In 1854 the Sisters of Nazareth came to Israel and settled in Galilee (northern Israel). Four years later, they opened a school in Haifa for children from Haifa and the surrounding areas. At that time, it was certainly not common. Palestine had already been a part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years when this small community came to Palestine.
The population was intentionally denied good education, so as not to endanger the Ottoman rule. But as the Empire fell increasingly into disrepair, with almost total collapse of the political, moral, social and economic system, it sought support from western countries. The result was that Christian missions were allowed to open convents, schools, and hospitals. Women in society were particularly disadvantaged, with no access to education. Therefore, the Sisters of Nazareth were pioneers, having started a girl’s boarding school.
The school did not look at origin or status, everyone was welcome. The school enabled children with limited financial resources to get their education in a Christian atmosphere, by exempting them from paying tuition, or a good percentage of it.
Past and present
In Israel, almost nothing has remained the same. But the Sisters of Nazareth School has remained true to its mission for over a half century: to provide access to education for children from Haifa and the surrounding areas. There are approximately 1,500 students registered in the three divisions of the school:
– Kindergarten: 3-5 years old;
– Primary school: 6-12 years old;
– Secondary school: 13-18 years old.
The goal of the educational system is general personal development. They want the students to prepare to be men and women who are able to build the society of tomorrow. Students discover and develop their identity, whether Christian or not.
The school offers students a high level of study (ie. technical), so that they can gain access to further education and universities.
The school maintains a program to encourage the Arab-Jewish dialogue, through excursions and exchange with Jewish schools. Opportunities are exploited to develop lasting friendships between youngsters of both peoples.