RIPLEY — St. Michael’s Parochial School in Ripley hosted a visiting priest last week from a land far, far away from here.
Father Faysal Hijazen, Superintendent of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Israel and the Palestinian territories, visited St. Michael’s last week as part of a five-day visit to the Cincinnati area. Hijazen met with St. Michael’s Parochial School Principal Mary Martin as part of Project HOPE (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education), following Martin’s visit to Israel and Palestine in 2014.
The project was started in 2004 by Nancy Hemminger, who serves as project director. It’s organized by the Archdiocises of Cincinnati
“It’s educators teaching educators,” Martin said. “Years ago I was trained in a professional development program called Talent’s Unlimited, and the Latin Patriarchate Schools have adopted that standard. One year they will come to Cincinnati and the next year we will go to them.”
Hijazen was joined on the trip to Cincinnati by fellow Saad Rahhal, Suha Haddadin, Waseim Kasabry, Marina Hanhan, Ghada Kawwa’, Nadia Toffaha and Wafa Qzaih, all of whom work with Hijazen in the Latin Patriarchate School school system in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. According to their website, there are a total of 44 schools, teaching Christians, Jews, Muslims, Samaratans, and Druze.
“(It’s a) cultural exchange,” Hijazen said. “Our teachers, when they come here, they profit. They learn something. Even the teachers coming to us, they discover the reality of the people in the land. It’s important for us, this exchange, for the benefit of the children.”
While in Cincinnati, the delegation from Israel and the West Bank met with Project HOPE board members, Kelly Lomax of Talents Unlimited, members of the University of Cincinnati Department of Education, through which there is an ongoing partnership, and Karen Matuszek of Moeller High School.
The Latin Patriarchate Schools are considering adopting Moeller’s “House System,” which organizes student governance of all grades into smaller groups, or houses.
“Education is very important,” Hijazen said. “In our land, we need hope. Until now, there is no peace. Creating hope, giving hope to people that maybe peace will arrive one day, to live together with all the nations there, Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Without education, we can’t have a new society, a society of love, of burden, of living together and accepting others.
“Our Catholic Schools have this mission to create an atmosphere of mutual respect.”
Martin said one of her biggest takeaways from her trip to Israel and the West Bank was that teachers across the world aren’t as different as some might expect.
“I think there’s a commenality of teachers, just by virtue of the profession,” Martin said. “Good teachers who think outside the box, who know that they are to be constantly learning through their lifetime, have the same values here as in Chicago, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, anywhere, because they care about the learning of their students and they’re going to do whatever it takes to let their students become the best individual that they can be.”