Yousef Mourad Part II
Before we begin our second interview about JLSS, we need to ask you a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
He used to wake up very early to check on the work of the school.
Zahleh 22 March 2010