AVSI in Holy Land: we keep on investing in education

From Bethlehem, Francesco Buono – AVSI Palestine Country representative – tells about the situation in West Bank and our commitment to support 1,200 students and their families

Countries Palestine
Date 19.12.2023
Author by Francesco Buono, AVSI Palestine country representative

About AVSI’s work in the Holy Land

The ongoing conflict is making it almost impossible for families to live a normal life. There is much concern about what is happening and about the future, and we are doing what we can to ensure continuity in our interventions. The children and young people attending AVSI-supported schools in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Jericho are all well and safe, but they are scared and feel extremely vulnerable. We will not leave them alone. The Distance Support team in Palestine continues to stay close to their families, teachers, and educators. We are working with school social workers to readjust teaching methods and extracurricular activities to the current emergency context: now more than ever, children need to feel safe and strengthen their bonds and confidence.

The situation in West Bank

Access to the main urban centers and most villages has been severely restricted, with often, if any, just one way in and out. This, in conjunction with the suspension of all Israeli work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank and the almost complete halt of the tourism sector, shattered the already fragile local economy. Many families are, in fact, nowadays, dealing with the job loss of one or more members, which, in turn, severely impacts the ability of the household to cope with the needs of its most vulnerable elements: women, children, and elders. Moreover, a high increase in violent attacks from settlers and Israeli Defence Forces raids strongly impacted the already volatile sense of security between the population.

As a result, life proceeds slowly, with activities planned day by day and often getting disrupted by new closures, flying checkpoints, or raids.

Bethlehem, in particular, has always been a lively city, enjoying a constant stream of pilgrims that stop by at the local shops, fill the restaurants, and visit the Holy places in the area. Nowadays, though, none of these are seen around; the few open shops usually close right before sunset, and the city gets quiet, bracing for night raids.
The feeling of being forgotten and abandoned by the world is an everyday companion for people who are innocent and involved in a new, unpredictable war.

In this situation, AVSI Palestine is active in supporting six schools affiliated with the Custody of the Holy Land, serving around 1,200 Palestinian students. Providing access to education through fee payment for 460 of them and extracurricular Psychosocial support-oriented activities to around 600 students per year.

After the October 7th crisis and the unfolding situation AVSI Palestine has also decided to devote specific attention to parents and caregivers, activating an art therapy and psychosocial support course for them that will run through the month of December.

Our presence here has a clear goal: promoting development projects, which is our core business, and thanks to our work contributing to the building of a just peace in the Holy Land. Even though in these moments such a hope can seem out of reach, we believe that our effort in supporting schools and investing in education remains our only chance to see a different future unfold in front of our eyes. 

For this reason, despite the recurrent crises and the shadow of a long war, we have chosen to remain here and continue to give our contribution. We strongly believe, even in light of recent events, that each one must enjoy the right to become a protagonist in the development of his or her community, regardless of the conditions on the ground.

We desire peace in Palestine: the campaign to keep on investing in education in Holy land

Here’s where the help of our donors comes in. We need their support to stay put and invest in an education that is focused on peace. The flexibility of the contribution given by those who directly decide to invest in our mission and vision is invaluable during times of crisis since it gives us the chance to respond rapidly and effectively to emerging needs. Through this support we will be specifically able to widen the scope of our psychosocial activities, reaching more children and focusing on rebuilding their trust in the world of adults as well as in the future.

Donating now means contributing to the transformation of the conflictual dynamics on the ground with a people centered approach, where the contribution of our donors becomes a gateway towards inclusive educational activities aiming at enriching the developmental path of Palestinian youth. 

Especially now, when the actual conflict calls for more violence and radicalization, donating to AVSI Palestine means acting concretely against the tide and breaking the cycle of violence.