Our Church in Bethany is very much alive!
Photo: orthochristian.org
Photo: orthochristian.org
Photo: orthochristian.org

Dear Friends, 


When the Gaza crisis started, I called Mother Maria, head of the Bethany School for Girls, to make sure she and the students of the school were all right.


I can’t say they are exactly all right… They are alive. But more on that later. 


First, I need to tell you why this is so important. 


And I hope you can help.


You see, the Bethany School for Girls is the only ROCOR school in the Holy Land. The good that is painstakingly done there ‒ day by day ‒ is incredible. 


Every day, nuns and teachers take care of 372 girls. Not only are the students obtaining a rich and academically sound education, but they remain surrounded by love and support from teachers and the sisters of St. Mary Magdalene Convent.


They teach Arabic and English, Mathematics and Natural Sciences. They also get instruction in Russian and Religious Studies. The Bethany School for Girls does this so well that their waiting list stretches from beyond Bethany to Jerusalem. 

But that’s actually the problem…

You see, the school is wedged between Palestine and Israel. And even when all is quiet between these two countries, when the warring local factions occasionally put their differences on hold, they remember that they have a “captive” Orthodox Christian school to pick on. 

Because the school can’t just pick up and leave. ROCOR has owned this land for over a century. It is located in a historic building just a stone's throw away from the tomb of Lazarus (!).

And speaking of throwing stones…

The neighbors have been throwing large rocks on the roof of the school. 

To do damage to it and the solar panels on it. To frighten the heroic people who are the keepers of our Church’s inheritance. And to force them out. 

Hamas and other similar groups have paid “courtesy calls'' on Mother Maria. You know, to persuade her ‒ gently, of course! ‒ to show more solidarity with whatever their agenda is right now. To take sides. Which she vehemently refuses to do. 


But if they thought they were going to break them easily, they were very, very wrong! 


Because Mother Maria is one tough lady. She’s more than that. She’s a ROCOR nun. And she’s not going to let some armed militant rebels twice her size frighten her into submission! 


Guess what Mother Maria did? She showed them the door. 

You know what this means? This means our Church is very much alive! So alive that Her clergy and nuns will not back down. Even when threatened.


Just like their ancestors a hundred years ago ‒ during the Russian Revolution. Just like the first Christians…

Photo: orthochristian.org
Photo: orthochristian.org
Photo: orthochristian.org

So I’m here to ask you: will you stand with Mother Maria? 


Because she’s got more than just militants to deal with. 


Here’s a snapshot of her life today: 

Radicals throwing rocks at the churches and the school in Bethany… 


Tear gas floating in through the windows during Vigil, making the more elderly nuns sick and in need of (very expensive) hospitalization for which they have no insurance coverage… 


Shooting just outside windows (they sent us a video)… 

You know: the typical, no-big-deal kind of daily stuff… 


But there are also bigger things Mother Maria is worried about. Like who’s going to pay the teachers’ salaries… And how the school is going to get through until the end of the school year.


So I’m here today because you can’t solve the international conflict problem. But you can help Mother Maria solve the school problem. 


Won’t you ‒ please ‒ help Mother Maria keep the school going until May 2024? We’re looking to raise $17,891. 


When you donate today, your generosity will:


  • pay teachers’ (very reasonable) salaries, allowing them to avoid looking for other employment, and ensuring that the high standard of education at the school is maintained
  • buy school supplies students’ families can’t afford
  • provide simple nutritious meals to the students and faculty, so that they don’t have to go hungry


and a lot more. 

The fact is, if you give any amount today, you will be helping over 380 people at the school survive


Also, you will be standing with Mother Maria. You will be the one whose shoulder she can lean on safely at this excruciatingly difficult time. You will be the one who will not turn away when she’s asking for help. 

Because, whom can she rely on in this world? Only people like you, who are loyal to ROCOR and loyal to our Faith. 

Thank you so much for reading my letter. 

May God bless you, 


Mark Selawry
Fund for Assistance to ROCOR

P.S. Please don’t delay. Please send a gift to help Mother Maria today. Be the strong shoulder she can lean on in this time of crisis. 

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