Picture of Founder

Yousef Mourad Part II KHAWAJA Yousef Mourad

Before we begin our second interview about JLSS, we need to ask you a few questions:
It is written in the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia that a choir from Schneller went to Germany to sing on the birthday of Adolf Hitler, and that the school tried to import weapons from Germany to train the students for the future war against the Jews. What do you think of such claims?
This is a great lie. I was one of the students at the time. The name of Hitler was never mentioned to us. The Schneller family had nothing to do with Hitler or the Nazis. The director then Rev. Theodore Schneller, son of the founder, was a very religious person and a very old man. He was only concerned with providing food, clothes, and education to orphans. His main concern was to provide students with good education and vocational training; specifically for the poor and blind, both boys and girls.
We had the largest school for the blind in the Middle East. It was for girls and boys. We had an elementary school and a vocational school for the blind. I was in Schneller from 1924 till 1948. The name of Hitler was never mentioned in the school.
There were some people who spoke openly against the war. Mr. Ghattas Khader who was the tailor was openly against the Germans and was always saying the Germans will lose the war. There were also some Germans who were against the German war. I will mention Rev. Kabbes and his wife who were Germans and were totally and openly against the Nazis and the war. He took over the administration of the Schneller Orphanage after Hermann Schneller was forced to leave to Australia.
There was also Herr Liepmann who was a German Jew and was the teacher of German in school. He was an extremely kind and calm person. He never said anything related to politics. He was loved by all.
We were in the midst of Measharem area of Jerusalem which was a strictly Jewish neighborhood. The people were local inhabitants from olden times. We were in the midst of the Jewish quarter. We had very good relations with all our Jewish neighbors before the occupation of the orphanage. We used to buy everything from them. They were near our school and all the needs of the Schneller children were provided through them.
Dr. Wallach’s hospital was near Schneller, and although there was the German hospital in Jerusalem, we always went to the hospital of Dr. Wallach. They treated all the Schneller students free of charge by a kind decision from Dr. Wallach who himself was Jewish.
One of the Wallach hospital employees was an electrical engineer, and he used to come to repair our electric generators also free of charge.
We had excellent relations with our Jewish neighbors, and they were very good to us. The engineer from the Wallach hospital was very humble and kind. He used to come on the bicycle to our school.
Schneller School was never fanatic or pro war and Nazis. We were in the Jewish compound and Hermann Schneller never allowed any political discussions. Even the German members of staff were not allowed to have political discussions or bring political or war propaganda material to school.
Our printing press, the most modern printing press in Palestine then, used to buy all its needs (paper etc.) from the largest Jewish firm: Silberstein in Jerusalem. We had very good relations with them all.
The same was with the farm of the orphanage in Jerusalem. All the supplies of fodder and other needs for the cows were bought from a Jewish merchant whose name I do not remember. I remember him as a kind person with a long beard.
As the Schneller orphanage was in the Jewish quarter all members of staff used to buy their needs from the nearby Jewish shops, and they went to the Jewish coffee shops almost daily.
We also had Jewish students. I can mention Shlomo from Jerusalem whose family lived in Meashaerem near our school. There were also Fritz and Hans Braunlich who were Jewish. Fritz was a very diligent and bright student. He was always the first in his class.
The gatekeeper was an old Jewish man.
The claim that the Schneller Orphanage had anything to do with weapons is the greatest lie. Schneller had nothing to do with weapons, and a knife was prohibited in the school.
We always played football with the Jewish boys of the neighborhood. There was never any misunderstanding with the neighbors. None of the staff had a knife let alone guns.
We were a Christian community that was very peaceful and tolerant. We never believed in war. Schneller School and the Schneller family had the motto of peace all the time. There was never any military training in the school. There were sport exercises only, nothing to do with the military or weapons.
Dr. Ticho, the very famous ophthalmologist, was also a friend of the school, and he used to treat our children almost freely. There were also two other Jewish doctors living close to the school who used to come and treat our children free of charge. They were very kind people and they used to help orphans. We had great respect to them. I was treated by the Jewish doctors, and they were very kind people to us. We had nothing to do with racism, and they also were the same. Schneller never had arms in it. It was a home of peace and tolerance.
The Jewish people or militias never attached the school. There was not one single incident that I remember.
When the British army (The Middle East Pay Command) took over the main building, they allowed all the workshops to function under our control. They used to pay 292 Pounds Sterling a month for rent of the buildings. The soldiers were very kind to our people. They built barracks between the main building and the blind home, in the main playground, in order to house many soldiers for the Middle East Pay Command.
The school was closed at that time, and we sent our secondary students and staff to Bethlehem to the German Lutheran School. The elementary students were transferred to our branch in Nazareth, to the Galilee orphanage. The vocational school, the brick factory, the tailors’ workshop, the carpentry workshop, the printing press, the shoe factory, and the pottery workshop, were all operating at that time. The blind people were taken to the German bishopric (Propstei) in Prophets Street in Jerusalem very close to the school.
The Schneller Orphanage was taken over by the British and not attacked by the Jewish community. All academic teaching was stopped at that time.

The Schneller Orphanage in Jerusalem had girls right from the very beginning to the very last day. How was that managed?
The girls in Jerusalem were with us in classes, in church, and during the day recesses, but after school they went to the girls’ building which was very modern and away from the boys' buildings. They also had their own separate playgrounds. Fräulein (Miss) Ermela Schneller, later Frau (Mrs.) Bauer, who was the daughter of the director, Rev. Theodore Schneller the founder’s son, was in charge of the girls’ building. She was very strict, and the girls feared her.

Can you tell us what you remember about the early days of JLSS?
When Rev. Hermann Schneller returned from Australia, the school was in Bethlehem. He thought it was necessary to find a safer place for the students. He thought of Khirbet Kanafar because there were many graduates from Khirbet. Hermann Schneller and his father Theodore used to visit Khirbet Kanafar and they had good relations with the community. They had previously helped with the building of the Evangelical church there. They liked to move to Khirbet for safety. Lebanon at the time was the safest place.
The students in Nazareth were brought with the help of Mr. Iskandar Haddad to Lebanon, first to Shimlan and later to Zahleh. They stayed in Zahleh until the Swiss Committee that owned 5% of the total value of the property of the orphanage in Jerusalem got some compensation. The Israeli government paid the value of the Swiss share in the Jerusalem property. The Swiss consul in Jerusalem, Mr. Lutz, got this money and gave it to Rev. Hermann Schneller. With this amount the land in Khirbet was bought and the construction and building work of Johann Ludwig Schneller School was started.
They started in 1952 building the director’s house and what was later known as the kitchen and laundry building. They moved the boys to Khirbet, and everything was done in that first building. They studied, ate, slept, and did everything in that single small building. The number of students was very small.
Rev. Hermann Schneller visited the Protestant church in Tripoli soon after that. There were many employees there who were Schneller graduates. Hanna Nukho was there, and he was asked to come to work in JLSS. He refused because he was closely related to the Beirut and Tripoli churches. I was also approached by Rev. Hermann Schneller during that visit. He asked me to come to JLSS. I said I am ready. He told me that when the construction work on the administration building was finished he would tell me to move there and take charge of the administration office.
My Brother Adeeb Mourad was already in JLSS. The carpentry building was already constructed and he was working there. The engineer Kamel Abboud was in charge of construction. They built the carpentry workshop first because it was needed for making the doors and windows for all the buildings. The general mechanics department was also in the carpentry building. Family 3 building was then constructed. It also included the first church hall. That is why we have the small bell there.
Student numbers started increasing. Work on the foundation of St. Michael’s Church was also started with its basement.
It was very difficult at that time. Rev. Hermann Schneller was already an old man. It was necessary to expand in order to accommodate more children. They also started building Family 1 and because of the water table they had great difficulty. They had to put big foundations to support the building.
“Jeder Anfang ist schwer”: every beginning is difficult. We only had very little money. Some people from Khirbet gave us land. Engineer Gerhard Langmaack was the architect who designed the church with his famous (Bogen) arch design. Hermann Schneller wanted the wooden ceiling.
The first days were very difficult. We brought the food from Zahleh, and Salim Abou Fakr used to bring the food items from there. We also used to buy some food items from Khirbet from the shop of Elias Michael.
Academic teaching was started first and later vocational training followed.
Germany was coming out of the war. Germany couldn’t send money. It was the Swiss share that saved us at that time.
Maria Schneller, Hermann Schneller’s sister, was in charge of the kitchen.
Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) sent nine calves and one bull, and Herr Eckhard and his wife came from Germany. He was very hard working. We bought 400 DUNUMS (1 DUNUM equals 1000 square meters) from Bustrus. The money was sent through Frau Wassermann from Brot für die Welt. She knew the German pastor in Haifa who was in charge of Brot für die Welt after the war. They sent us 180,000 Deutsch Marks with which we bought the farming land and the land at the entrance of Khirbet to sell to employees to build their houses there. Eckhard worked hard on improving the land. He worked with primitive tools and hand labor. We did not even have a tractor. He used to produce a lot of food for the children. Hans Schneller worked in the farm after Eckhard. At his time an old tractor was bought.
Rev. Hermann Schneller sent for Rev. Wassermann who started assisting him. Rev. Wassermann got grants from Brot für die Welt to build the Seminar building, the farm, the workshops, and the main kitchen. He also completed the church.
Rev. Wassermann was very hard-working, and he served in a dedicated manner. After he finished his term Rev. Hermann Schneller returned for less than one year. After him came Rev. Hermann Gehring as director.
Rev. Gehring was a very straight forward man who did not fear anybody. He was a very firm person, and was very carefully following up the work of the school. He was very strict with the employees. He was very fair and firm. Once I was going with him to the ministry of education. On the way to Shtaura he noticed Salim Hanna, one of the JLSS teachers driving with Rev. Jabra Zabaneh. He followed them and stopped them. He asked them to return immediately as Salim Hanna was supposed to be in school teaching. He was very tough with educators (house parents) when he reached their Families (boarding homes) early in the morning and found that they did not get up on time. We used to stop for sandwiches after a long day of doing work for the school. Sometimes his wife used to be with us. He used to make her pay for her sandwich. He used to tell her: “I and KHAWAJA Yousef are doing work for the school, but you must pay for your own sandwich”.
He used to wake up very early to check on the work of the school.

Yousef Mourad
Zahleh 22 March 2010
Schneller School Name in Arabic
Johann Ludwig Schneller Schule

Education for Peace since 1860