We are delighted to welcome two special guests to our Presbytery, Elias Abu Ghanima and Abuna (Father) Arif. Many of you are familiar with Archbishop Chacour and the Mar Elias Educational Institutions he founded in Ibillin, in the Galilee, near Haifa, Israel. Elias AG, as he is called, is the person to whom the Archbishop turns for interpretation of the Mar Elias vision when he is not available, and is the director (principal) of the high school — educating over 1,200 students grades 9-12. The high school is one of the top rated high schools in all of Israel. The students are Muslim, Christian, and Druze. The faculty is made up of persons of Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish faiths. Elias AG is also a teacher of English, one of the three languages students are taught at the school, Arabic, Hebrew and English. Abuna Arif is in a new part time position for the schools. He oversees the entire K-12 school, working with the principals of the several divisions, and with the board of directors, as well as representing the school in its external relationships, including with the Israeli government, and providing a Christian voice in interfaith conversations. All together, the schools provide essential education for close to 3,000 students — an amazing fact given the battles that the Archbishop and his staff have fought over the years to make his vision of education for Palestinian students a reality.
Abuna Arif is also the full time pastor of the two Melkite Catholic Churches that are in the villages of Arraba and Sakhnin.
On Tuesday night, April 4th, the Presbyterian Church of Bound Brook will have a pot-luck dinner at 6:00 and a program to follow at 7:00; on Wednesday night, April 5th, the Pennington Presbyterian Church will have a dinner at 6:30 with a program to follow. The program will focus on Christian schools in the Israeli context: what makes them unique, why have they emerged and why are they still needed. The two leaders will also address the situation of Palestinians living as a minority on the Israeli side of the Green line (the UN boundary line establishing the West Bank separately from the state of Israel, largely ignored by Israel with the establishment of numerous Israeli settlements).