Smakieh is a small Christian village located about 120 kilometers south of Amman in a semi-desert area, about 10kms south east of Shihan Mountain. The surrounding land is predominantly agricultural with cereal crops, sheep and goats. This supports some of the population, having caves for shelter and wells providing water for the sheep. Water for home consumption is pumped from Karak further south. There are some olive trees but these are mostly in small areas around houses, their crops being mainly for home consumption.
The name Smakieh, which means sunny land, is derived from the overall shape of the village which is said to resemble a fish. The land of Smakieh was a gift from the head of the Muslim Majali family, Sheakh Mohammad Quadri Majali, who gave it to the Christians because of their good relationship in co-operating with him.
There are two families in Smakieh who came from Petra in the 17th century, Hijazin who came from Hijaz Akasheh in Wadi Musa and the Nasraween, family of Akasheh, who originally came from Nazareth in Palestine.
In the early 19th century, a priest from the Latin church in Karak rode on a donkey to pray and celebrate Mass, usually in a tent, for these people. The original families were Orthodox but some soon converted to Latin Catholicism. Later around 1875 there were problems between the two priests caused by the Hijazin being Catholic and the Nazraween being Orthodox. At this time it was decided to have a Catholic priest living permanently in the village. In 1909, Mgr Piccardo asked for permission from the Majali Shaekh to allow the Bedouins to build houses instead of living in tents. The first houses were mainly one room built with walls simply constructed using mud, stone, straw and bamboo.
The Latin Patriarchate Parish:
Since the foundation of the Latin parish, in 1912, there has been a permanent church dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. There was no priest in the parish during the First World War until 1920 when Father Gabriel Swedan came from Hoson in the north of Jordan. The present church and convent were built in 1925 when Father Angelo Foresto was parish priest.
Because of the continuing problems of religious differences between the two families, a Melchite church and community was established in1934. There are some Muslims, about ten families, living in the surrounding locality. Nowadays the population is about 2000, many of them are younger people working in education, nursing or in the army.A few rely on agriculture for their living. On average the income is at a low level for most families especially the Muslims, who usually find work on the Christian owned farms.
People of Smakieh, 1936
The Latin Patriarchate School:
Usually the Christian educated leave for better employment in the armed forces or police. Some of the inhabitants were in the army when they were younger, older ones may have served with Glubb Pasha many years ago and have spoken of their happy memories of those days.
The original school, founded in 1910 was only for girls and run by nuns, the boys attended one run by men from the village. In the 1960’s the two joined together to become a mixed school and took children up to the 9th Grade. Many public figures at the time were educated in the school. One of the past pupils, who later left the village to live in Jerusalem, was elected to the Government there and became chairman of the department responsible for the Christian Church schools in Palestine.
It was in 1910 that the Rosary Sisters came to the village to play an important role in serving the church, school and parish. They trained and helped the women to read and cook. There are at present two sisters carrying on their essential and effective work.
During the past few years a group of young volunteers has come from America to run a summer “camp” in the village, working with the children and living with families in their homes. They came from a Presbyterian parish in Houston, Texas.
The youth of the village work hard for a good education and go on to further education and graduation in local universities. Many of the teachers at Wassieh and other Latin Patriarchate schools in the area are from Smakieh. Others are working in government schools.
Relations between the communities of the Latin church and the Melkite church in the village are excellent. The present Melchite priest assists Father Rifat helping his parishioners when he is absent. Today in Smakieh there is a Post Ofice, Health Centre, Welfare Society and Municipality Office.
The Kindergarten was built in 2002, on the outskirts of the village, with the financial help of the Netherlands Lieutenancy. It is a good spacious building but very much in need of up to date equipment. In the classrooms you find only the furniture, consisting of round tables with chairs and almost empty bookshelves. The equipment in use is mostly that which the teachers have made themselves. The walls are decorated with the children’s and teacher’s work. The outside play area is large but with the ground surface in a poor condition. The climbing and other equipment is metal and unsafe for small children, consequently this area is not in use.
- There is a recently appointed Principal, Tasaheel Hijazeen, in charge of the school with five teachers, all female and Christian.
- The present roll is 70 children with 30 boys and 40 girls. Of this total 12 are Muslim and 58 Christian.
- There are two classes in each of KG 1 and KG 2, with an average of twenty per class.
- The fifth room is used for Television.
- Their day begins at 8 a.m. and finishes at 12.30 p.m.
- Before the present building was constructed the Kindergarten was one room in the main school in the centre of the village.
THE MAIN SCHOOL
The Elementary School occupies the same site as the church in the centre of the village. When the school was established in 1910 there was only the priest and two nuns from the Rosary Sisters teaching the few children. Two years later a small school was built and this stayed in use until 1950? (1965?) when, with financial help from a Lieutenancy in France a new school was built providing five more classrooms.
In 1973 the classrooms of the old Kindergarten School were renovated, followed by the building of new classrooms for the Main School in 1985. Again in 1990 the additional building constructed provided more classrooms with offices for the Principal and Secretary and a room for the teachers.
Originally this school had the Kindergarten plus Grades from 1 to 9. With the opening in 2000 of Wassieh High School and the Kindergarten moving to new premises the grades were reduced to eight.
The Principal, Mrs Shadieh Amreen, has a staff of 13 teachers, 11 female and 2 male, 11 are Christian and 2 are Muslim. There is one Secretary. On roll there are 208 children comprising 129 boys and 79 girls, 165 Christian and 43 Muslim.
The buildings are split into three, due to the different stages of construction and extensions in 1966 and 1985. The largest and newest houses the offices and five classrooms and the science laboratory. Underneath these is a large multipurpose hall, which is used by the school and parish. Grades four to eight are in these classrooms, grades one to three are in an adjacent building, which also has a room underneath used as the shop where the children buy their playtime snacks at a reduced rate. The remaining building, the orginal school, facing the others from the opposite side of the playground on the other side of the church, has three rooms, one for computers and the other a library with room next to it for classes using the library. Of the ten computers only six were working, others do not have a mouse or keyboard.
The two Rosary Sisters, in addition to their parish duties, also work in the school teaching religion.
Outside there is a spacious area, on two levels and partly surfaced, which is used for play and sport. The unsurfaced area extends behind the house and church.
Smakieh: Saint Michael
Pastor: Rev. Tareq Abu Hanna
Tel: (03) 232 01 52
Fax: (03) 232 02 80