Mar Elias Peace Study Center

Country: Israel/Palestine
Advance #3020532 DONATE NOW

Project Information

Cultivating future peacemakers in Israel / Providing scholarships in Palestine via interfaith education.

Describe the need affecting community

The local economy for Palestinians in Israel is difficult: 35% of the adult Palestinian population are unemployed. 65% of Israel’s Arab population live below the official poverty line.  A top-tier education is critical for students hoping to succeed post-high school.

Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI), founded by Archbishop Emeritus Elias Chacour (author of “Blood Brothers” ), is situated in Ibillin, an Arab village in the Galilee region of Israel, near Haifa.

Israeli society is quite segregated; MEEI provides one of very few places within Israel where a mixed population gets to  know each other deeply. The students are Arab, including Christians, Muslims and Druze, citizens of Israel. The faculty includes Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze teachers.

“Twinning” relationships with Jewish schools give students opportunities for interfaith activities and getting acquainted with “The Other,” fostering friendships that, sadly, are uncommon.

MEEI tuition is kept much lower than other private schools, at $500 per student per year. Still, 65% of students need scholarships to attend school. Because the local public school ends with eighth grade, Mar Elias High School is local students’ only option for a high school education near home.

In surrounding villages, segregated public schools for Arab students are substandard; students score test results only half as good as scores for their Jewish peers. At MEEI, on the other hand, students score well above national averages for all students.

MEEI gives students the best chance to succeed and to lift their family out of poverty.

How will this Advance project help to address the need?

This project provides a portion of scholarship funds needed annually  to serve two-thirds of the student body, which includes  1,200 high school students and 1,100 students in grades 1 through 8.

MEEI is the only Arab school in Israel to have average graduating test scores that place it in the top tier of Israeli high schools, including all Jewish schools. As a result, MEEI alumni are accepted into prestigious undergraduate programs across the country, as well as around the world. Many alumni become professionals in their chosen careers and return to  impact positively the struggling Palestinian communities across the Galilee region in Israel.

Not only does MEEI prepare students to succeed and achieve their professional goals, but the curriculum, from kindergarten through high school, is designed to instill the ways of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, respect and justice. In fact, MEEI is dedicated to building relationships with” The Other” throughout a student’s time at MEEI.

To someone unfamiliar with Israeli society, this may not appear remarkable, but in fact, it is quite the exception, and almost unheard of in the land many refer to as “the Holy Land.”

This project will assist students from impoverished and struggling families to achieve their dreams and provide a means to escape poverty, while also developing future peacemakers who can bring about a just peace for all in Israel and Palestine.

Describe the primary goal of the project

The goal of providing scholarships for students at MEEI is to equip new generations of the brightest Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druze students in Israel/Palestine to know “The Other,” to be creative problem-solvers and bridge-builders, and to become key leaders in their professions and society.

Further, MEEI is a beacon of hope and a shining light for Palestinian youth who are often discouraged by the lack of opportunities in their homeland. Graduates have far greater prospects available to them than their Palestinian peers in Israel to realize their dreams.

Students are taught to live by very basic truths, in the words of Archbishop Elias Chacour, “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 students with guiding principles that will last a lifetime.

Ultimately, instilling an understanding and appreciation for all of God’s children, regardless of religious, ethnic or cultural differences, is essential to bring about peace in the Holy Land.

Currently in Israel, much fear and distrust exist among varying communities, and efforts such as those made at MEEI to build bridges are the only way to a coexisting future.

Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project

In Israel, Arab youth are stymied by the lack of opportunities to succeed, and cycles of poverty only worsen over time. Upon graduating from MEEI, a significant majority of students go on to receive bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral degrees. When they return from their studies, they are much more likely to find employment in their chosen professions, which lifts families out of poverty.

In order to create any chance of a just peace for all in the Holy Land, all youth and communities must have access to excellent education and opportunities for a better future. Currently MEEI is one of the very few Arab schools in Israel that consistently sees students prosper in life.

The curriculum at MEEI is imbued with peacebuilding at its core, and students from kindergarten through senior year of high school are educated in the ways of peace, reconciliation, respect for” The Other,” tolerance and justice. These graduates become the leaders of tomorrow, equipped to bring about justice and peace for all, regardless of religious or ethnic identity.

MEEI graduates benefit their communities when they succeed in life and are the peacemakers whom the society desperately needs to heal the divide that currently plagues the region, the Holy Land.

Contact Information

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