Yousef Mourad Part I
My name is Yousef Mourad. I was born in the year 1921 in Tall Dnoub, a small village close to Khirbet Kanafar in West Bikaa. My mother was Zeina Eliyya from Fouwwarah in the Chouf region.
My father was an old man when he was married. He died before I and my twin brother Deeb Mourad were born. My Father was from Khirbet Kanafar. He was a farmer who used to work in the fields of others for a share of the crops. Our childhood was very miserable.
My mother was from Mount Lebanon but she had to go to the Bikaa region during the First World War where she met my father. They did not live together long as he died early.
My father's house was a mud-house made of clay and hay. We lived in one of the rooms with my mother and in the next room we had a cow and two calves. We were so poor. I don’t understand how we managed, but the grace of God protected us.
Our relatives never visited us because there were no means of transportation. One of our relatives came once to visit. She stood on the mountain and shouted asking how her relatives were. She was told your daughter Zeina died, so she left never to return.
We lived from the produce of the cows. My father was from Khirbet and we had a relative from the Haddad family. My aunt contacted him (Mr. Elias Nassrallah Haddad who was the principal of the elementary school in Schneller - Jerusalem) and asked him to take me and my twin brother to Jerusalem.
We stayed in our village until we were four years old then it was arranged for us to go to Jerusalem. We were taken to Khirbet Kanafar where there was a MKARI (a person who worked his donkey for a fee) called Naja Touma. He took me and my brother to Marj Ayoon putting us in boxes, each on one side of the donkey.
There was a family of Evangelicals in Marj Ayoon, the Aabla family, who had a relationship with Schneller
School. The father had an old Ford and he took us in his car to Schneller
School in Jerusalem.
We were wearing KUMBAZ (ancient Lebanese fluffy trousers) and long boots. We were met in Schneller School by the gate-keeper, Abou Awad, who contacted the director, Pastor Herman Schneller. He referred us to Family Four (boarding home) and the educator was Gottfried Schtiefel.
This was in 1927. BRUDER Schtiefel received us very nicely and changed our clothes and gave us clothing from the school and gave each one a bed. I lived with my brother in Family Four. BRUDER Schtiefel was a very disciplined educator and well loved by children. The next day we were taken to Mr. Elias Nassrallah Haddad who put us in Grade One.
We were very happy because we were eating three meals a day, and this was a great gift to us from the grace of God. We stayed in Jerusalem for three years from Grades One to Three. We were so happy in the school. We were well fed, well educated, MRATABEEN (tidy, well dressed) and everything was free.
We were very happy to work in the afternoon in the gardens and to help by moving stones, because we were used to work at home. Life in the school was so nice. We had holidays on Saturdays and Sundays and during the week we studied and worked.
We were so happy because of the big difference between our previous life and that in Schneller. The BRUDER (educator) was well organized. He was also responsible for the kitchen garden and we worked with him there.
Water was scarce in Jerusalem and we used to collect water all day and use it to water the garden in the afternoon. We grew lettuce, SILEK (chard), FIGEL (radish), KOHL (CABBAGE), RÜ
BE (turnip), spinach, and all the needs of the school kitchen. The seeds used to come from Germany and Family Four was in charge of the kitchen garden.
At Christmas we used to receive gifts, clothing, and shoes. Everything was provided to us from Schneller School. We were so happy!
They used to take us in summer to Beer Salem farm near Ramleh. The farm was 3500 square DUNOMS (1 DUNOM is 1000 square meters). It had oranges, bananas, walnuts, and all kinds of fruits. It also had big swimming pools, the water reservoirs of the farm.
We used to have breakfast with Pastor Hermann Schneller. ONKELMANN (uncle) Sleiman Abboud, an old man originally from Khiyam - Lebanon, used to prepare the food. We used to love him very much because he used to give us lots of sugar in our tea, and he used to cook delicious food.
After breakfast we used to go swimming for two hours in the pools that had the water for the gardens. ONKELMANN (uncle) Abboud used to cook us delicious MAKLOUBEH (local fish dish), and he was very friendly and loved children.
In the evening Pastor Herman Schneller used to gather us for prayer in front of the main building and we used to sing hymns. He used to play the trumpet and we sang.
At the end of the worship time we used to pray. After prayer we had supper and then an hour to play before going to bed.
We used to sleep in the trees in Beer Salem. Each student was given two blankets, and some preferred to make a hole in the sand where it was warmer in the ground.
There was a boy called Mohammad Dajjani whom we all loved. He used to approach sleeping students and throw sand at them.
We also used to go for trips from Beer Salem to the train station, Beer Yacoub, and sometimes to Ramleh. We were very happy during our stay there, but after two weeks we returned to Jerusalem. Transportation was by railway from Jerusalem to Ramleh and back. It was a trip we loved.
After we spent three years in Jerusalem studying, the school decided to move us to the Galilee orphanage in the Nazareth Schneller Branch under the director Pastor Karl Schaaf.
One day Pastor Herman Schneller called me and my brother and we went with him and Miss Schpeidel to Nazareth.
Pastor Schaaf was a very kind person. Nazareth is 140 km to the north of Jerusalem. We arrived there at noon and Pastor Schaaf met us lovingly. He was a very kind person who loved children very much. He was an old gentleman.
Nazareth had only one class at a time. The following year was the next class for all the students. At that time we were in the Forth Grade. We were very happy there. The school overlooked a beautiful view where you could see Marj Ibn Aamer and Mount Tabor. On the other side was also a wonderful view.
We were very happy. Life was wonderful and the teacher was Kamel Musallem, a graduate from Schneller - Jerusalem. He later studied theology in Switzerland and became a pastor.
We spent three very happy years in Nazareth under the loving care of Pastor Schaaf who had a loving nickname to each child. He used to call me: Mein Lieber Libnani.
In addition to learning six hours a day we used to work one and a half
hours in the fields cleaning and harvesting the crops.
The farm had cows and chickens. People from Nazareth used to buy the products and we were also fed from the produce of the farm. Pastor Schaaf was a very clean person who used to visit the farm daily to make sure everything was clean and in order.
There were thirty-six students in this Nazareth one-class. During the holiday all students used to go home except me and my twin brother. We stayed all the time at school including the summer vacation.
We were so happy to be eating with staff during the holidays. I remember that Pastor Schaaf loved me very much, always calling me Mein Lieber Libanani. I was active and good in German. I was also good in sports.
He used to take us during the holiday to the Carmel Mission in Haifa for a few days in the German Hospice on Mount Carmel. He also used to take us to Tiberius, to Tabgha Talhoum were the rivers from Lebanon used to pour in the Tiberius.
The Jerusalem Girls' College had a summer resort there in Kafar Nahoum. He used to rent a car and take me and my twin brother to spend the day with him. We used to swim in Tiberius and he used to swim like a fish. We returned in the evening to school.
We stayed in Nazareth for three years, and then we returned to Jerusalem. I returned to the preparatory school and my brother to the vocational school to learn carpentry.
I spent one year in the preparatory school and then moved to the administration's office to train with Pastor Herman Schneller and Herr Von Tornau. I spent three years there until I was appointed in the school's big shop in Mamilla Street. I worked there for one year then I returned to the administration office.
During that year, 1939, the Second World War broke out. I had my diploma in commerce completed when the war started.
The English administration occupied the school in Jerusalem. In 1939 Schneller school was well known to the British as an orphanage to people from all faiths. They gave Pastor Schneller two weeks to vacate the huge school including the elementary and secondary schools, the workshops and the home for the blind. He was given two weeks to leave the country. In spite of all that they were kind to him being a clergyman.
We were forced to transfer the elementary school to Nazareth with all its students, furniture, mattresses and benches. We had to rent many trucks from Hebron, around fifty lorries, that travelled day and night, back and forth, to move the elementary school to Nazareth including all the food we had in the store.
The intermediate and secondary schools were moved to the German School in Bethlehem in the basement of the Weihnachtskirche.
My future wife's (Lydia's) family had also moved to Bethlehem.
I got a job with the Custodian for Enemy Property for three months.
My brother and his wife had already returned to Lebanon. He was working as a carpenter in Beirut. The situation in Palestine got very bad. The British were preparing to leave. I also decided to leave and return to Lebanon.
I stayed with my relatives, whom I didn't know, for two weeks in the Chouf region, then I moved down to Beirut. I got a job with the Iraqi Petroleum company as an accountant and worked in Beirut for three months.
The economic situation was very bad and I had to help my brother with my salary. The Iraqi Petroleum Company decided to move to Tripoli. They gave us an extra compensation of 200 Lebanese Liras for moving to Tripoli. This was a very big amount which I also used to help my brother in his difficult economic situation.
I had worked in Tripoli for three years when Pastor Herman Schneller returned to Lebanon and was starting the school in Khirbet Kanafar. I contacted him and he offered me work in the administration as the accountant and his assistant. I accepted the job and moved to Khirbet Kanafar.