About Us

About Us

​A Challenge for Deaf Education in Palestine

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43,000 deaf people in Palestine suffer from lack of adequate opportunities for primary and higher education. With a government that doesn’t provide educational opportunities past grade 9 and families who, many times, feel embarrassed by their deaf members, the deaf face great challenges in earning an education. We have a plan to help. We’re part of a plan to rebuild and expand the current school to accommodate a new high school for the deaf. In the West Bank, there are 2 schools for the deaf — the primary school that covers education through 9th grade and the vocational/technical center that covers practical job skills. 65 children, 1-15 years of age, coming from all over West Bank attend the primary school and some even reside at the school during the week. The vocational center has 42 students in attendance, ranging from ages 16-20. These schools face significant challenges because they are not fully funded by the government. The government pays for only 7 of 33 employees. Neither of these schools can prepare their students to move into a university or higher education setting.

Filling the Need for Secondary Educational Facilities is Obtainable

There is a defined need for additional space that can house classes for older children. The additional classes will bridge the gap between 9th grade and vocational/technical or college educational facilities.  The cost of an addition to the present school to house 10-12th grade school is $350,000 (US Dollars). The detailed plan for the addition is linked here. Expanding the school through high school will open opportunities for higher education that currently do not exist for these children.  The Qalqilya Municipality has given land for a new school. They just need the funds to build it! 

About Our Partners:​ Citizens Diplomacy Initiatives (CDI) has partnered with Sister Cities International and Friends of the Middle East (FoEME) to connect every Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. city in a trilateral sister city relationship. National and local officials in the U.S., Israel and the West Bank support the program and are eager to participate.    CDI is comprised of American Jews and Palestinians who want to see Israel and Palestine prosper as peaceful neighbors and friends.  CDI receives no government funding and has no paid staff, so relies on the generosity of its members and the public to assist with opportunities like this one. Students, faculty and staff at Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Florida are active supporters of the Sister Cities program and help by educational outreach activities and by designing and maintaining this website. They believe that every child deserves the opportunity to get a quality education.

A Brief History of this Project

by ASL Teacher, Cynthia DuPont

In 2011 a delegation from Qalqilya came to Gainesville and Oak Hall School to further build a relationship between our communities. Over a tray of beautiful cookies in the shape of the flags of both the United States and Palestine, faculty met the visitors in our school library.  When it came to my turn to introduce myself, I signed my statement in American Sign Language (ASL) as the world language ASL teacher.  Later one delegate approached me and asked about my teaching ASL and informed me that there was a Deaf school in his area.  I inquired about contact information for the school so that my students might Skype the students there.
In October 2011, a delegation from Gainesville including our Mayor, City Council members, Artists and Educators including Oak Hall’ School’s Art Director Robert Ponzio and Music Director, Jason Stahl visited our Sister City.  The Mayor and Mr. Stahl were able to visit the Deaf school as it was added to the itinerary due to my initial query for contact.  During their visit, they learned that there was no 10th, 11th, or 12th grade there for any student who was Deaf, and learned the sad truth that never in the history of Palestine had a Deaf child graduated from High School.  
Further inquiry lead to the investigation of the potential to raise the money to renovate the school to provide a High School graduation option. Engineers met and drew up plans that led to a capital budget of $348,665, creating an itemized list of every bucket of paint and bolts needed to complete the project. My students and I set about to develop this website to attract interest and potential donors for the project. We put together the components thought necessary for the website with the help of Mr. Ponzio, who also created a logo for the project based on a sample design of an emblem known among the Deaf in America and Europe called EYETH. Instead of earth with the emphasis on the ear-(th), these are people of the eye-(th). This is an old story of a Utopia on another planet where the Deaf are the dominant and the hearing the disabled members of society. Students also designed business cards, and once the finances for this charitable website was organized through the Gainesville Sister Cities 501c, our website was ready with the greatest hopes for success. Since then, the site has attracted over 40,000 hits in the first year, reaching as far as Egypt!

Currently there are 26 employees at the Deaf school in Qalqilya who are significantly underpaid, particularly in light of their dedication for nearly 16 years of service. Director Waleed Nazzal struggles to keep teachers because of the low salary and the availability of people who know Palestinian Sign Language. The teachers and staff in this residential school are paid through government support or donations. Some months passed as this support was withdrawn and Waleed was unable to pay his employees, causing teachers to leave. This deterioration in the already impoverished situation where 150 children live became graver.

On February 11, 2014, Waleed and his brother Mohammad (President of the Al Amal Association for the Deaf), organized a group of Deaf people and marched on the Department or Ministry of Education and the Welfare. Both television and newspaper representatives were present. The Education and Welfare staff came before the crowd of Deaf people and for several minutes was frustrated and unable to communicate to determine the cause of their protest.  Waleed and Mohammad stepped forward to help explain the circumstance of the Deaf in Palestine to the Welfare Ministry, which got their attention.

​There is a law similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act in Palestine, but it covers all EXCEPT the Deaf! The Education Ministry representative Moayad Afanah is dedicated now to the cause of improving not only the educational for the Deaf, but potentially the economic options for the Deaf of Palestine. 

Recently, Sister Cities Director, Steve Kalishman traveled once again to Qalqilya and was advised that representatives for the Deaf used the information on our website to approach the Welfare and Education Ministries to rectify this problem. This information brought about the potential for a significant donation in support of constructing a brand new High School to serve the Deaf in Palestine. They have indicated that if the $350,000 is indeed raised by January 2015, they will also invest an additional $700,000, not to build an extension on the existing school as originally requested, but to build a completely new facility!

We are very excited that this website has had an impact in helping our friends make their case to their leaders. Since these developments, two young Deaf girls who recently visited our school have been offered the chance to take an equivalency examination that, if passed, will complete their High School training. They will, in fact, become the very first Deaf students in the History of Palestine to graduate from High School!

​We are proud of our students who have worked to raise funds, organize events, create videos and this website. These students have already changed History and potentially the future of all Deaf in Palestine. They have already proven that with creativity and determination they can change the world for the better.

​We hope you help us with this worthy cause.