Beit Jala is a small town that lies near Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born. It is relatively small and its inhabitants do not exceed ten thousand. Most of its people are Christians, about 87%, and the rest are Muslims. Together with Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, Beit Jala forms a Christian triangle where many Christians live.
Bethlehem lies in its east borders in parallel direction of Jerusalem-Bethlehem-Hebron road that starts from its east-north part and ends in its east south part. Al-Khader and Ertas are small villages that lie in its east-south part while in its west part, lie some small villages such as Beit safafa, Sharafat, AL-Malha and Al-Walaja.
It is believed that the name Beit Jala is derived from the Syriac word Calla that means collection of stones. While others think that it is derived from another word, which is Gyliwa that means happiness. This name is mentioned in the Holy Bible.
History tells us that people started to dwell in Beit Jala when Christianity began to extend widely. On the other hand Christians aimed at forming themselves as groups in Bethlehem area to gain certain strength especially when Islam took power in the region. Beit Jala was considered as a guesthouse that welcomed so many people. Saint Nicola approached it in the 5th century and spent all his life in a small cave where a church named after his name has been built. Saint Thewthosius also came to Beit Jala for praying only and settled near a place called Cathisma or Qadismo well that lies on Jerusalem-Bethlehem road.
In 1912 the first council was established in the town. Mr. Salim Abu Al-subl was the first mayor and since then another 15 successive mayors have taken in power and Mr. Nicola Khamis is the present mayor of Beit Jala.
Beit Jala witnessed an early educational movement in comparison with other Palestinian cities and villages. This was due to the role-played by some Latin, Orthodox and Anglican churches in the city.
2. The Latin Patriarchate School:
The Latin Patriarchate School was the first school founded in the town in 1854. This school was for girls and it was run by the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.The Orthodox Patriarchate established another school for girls in 1858. The Anglican Church had its own school that was interested in teaching languages. In 1936 the Clerical Institute was transferred to Beit Jala from Jerusalem where it was established in 1852.
The constructing of these schools aims at spreading the spiritual awareness in Christian faith in the one hand. On the other hand it aims at enhancing the process of education at that time that would serve the society and the people. The Patriarchate schools didn’t only have the target of educating and teaching, but they also supported and helped the communities themselves socially and financially. The school was named St. Josef School after the saint Josef name until 1960. Then its name was changed into the Rosary Sisters school for several years and finally it was decided to change its name into the Latin Patriarchate school.
The school was a primary school until 1994. Since then it has been changed into a secondary school that consists of all the educational grades. It’s the only secondary school in the area that belongs to the Latin Patriarchate. Students who attend this school come from other Latin Patriarchate schools in the region and of course from other schools.
The number of students in this scholastic year 98-99 exceeded 700 students, boys and girls, distributed in its three educational stages. The students come from Bethlehem area, Christians and Muslims, both religions are taught in this school and it is worth while to mention that it is a mixed school for boys and girls.
The school curricula are the same curricula taught in the state schools except the foreign languages. English language has its own materials in this the Latin Patriarchate schools. English is taught from the first elementary grade. French language is also taught in this school. The school has a well-equipped laboratory that helps the students again more knowledge theoretically and practically. This laboratory meets the requirements needed while teaching and learning physics, chemistry and biology.
- In 1848 the Latin Patriarchy of Jerusalem was re-established with Msgr. G. Valerga as its Patriarch.
- In 1852 Msgr. Valerga founded the Latin Seminary in Beit Jala.
- The Seminary is the only Roman Catholic diocesan seminary in the Middle East. The Seminary is the central place where students from Jordan, Palestine and Israel are prepared to become priests.
- It is divided into a minor and a major Seminary
The Minor Seminary:
- Consists of five grades and newcomers are slotted into specific classes based upon their prior schooling and level of education. The young seminarians attend classes in the parish school adjacent to the seminary.
- After successful completion of baccalaureate exams they are entitled to consideration for admission to the Major Seminary.
The initial three year period in the Major Seminary is devoted to spiritual education to provide a good basis for a spiritual life and deepen the sense of vocation and a life of prayer.
During this period the seminarians are taught French, the language used in teaching theology and philosophy.
The curriculum of the Major Seminary encompasses classical coursessuch as; logic, psychology, cosmology, religious sociology, dogmatic,moral and pastoral theology, Canon Law, Holy Scriptures and liturgy.
Seminarians are also offered courses in Islamic culture and Judaism asthey live in a pluralistic society and courses are taught by Moslem and Jewish lecturers.
Two years are dedicated to philosophy and four years to theology. The seminary is affiliated with the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome which authorizes seminarians to be awarded degrees in philosophy and theology.
The typical seminarian in the Major Seminary devotes nine years of study and preparation in anticipation for ordination to the priesthood.
The seminary complex consists of a church, a priest convent, a nuns’ convent and a seminary school.
Fruits of the Latin Seminary:
In the past 15 years thirty priests have been ordained. Currently, half of the student body in the Minor and Major Seminary come from Jordan, the other half are from Palestine and Israel.
As of mid 2008, twelve of our priests have become bishops and three; Msgr. Giacomo Beltritti, Msgr. M. Sabbah and Msgr. F. Twal were appointed to serve as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
- The ordained priests serve throughout the Diocese of Jerusalem which includes Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus.
Parish Priest: Fr. Hanna Salem
Tel: +970.2.274.2612 or