Monday, November 29, 2010

Pioneering Protestants in Jerusalem

For today's That's My World let's look at a disappearing world.

The Israeli army guard would not let me in the gate to photograph back in November 2008.
Written in stone on the building are the Arabic and the German for "Syrian Orphanage."
The place is popularly known as the Schneller School or Schneller Compound.
I could only get pictures through the perimeter fence and the barbed wire.
Some of the buildings are roofless.
Some are gone.
The army, which had used the compound since 1948, moved out two years ago.
The plan is to build 600 apartments for the neighboring haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews).
The Jerusalem municipality talks of preserving some of the beautiful old European-style buildings and using them as public buildings or a museum.
By chance, a wooden crate was recently found inside the old church.
In it was the original stone altar from 1860!
Last night, at the symposium I showed in yesterday's post, the altar was brought to the Church of the Ascension on Mount of Olives to be installed and rededicated there, at Augusta Victoria.
You can get an idea of the history and the great meaning of the Schneller School(s) for the German Protestants (and also see old photos of the orphanage and Johann Schneller and the kids) by looking at the PDF program of the international symposium, "Schneller--a living heritage in the Middle East."
The history in brief:
Schneller was sent to Jerusalem as a missionary from a Swiss village in 1854.
From the Arabs of Lifta he bought plots of land and started building.
He and his wife and 4 apprentices became the first Europeans to live outside the protective Old City walls.
They rescued orphans following the 1860 Druze and Muslim massacre of 30,000 Maronite Christians in Lebanon.
The children (up to 180 orphans at its peak) found a new home and a fine school in Schneller's Syrian Orphanage.
Schneller's son and then his grandson carried on his work.
In World War II all Germans and Austrians were deported from Palestine; many were sent to Australia.
The British Army took over the compound.
When the British Mandate ended in 1948, they handed the compound to the IDF.
To read the whole fascinating story, please see this good Jerusalem Post article.
Today the Schneller tradition of holistic education for peace and for future leaders continues at their two schools, in Lebanon and in Jordan.
And they still teach German.
UPDATE Oct. 2020:


EG CameraGirl said...

I never knew Germans and Austrians were sent to Australia from Palestine. You live in an area with such interesting and complicated history.

elisa moed said...

interesting - and I'll note as well that Beit Lechem Haglilit - a little village in the Galilee, the germans in the community marched in the Hitler Youth and swore allegiance to Hitler and were put into interment camps by the Brits. 222 of them were later traded back to germany in exchange for 222 Jewish prisoners from Bergen Belsen.
we have a blog on this on Travelujah if you wish to read more on the subject.

Jenn said...

Fascinating post. Amazing too that they found the original altar.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

The soldiers think you are a spy?

Many places in Singapore, they won't let you go and take photos.

Anonymous said...

How impressive a mean to measure time and life. Agree with the voice above, that you life at a place where history and future melt into present.

Please have a good Tuesday.

daily athens

Petrea Burchard said...

It's a fascinating story, Dina, with intriguing photographs to go with it. Thank you.

Leif Hagen said...

Das ist schon interessant - nicht so schnell - aber merkwurdig!
Herzliche GruBe

Kay said...

You, my friend, are a true blogger... sharing your history and teaching.

Louis la Vache said...

What a fascinating story, Dina. You really post some interesting historical tidbits here. This is one reason history buff «Louis» enjoys your blog so much.

Oman said...

what's great about visiting blogs in My World is that I always learn something new about the place. places that I could only dream of coming. thanks for sharing your world with us.

BraCom said...

Beautiful My World Tuesday posting

Have a nice week,
Greetings, Bram

Link to My Word Tuesday post!

Seen on My World Tuesday

Dina said...

Shalom friends and thanks for your kind words.

Elisa, thanks for adding this.
I found what you refer to at
Recommended reading!

I think there was another such exchange, but of several hundred Jews for over a thousand Germans.

At the Symposium one lecturer said we should not forget the "dark" days when some of the Schneller folks in Jerusalem became Nazis.

Ann, no, not a spy, but as a civilian you can't just walk into an army camp.

VP said...

I jumped to the Jerusalem Post article, thanks for this pearl of which I didn't know nothing of! said...

how amazing the altar was found in one piece! Amazing story Dina, thanks for sharing.

Francisca said...

Dina, of all the bloggers I follow, your world must rank as the most interesting and complex. And you do such an amazing job of reporting the new, the old and the vanishing... Here again you tell us about a fascinating person and his part in history. So glad the altar was rescued before the rest of this property is destroyed.