Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ramallah Friends Meeting House Celebrates Its Centennial

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ramallah Friends Meeting House Celebrates Its Centennial

Article excerpt

THE Sandy Spring, MD Friends Meeting House, in the suburbs of Washington, DC, hosted a celebration on April 10 of the 100-year-old Ramallah Friends Meeting House in Palestine half a world away. Looking around the full house, organizers said they "took a leap of faith" when they planned the celebration, wondering if anyone would come. John Salzberg welcomed guests and Bette Hoover asked for a show of hands of people who had visited the Ramallah Meeting House at some time in their life. Hands shot up from many pews and faces glowed with memories.

Quakers from the U.S. took a leap of faith in 1867, when they first traveled to Ramallah and built a school for girls in 1869 and boys in 1905. The Ramallah Meeting House was dedicated in 1910. Jean Zaru, who was born in Ramallah to a Quaker family in 1940, and has been the presiding clerk of the Ramallah Friends Meeting for over 17 years, sent a video message. Author of Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks (available from the AET Book Club), Zaru is founding member and vice-chair of Sabeel, an ecumenical Palestine Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Her son, Saleem, spoke about growing up in the Ramallah Meeting, and learning important life lessons while he picked up trash every week.

Arlene Kelly described filming children excited on the first day of school in Ramallah, during the second intifada. She later filmed their return to school after a long curfew during which schools were closed. "The children came back flat, quiet, afraid to leave their parents. …

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