THE NURSERY NEAR THE WALL

Sister ROSANNA NAVAMiddle East Provincial – Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate HeartOne day, while taking children home, our mini bus was targeted by Palestinian rock-throwers, because the vehicle has an Israeli number plate. So we decided to close the nursery rather than take any more risks.This incident occurred in 1985.  As a result, the nursery at the refugee camp in Bethlehem closed its doors.  However, a year ago it reopened through the generosity of benefactors, notably Italians.  Now with fully-equipped classrooms, it is only recently that it has been able to welcome its youngest children – those aged between three and six.Sister ROSANNA NAVAMiddle East Provincial – Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate HeartWalking through the camp, you can see many children on the street.  There are schools, but no nurseries …Aida, one of the largest of the Palestinian refugee camps, was visited by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.  There are five thousand people living here today in poverty, with unemployment and without proper educational facilities and services.They continue to request services.  In 1985 there was a dispensary for poor families.  They ask us to reopen it, but alas, I have no nursing sister available.  I have asked for volunteer doctors from Italy.  If individual physicians could come here for a month each, I could reopen the facility.The reliable presence of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, in the midst of so many vicissitudes, is much appreciated.Sister ROSANNA NAVAMiddle East Provincial – Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate HeartIf we were not convinced of the usefulness of our presence, especially in terms of witness, we would not be here.  We were born in Arab countries – Moslem countries, such as Egypt – and our aim is to show that even in these countries christianity can live – and be fruitful.The teachers at the Aida nursery are all Christians, from small families in the surrounding towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahur, but most of the children in the refugee camp are Moslems.Sister ROSANNA NAVAMiddle East Provincial – Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate HeartA  Moslem mother who came this morning asked if we teach the Koran.  I said, “No. But I assure you that your children will learn respect, love and companionship. This is a Christian school in which we want that each person respects the other.”  And did she enroll her child?  Certainly … The location of the sisters’ nursery has a prominent significance, for a few metres away is the wall which separates the Palestinian Territories from Israel, and therefore Bethlehem from Jerusalem.  The reopening of the nursery is intended as a sign of hope for a better future.  And it is of life and hope that Sister Rosanna speaks – even if, nine months ago on Christmas Eve, she alone survived a car accident which killed three other sisters.Sister ROSANNA NAVAMiddle East Provincial – Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate HeartI was in that car – and came out alive.  And here among the children, I find the strength to work for the sisters who died, for myself, for the nursery – and for the children.  So that they may realize that life is a gift.“And so that one day,” Sister Rosanna says, in accompanying me to the door, “these children will be able to see what is on the other side of this wall.”

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