if one searches the wikipedia encyclopedia today for "schneller
orphanage", one finds the following short article:
"schneller orphanage was a christian orphanage
which operated in jerusalem from 1860 until world war ii. the orphanage
grounds, located on malchei yisrael st. in west-central jerusalem, were
then used as a military base called camp schneller until november 2008.
at this point the site was closed, and there are plans to develop it as
a residential neighborhood for the growing haredi community which
currently lives nearby.
the orphanage was founded in
1860 by the german missionary johann ludwig schneller, who lived in
jerusalem. the decision to open the orphanage came in wake of the 1860
lebanon conflict, in which many christians were killed by muslims and
druze, making a large number of children into orphans. with the
encouragement of the german government, schneller founded the "syrian
orphanage" , commonly known as the "schneller orphanage". the
orphanage's land was purchased from arabs of the nearby village of
lifta. before the buildings were constructed, a second temple period
cemetery was discovered, along with other burial caves.
the orphanage, which provided a german style
education, quickly established a good reputation among middle eastern
christians. the orphanage grew to cover 70 acres, including dormitories,
courtyards, a church, workshops, and more. in addition, houses were
built for graduates of the orphanage nearby, in what became known as
"schneller neighborhood". in april 1934, a choir of children from the
orphanage performed on the occasion of adolf hitler's birthday.
gemini online reviewat the outbreak of
world war ii, the british authorities expelled the german residents of
palestine, including those of schneller. the orphanage became the
central british army camp in jerusalem. it was occasionally attacked by
the irgun and lehi organizations. on march 17, 1948, the british
abandoned the orphanage and transferred its control to the etzioni
brigade of the haganah. for the next 60 years the site served as an
israeli military base. jewish residents of the nachlat yitzchak
neighborhood, forced to abandon their east jerusalem homes in the 1948
war, were resettled in the schneller neighborhood.
in 2008, the idf activities at schneller were
transferred to the ofrit base near mount scopus. the geological survey
of israel which also operated from the site was moved as well. current
plans are to build a haredi neighborhood on the orphanage grounds
including 600 housing units. the orphanage buildings, architecturally
important because of their age and european style, will be preserved and
used as public buildings. right now, environmental organizations are
working to ensure the preservations by the municipality."
this article sadly portrays, in some of its
sentences, how fanatic nationalism blinds people from acknowledging the
most noble of charitable missions. we can clearly see how fanatic
nationalism attributes to the most noble of charitable works the evil
that is intrinsic to its holders. when this comes from wikipedia, then
this is very sad indeed.
a children's choir may have performed for the birthday of the head of
the german state at the time, in gratitude to the german people who
financed and supported the schneller work from its very first days, but
the schneller christian principals that guided its mission can never be
implicated to condone or support the evil that was committed by the nazi
the arab students and members of staff, at the time, were probably
filled with hatred against the zionist immigrants who were terrorizing
them and taking over their land, as much as the zionists were determined
to eradicate them from palestine by terror and genocide.
that is why war is always terrible: because it allows each side to claim
the upper moral ground by claiming the necessary to kill the other on
the opposite side.
german staff may have been patriotic at that time as all people are when
their nations are at war, but it is a serious misjudgment and an
oversimplification of history when the facts we have today about that
dark and ugly period are used to condemn people who lived at the time
the radio was just invented and means of transport took
very long to reach the middle east.
schneller school never tried to import weapons, and never trained its
students for war. schneller school was from 1860 a christian school that
proclaimed love, peace and tolerance among all communities and
religions. johann ludwig schneller tried to have jewish children in his
school when he started his work, and he had a few to the very last days
of the schneller orphanage in jerusalem.
schneller school in jerusalem stood for peace charity and love, as both
johann ludwig schneller school in lebanon and theodore schneller school
in amman stand today.
sadly our beloved school in jerusalem faced the same fate the whole of
palestine faced: it was forcefully occupied. its residents were deported and the orphans who had
the schneller orphanage as a loving home and school lost it and became
orphans and refugees yet again.
schneller german kindness and charity followed them to their
refugee camps, and in their added desperation provided them with two
homes and schools in lebanon and jordan. yes, the legacy of the syrian
orphanage and schneller, for the last 150 years is that of charity,
love, tolerance, and peace; and that is how it will continue, through
the grace of god, for the next 150 years and beyond.
this is the jubilee we are celebrating this year.
may we all work for peace so that the dark memories of the past may
not be relived by future generations.
may we all have the humility and objectivity to accurately read history,
in order to learn from the mistakes of previous generations and thus
provide our children with a future of true peace.