Lying on the fringes of the desert, Madaba is situated on top of a hill, on the edge of a plateau with full views all around, overlooking the Dead Sea. At about 30 kms south west of Amman it is the capital of the Regional Government. It was first mentioned in the Old Testament as having been conquered by the Israelites with the rest of the land of Moab. First inhabited about 4500 years ago it appears in the Bible, being the Moabite town of Medeba. It is also frequently mentioned in narratives concerning the story of Moses and the Exodus. Nearby is the famous pilgrimage site of Mount Nebo. The surrounding fertile land was fought over by the Moabites, Ammonites and other local tribal kingdoms. Ruled for many centuries by the Moabites, in the 2nd Century BC it became part of the Kingdom of the Nabateans that extended from Madaba, through Wadi Mujib, all the way to the Arabian Peninsula. In 106 AD it became part of the Roman province of Arabia and was then a prosperous provincial city surrounded by walls, with colonnaded streets and impressive buildings built upon the original Moab ruins. During this century there was a rapid spread of Christianity when many of its’ inhabitants were martyred by the Romans for their beliefs. Madaba flourished during this period and became a prosperous city with fine buildings. The city continued to be expanded through the Byzantine period until the invasion from Persia in 614 AD.
During the Ottoman Authority, in 1880 some tribes came from Karak, where they had been experiencing hostility. The conflict between some of the Christian and Muslim tribes led to ninety Christian and Orthodox families leaving and fleeing north. On their arrival in Madaba they laid claim to the land surrounding the ruins. The Ottoman authorities agreed with the settlers requests and gave the them permission to build new churches on the sites of previously existing ones. It was in 1884, during the clearing of the ruins of one of these churches, that the famous 6th century mosaic map of the Holy Land was uncovered. This can be viewed in the Greek Orthodox church of Saint George and is the earliest original map of the Holy Land to survive from antiquity.
The first priest, an Italian, Fr Paulo Bandoli arrived and started to build himself a small stone hut. This was used as a living room, church and school. Later his successor, Father Zephyrin Biever wrote, “The classes take place in my cabin, a room which is both kitchen and bedroom, only 2.50 meters high and 4 meters square. You can imagine what the atmosphere is like after the pupils have left!” This developed over the years and by a century later a church and an elementary school had been built.
The Latin Patriarchate School:
In 1891 Father Manfredi was parish priest and he asked the Patriarch to send Rosary Sisters to help in the parish. They arrived in 1896, Sisters Marta Totah and Aniseh Matta. At first they lived with a poor local family while waiting to rent some accommodation but eventually the Patriarch built them a house. This was constructed on ground, which he had purchased, enabling them to start a school for girls. A new school for Girls was built between 1964 and 1965. The Nursery School was first established in new buildings in1974. More classrooms were built in 1982 as the main school expanded. Then, with the transfer of the pupils to the new buildings of a Boy’s School and a Kindergarten in 1992, a multi-purpose hall was constructed. There are four teachers for English, two of them taking the English course run on the Inter-net by Saint Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, organised by the Lieutenancy of England and Wales. There are a total of twenty-nine teachers in Jordan and Palestine following this course.
In 1992 the new school for Boys was built on the southern outskirts of the city in agricultural surroundings. Its’ construction was financed by the Italian Lieutenancies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. This is for boys only from Grade 6 to Grade 12. The present Principal, appointed in 2006, is Mr Issa Massar. He has a staff of 23 teachers, 2 Muslim (I for Religion) the remaining are Christian. At the moment the teachers go to the Grade Classrooms but it is envisaged that in the future the classes will go to the subject teacher, as is the usual practice in Secondary Schools. There are 14 classrooms with a computer laboratory, equipped with new computers provided by the Cambridge Nazareth Trust, 2 science laboratories (one well equipped and one very poor and in need of refurbishment) and one library. A room for quiet prayer and small group meetings is available for all students and staff. The outside area for games and sport is restricted. Recently, in 2004, another floor was added to part of the building to provide four more classrooms one of which is now the library. In 2006 this is being extended to provide more classrooms and a large multipurpose hall.
A new Kindergarten was built next to the Boys school when it moved from the centre of the city. This is an excellent building, well equipped, with a good outside play area, partly covered underneath the school and a further covered area with good play equipment. There is also a garden with plots cultivated by the children.
Until 2005 the Principals of both the Girls Secondary School and the Kindergarten were Rosary Sisters
The Elementary School with Classes from Grade 1 to Grade 5 is located behind the Parish Church next to the Girls Secondary School in the centre of the town. There are 20 classrooms with four classes for each grade with an average of 20-25 pupils per class. There is a computer laboratory with 20 computers, a science laboratory and a library. People of the parish donated books for the library and the children brought one book each. The playground space is inadequate and therefore the class breaks are staggered.
In 2003 the ground floor, which was previously open storage units, was converted into classrooms allowing some of the space to be used for a well-equipped science laboratory and a larger room for the staff. On the first floor is a large multi-purpose hall, which is used for school and parish celebrations. The fabric of the walls and stairs is in need of repair and general maintenance. In order for smaller groups to be accommodated, classes have art and music on alternated weeks. There are five buses to transport children to and from school. Because of the limited space in the narrow street outside these buses have to enter and park on the playground.
A Vocational School, for car mechanics, was built in 1995 financed by the Belgian Lieutenancy of the EOHSJ. At first it was for mechanics only but later developed to provide education in radio construction and repair and in 2005 television and electricity maintenance courses were started. This was followed the next year by the introduction of a computer maintenance course. The Belgian Lieutenancy equipped and continue to maintain these workshops. The school is for pupils who are not particularly academic but show an aptitude or capability for practical subjects. Because of the traditional outlooks of the families, who think that it is better to follow an academic course at a university rather than follow a more practical course, it was difficult at first to persuade these parents to send their boys to the school. Gradually this view has been overcome, as it is seen to be of benefit by improving the boys future work prospects, the numbers are rising with more parents sending their sons to the school.
It has very well equipped workshops for car mechanics, radio, television and electricity. The School takes boys from Grade 9 to Grade 12. Until this year it offered an applied course with a Certificate at the end, now it offers a course licensed by the Government, with a Diploma in Car Mechanics and Maintenance. Students can continue their studies at university for a degree in engineering. There have been very good results achieved by pupils on this course since it was started. When the school began it had only 4 teachers and a few pupils. Now there is a new Principal with 7 teachers and 48 students, of these 6 are Christian and 42 Muslim.
There are three workshops, three classrooms and a small canteen plus the usual offices for staff. Unfortunately in September 2006 this school was closed.
Madaba: Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
Pastor: Rev. Yacoub Rafidi
Parochial Vicar: Rev. George Ayoub
Tel: (05) 324 40 65
Fax: (05) 324 84 16
Mobile: 077 730 81 59 / 079 982 65 65