A new, private, evangelical Christian school has opened in the shadow of a former high school in the Palestinian town of Hebron.
The school, Shadow Priest, was founded by American priest and preacher Joseph Smith, and has a long tradition in the area.
The school is a joint venture between the New Jerusalem School and the Israel Religious Action Center.
Shadow Priest, named after a priest of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, teaches in the basement of a church, with its windows facing a garden.
Its founder, Rabbi David Breslin, a native of Israel and a professor at the University of Chicago, hopes to make the school a destination for young people and encourage them to become Christians.
Breslin said he started the school with two main goals.
The first is to prepare students for an ideal Jewish life, and the second is to provide a spiritual experience to them as they come of age.
“This is not a place for indoctrination,” he said.
“This is a place of education.”
Shadow Priest began as a high school for high school students, and now it offers an alternative to traditional Christian schools that teach only Jewish history and scripture.
In addition to classes and a chapel, students are encouraged to read and pray in Hebrew and Arabic.
“We want to do something that has not been done before,” said Breslins assistant pastor, Rabbi Mark Lusardi.
“The idea was to do the same thing, but without the indoctrination.”
Breslens main mission is to connect young people with the Holy Land, and to do that he and his students are expected to live their lives as Israelites.
But he said he also hopes to help build bridges among Palestinians and Christians in the region.
“The hope is to give a Christian perspective to the Palestinians,” he explained.
“To understand what is happening in their midst.”
He said that when the two schools meet, he hopes to be able to work with both groups.
“I believe in the power of education, and I think it’s something that can be a bridge between the two communities,” he added.
“It’s not a mission to be one-sided, or even to create conflict.”‘
It was an amazing experience to see the students come from so many different backgrounds, different places, and learn something new’While Bresin’s background as an Israeli-American was not as well-known in the U.S., he said that his students came from so much different backgrounds.
He explained that one of the most impressive parts of the experience was seeing the students learn a variety of different languages.
“As a teacher, I have to be a bit more conscious of what my students’ experiences are and what they might want to learn, but that was an experience to behold,” he admitted.
“What I have seen and learned is a very diverse and varied array of different students, including people from all over the world, from all walks of life, all races, all ethnicities, all sexual orientations, all genders,” he continued.
“I think it was an incredible experience to watch these students come to learn about their Jewish faith.”
In addition to the new school, Bresln also plans to open a small Christian community, with a chapel in the back of the building.
The opening of the new Shadow Priest School in the town of Kfar Qaddum is just one of several initiatives underway to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian region.
A group called Peace on Campus has been working to bring together Israelis and Palestinians for the first time in years, with the goal of reviving ties and peace in the occupied territories.