THE DESERTED OLD CITY OF NAZARETH
We are just leaving behind the 1st of May, a day that is celebrated in many countries around the world as the day of work and the labour movement. Work. When we have it, we take it for granted, when we don't have it, we painfully perceive the economic disadvantages.
Nazareth, a small Galilean town where Jesus spent his childhood with his parents, Mary and Joseph is a pilgrimage town for many Christian pilgrims. Most people think of the Bible and Jesus Christ when they hear the name, Nazareth. The dome of the great Basilica of the Annunciation towers over the old city. The city attracts with cheaper rents than in the big cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa and with qualified young people. Every year, well-educated people are flushed onto the job market in private Christian schools.
But a walk through the centuries-old Old City through Nazareth, a place that until a few years ago was a place of commerce and colourful activity makes it clear how badly the place was hit by the lack of tourism during the pandemic years. Most of the former folding gates that were opened early in the morning daily by the Arab merchants are rusted and have been closed for years. The old city is now a haunted place - empty and deserted. Some artists and cultural initiatives have been set up to save the place, and some hostels and lodgings are in the old town, but the hustle and bustle of the merchants remain absent.
DSPR in Galilee supports especially women to get a foothold in the labour market and to get economic knowledge in the light of the difficult economic situation and the fact that the Old Town has lost its lustre.
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN NAZARETH
This spring in Nazareth, 14 women successfully completed our economic empowerment training. The participants received life and self-confidence-building skills as well as economic skills to start their small businesses. The course has targeted women who want to start their own businesses, two trainers have accompanied the women during this time. They are very experienced and have previously worked with women in the south of Israel with Bedouin women. They also help the participants to present themselves properly, whether on social media or in real life. The program also includes a professional photo shoot and a learning session on how to make a good impression at job interviews. Every year, sixteen women are expected to go through this course and develop their own ideas for their future in it. The trainers make the women feel that they can achieve anything and believe in women. This is an important message for women who do not know exactly how to go about life and what they should change. In this course, the women have learned to understand the laws for self-employment in Israel, how to deal properly with banks and insurance companies, and how to navigate the tax system.
The women are between 18 and 50 years old. What the women have in common is that they have reached a point in their lives where they need to make a change; many have become unemployed due to the pandemic or other circumstances, or simply want to improve their job prospects. The women meet weekly for a few hours and are accompanied by the trainer intensively and personally on their way to a new future. The focus is not only on technical content but also on strengthening women on a personal level, giving them self-confidence, and helping them to recognize their talents and find their place in society. Rawan worked part-time in an insurance company. As the pandemic progressed, she had to stay at home a lot. She also completed the orientation course and decided to start her own business as a nail designer. While training, she started working at home with friends and family members. Now she is in the process of looking for and opening her own salon. The trainer opened her eyes to the fact that she can do it, that she can start her own business. She is in the process of building a network of clients with the help of the trainer.
25 YEARS DEDICATED TO THE SERVICE OF PALESTINIAN REFUGEES
One of our main goals of DSPR ICCI in Nazareth is to empower the Palestinian youth inside Israel not only in the face of discrimination ad recognition but also to acquire the acknowledgement and skills. Palestinian Christian youth often face difficulty with their identity. With Israeli citizenship, a Palestinian soul and a Christian background, they often feel like second-class citizens, in the minority and marginalized. As in most Arab villages in Israel, the community lacks a framework and activities. One of the oldest programs for educational acknowledgement is the Educational Loans program, given since 1983 to college applicants who otherwise could not have afforded a good education.
For 25 years, Georgette Hadad has taken care of granting the Loans. In 1998, as a qualified typist, she started as an assistant and after 5 years took over as Loan Officer. Since then, she has spent 20 years granting loans to needy college students and then applying gentle pressure to ensure that they are repaid. A time that has shaped not only her personality but also the relationship between DSPR ICCI in Nazareth and especially the Christians there.
The loans were given to socio-economically weak students, regardless of their religious background, who are pursuing a course of study and are repaid without interest as soon as the students have completed their education. In the past, 250 loans were disbursed per year, but now only 25 are. Georgette says that nowadays most students are working, and loans are therefore no longer in such high demand. More important for the future are programs that DSPR ICCI runs in the North, such as Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue. The Christian population is declining. In Nazareth, for example, there are 30 per cent Christians and 70 per cent Muslims. Christian youth need to be strengthened.
In general, Georgette tells us that the situation has worsened in Nazareth in recent years. There are increased shootings and also murders in Nazareth. She often hears the gunshots in the evening hours. This is also another reason for the extinction of the stores in the old city. It is safer to drive directly to the gated malls than to walk through the old city. We believe that by socially re-integrating our youth into actively taking part in social and community processes, our youth will be more involved in determining as well as shaping their future.
Since 1998, Georgette Hadad has not only worked as a faithful soul for ICCI DSPR in Nazareth but has dedicated her life to the Christian program that empowers Palestinians. For she has spent far more time here during these years than with her family. Longstanding relationships have been formed with some loan recipients, and some have sent their children to DSPR ICCI for support after decades. Georgette goes on to say that it is a big step, especially for single Palestinian women, to retire; quite a few go through trauma because the meaningful activity of their lives suddenly breaks away. Georgette is trying to counteract this by continuing to engage in meaningful work. She will continue to volunteer at ICCI DSPR one weekday and she will help support the local Christian women's ministry. Then, of course, she looks forward to spending a little more time with her children and grandchildren.
Hussam Elias, the Executive Director looks back with great gratitude on his years together with Georgette at the Office. He began leading the Nazareth Office as Executive Director in 2000 and is the age of Georgette's children. In some organizations this can be a difficult constellation, but not so in the Nazareth Office. Hussam describes Georgette as a wise woman who has a very unique approach to talking to people so that they feel they should repay the loans for the common good, on the other hand, a Palestinian student has less chance to finance and complete his studies. But the most important thing for Hussam is that Georgette is a 100 per cent trustworthy person.
Georgette loves to help, so she will continue to volunteer for ICCI DSPR one day a week. Finally, there is no money for a new professional and she will continue to take care of Loans on a smaller scale. We wish Georgette God's blessings for her future and thank her for her valuable work.