Feeding Minds

by Antoine D. Nesnas and Conception Pacia
photos: CNEWA files

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Hoda is 14 years old and lives in Nazareth. Before the Pontifical Mission for Palestine (PMP) opened a library in 1972 Hoda didn’t know about the treasures hidden in books. She loves people and through reading has learned about them and their homes in faraway places. Now she can be found in the library every afternoon enjoying her favorite pastime.

The Pontifical Mission for Palestine is the sister organization of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Nadine works at the Gaza School for the Blind. Once a week she makes the 90 minute drive to the Jerusalem PMP library. She usually takes a carton of books away with her and has them translated into the Braille system.

The vast reference and media department of the Bethlehem library provides an added bonus for the students who attend the town’s university. These resources have been especially helpful to 19-year-old Yasir who utilizes them during his remedial English lessons.

Since 1959 when the Jerusalem library opened, the PMP library system has been providing cultural and educational opportunities for the religiously mixed communities of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem. Each library is unique but all three are geared to serve the individual reader as well as the community. Students are encouraged to come to the libraries to do their assignments because they can find assistance and calm not often available in their homes.

The libraries are staffed by members of the lnstituto Teresiana. We know them in the United States as the Teresians. Women belonging to the Institute are either lay or professed members. The Institute was founded in Spain in 1911 by Father Pedro Poveda who was an author and educator. The members devote their lives to furthering Christian education irrespective of age, class or nationality. Each member is required to study for a degree or other professional qualification. The Association is now international and in many countries the members run education centers.

Members of the Instituto Teresiana who work in the libraries do more than catalog and check books in and out. They are women actively involved in the lives of library members. It is not unusual for a librarian to visit residents who are too old or sick to come to the library. Language lessons and cultural clubs are provided. An environment is fostered where teachers can come and exchange problems and ideas. Teachers frequently participate in workshops and receive training through seminars sponsored by the libraries.

The PMP libraries are located in areas where no school library programs exist. PMP librarians integrate programs and resources into the curriculums. In addition to books and reference services schools benefit from poetry and film programs, field trips, study clubs, contests and lectures organized by the librarians.

A look at the library shelves in all three branches shows literature available in Arabic, French, English, German, Spanish and Italian. People can be found reading popular periodicals, classics, text books and novels.

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