busy mainly because of the important visits of dignitaries from within Israel and from abroad. We started the reception for Christmas by greeting the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, and among others we are expecting the Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs sent by Abu Mazen. Many Parliament members also come to congratulate through us all the Christians of the Holy Land. We make sure that representatives of major Christian denominations are invited to join us with this honor, as well as the directors of our schools and our clergy.
During this past month we had exciting visits with each of our Melkite schools where we met with the faculty to have an open discussion of questions and answers – before wishing them a Happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.
At MEEI, besides meeting with teachers and with the students themselves, I had the pleasure of welcoming new leaders of both Mariam Bawardi Elementary School and Mar Elias High School. Some of you know very well Ms. Nawar Mussallam, who retired in 2012 after leading our kindergarten and elementary school from their very beginning. (Although retired, Nawar continues to carry important responsibilities for our whole school.) We had to find a new principal for that very successful school and we appointed Juhaina Matar, a very special, wise, and committed teacher, to replace Nawar.
As for the High school, we celebrate that our Principal, Mr. Asem Khoury, has become the inspector in Hebrew Language instruction for all the Israeli schools. I met several times with all the teachers to discuss the needs of the school. In December, we appointed a new director who has in fact been a leader in the school already for a long time: Elias Abu Ghanima. We look forward with much hope to his leadership; he will promote the level of achievement of the schools.
As we move into a new year, we will discreetly accompany these leaders in their new jobs. Please pray for them and pray for us and our work so that the name of the Lord may be better known.
I could write more and more exciting things about experiences in the schools such as the famous story of our director in Nazareth who requested a leave for one month to go into the election campaign in order to become a Parliament member. (Stay tuned: the election is in January.)
We do not have a dull time here! As we go from one major event to another, we try to keep our serenity and it is only through prayer and reading the bible that we can find such serenity. As we said to the President of the State of Israel during his visit, Christianity means for us to have confidence like the angels who said to the shepherds: “Fear not; today we bring you good tidings, a savior has been born for you.” The angels announce the same message for each of you: “Be not afraid, rejoice for a savior has been born for you, Jesus Christ”.
I wish you a Happy Christmas and a very blessed New Year.
Yours with special affection and gratitude,
† Abuna Elias Chacour
Melkite Archbishop of Galilee