In September 1982 the first 80 students of Mar Elias High School assembled with four teachers to begin a wonderful story of excellence in education for the youth of Galilee. The high school has grown to almost 1,200 students from forty-five villages scattered throughout the Galilee and even from Jerusalem and the Negev. They travel great distances to attend Mar Elias because of the high quality of education the students receive.
The students gather outside the high school at 8:15 several mornings each week. One of the High School Faculty Members speaks to the gathered students for fifteen minutes about their common values and aspirations as well as about their distinctive traditions. As a result of these regular presentations the students are inspired to believe and live by very basic truths. “God does not kill. All are born as babies created in the image and likeness of God. Christians, Muslims, and Jews are blood brothers, children of Abraham. Peace with justice is the dream and the right of all human beings.” Such truths provide the students with guiding principles that will last a lifetime.
Support Scholarships! $340/year (or $34/month) will support a student enrolled at Mar Elias High School. Even though tuition is kept very low compared to other private Israeli schools, more than 65% of MEHS students receive scholarships based on financial need.
In 1998 the School for Gifted Children in grades 4 through 8 was formed. It meets every Friday and has 90 students enrolled who are the brightest and best pupils from schools all over the Galilee region.
In 1996 a regional teacher training center was formed to train teachers of Arab children, improving their teaching of mathematics in schools throughout Galilee (240 teachers are enrolled).
Youth exchange programs between students of Mar Elias and students from different countries is one of the intensive informal activities which was initiated by the administration of Mar Elias Comprehensive school soon after the school was founded in 1982.
The efforts gained fruits and Mar Elias developed youth exchange with different schools and organizations in the U.S.A, Canada, and Europe, particularly Germany and Italy. The most longest-running continuous exchange began in 1997 with a youth organization in Bavaria, south Germany called KreisJugandRing – MunchenLand. An exchange between Mar Elias and this program has taken place every year since then. The German partners visit Mar Elias at Easter and Mar Elias students visit Germany in summer. The relationships are so strong that even during war years, like in 2006, when the German parents refused to send their children to Israel, the German side insisted that Mar Elias students still visit Germany in order to keep the momentum of the meetings.
Similarly, in 2009 the original plan was that the German group would visit Ibillin at Easter (April 2009) and the Ibillin group visit Germany in August. However, because of the war in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, the German students were afraid to come to Israel, so the partner programs decided to change the order. MEEI students visited Germany at Easter and the German group visited Ibillin in Aubust.
In such an exchange students from the 11TH and 12TH grades are involved, with their teachers leading the groups. One surprise has been that more females students than males are joining the exchange.
The goals for the exchange are;
Intercultural learning in different fields and levels; daily life, history, society and so on.
To open horizons for the students in various fields, including studies abroad.
To break prejudices about Palestinians. The image of the Palestinians in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century was “Terrorists,” which is far from the truth. During an early exchange, in the summer of 1983, a group of German students visited Ibillin led by a Catholic priest named Karl Fleig. After 2 days in Ibillin the priest came to the home of the Mar Elias leader (a Muslim) and said; “Fawaz, I have to confess that I am very surprised. I came to Ibillin with a lot of fears. But I found in Ibillin normal human beings and security more than in Munich.” Fawaz says, “For me it was a great feeling. We succeeded to give this feeling to our guests and to change our image as Palestinians in their eyes. It means that our exchange is successful and our efforts are worthy.”
To create friendship on an individual level.
When Mar Elias students visit Germany they stay some days in families’ homes, some days with their partners in the Alps to enjoy nature — climbing, biking, and swimming, beside social activities. And some days the 2 groups stay in Munich in a youth hostel, just to experience the different aspects of the town’s life.
When the German students come to Israel, their program is divided into 2 parts. They take a trip of 6 days/5 nights together with Mar Elias students to Eilat, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem. Together they visit historical, archeological, and religious sites and take walks to experience natural landscapes. For the second part of the exchange the German students stay with Arab families. This is the best way to enable intercultural learning. During these days, students participate in trips in Ibillin, and out into the villages and towns and holy sites, beside sharing in social and sport activities.