Learn to love reading in Bethlehem

The inauguration of the Book Fair at the Terra Santa School in Bethlehem was held on Monday, March 23 (open to the public until Thursday, March 26). Thanks to school students stationed in key locations, the guests quickly found their way to the theatre. There, before a packed room were handed out awards to authors and personalities from the academic and literary milieu in the presence of Mayor Vera Baboun, the Minister of Social Affairs Issa al-Shoqi, the Minister for Prisoners Issa Qaraqe ‘, the director of education in the district of Bethlehem Nisreen Omro, and Fr. Marwan Di’des OFM, college director and Secretary of schools of the Custody of the Holy Land.

Brother Marwan briefly explained the history of the Book Fair and of the introduced novelties. “This year the Fair offers (with the help of the publishing house Dar il-Jundi) the wide selection of 40 000 titles. Contrary to appearances, the opening of the Fair is not a project in itself because by itself it cannot be enough. The children were prepared for four months and by age group, about how a book should be read”. The first initiative according to Brother Marwan is to encourage young and old to read and thus broaden their horizons, which is essential to the intellectual maturity of the student. In parallel with this cultural project, Terra Santa offers documentary research courses, a necessary support to scientific research technique that refines both critical and cultural thinking.

“With the preparation of the students and the opening of the Fair we can now start with the third stage of the project Bethlehem bouquine”. With the help of school students from Terra Santa, the initiative wants to bring the cultural debate in different schools, creating reading poles where students discuss various and varied topics in the read works. “The Book Fair, said Fr. Marwan, is not a goal in itself but a means, and its results should be evaluated in a year.”

The books overflow the tables in the long corridor of the room. Calligraphed covers and catchy titles slow the pace of passersby. “I blame in no way today’s children, they live to the rhythm of messaging that turns Arabic into abbreviated Latin letters, and they depend on the virtual world that is constantly seeking their attention, he adds. It is true that the Internet is an indispensable source of information; however individual culture must draw both in the cultural as informative sources.”

The relation between student and book is a personal relation, and “like in any friendship, it must be maintained to become firmer, and thus support everyone all his life”, concludes Br. Marwan.

Nizar Halloun

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