Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Legacy of Hind Al-Husseini

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Legacy of Hind Al-Husseini

Article excerpt

ONE COLD DAY in April 1948, 31-year-old Hind al-Husseini happened upon a group of 55 young children outside the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem's Old City. They had been dumped in the Old City and wandered near the church after having survived-and been orphaned by-a massacre in their village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Deir Yassin, by members of the Irgun and the Stern Gang.

Hind rescued the children immediately, bringing them to two rooms she rented for them nearby. Every day, Hind would visit the children with food and spend time with them. She soon brought them to the Sahyoun convent on the Via Dolorosa, following conversations with the head of the convent, who was worried about Hind's safety en route to visiting the children in their two rooms. Palestine was in the midst of a war, and the Old City of Jerusalem was not spared from attacks. Indeed, shortly after Hind removed the children from the two rooms she had rented, those very rooms were bombed. So, within 10 days, the children had narrowly escaped death-first at their homes in Deir Yassin, and then in the Old City.

After the first cease-fire, Hind brought all 55 children-mostly all under the age of nine-from the convent to her family home, a mansion built by her grandfather in Jerusalem in 1891. Hind had been born there on April 25, 1916. On her 32nd birthday, just two weeks after the massacre of Deir Yassin, she renamed the house the Dar Al-Tifl Al-Arabi (Arab Children's House), founding it as an orphanage for the young survivors. "It was the worst of times," she recalled, adding, "It was the end of the Mandate."

Hind created the Dar Al-Tifl foundation to raise money from all over the world to fund and expand the school and its enrollment over the years. In 1949 and in the early 1950s, other orphans from cities and villages including Jaffa, Betunya, Hebron, Qalqilya, Ramle, Jerusalem, Arrabe, Gaza and Lifta joined the school. After 1967, the school accepted only girls, with the exception of pre-school and kindergarten, as well as boarding students until the age of six.

As Hind was of the conviction that women had a right to "proper education," she founded the Hind Al-Husseini College for Women in 1982 as a branch of Al Quds (Jerusalem) University.

By 1995, Dar Al-Tifl had some 300 orphans. …

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