“Ephpheta” “open”… words pronounced by Jesus when he healed the deaf child to whom He opened mouth and heart.
In Bethlehem, the miracle continues, in “Ephpheta Paul VI” school where Palestinian deaf children and youth gain the word and learn to communicate.
The “Ephpheta Paul VI” Institute was established in Bethlehem following a wish of Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. On that occasion, His Holiness noticed the presence of many deaf children without assistance, and expressed the desire to build an educational structure for their rehabilitation
The Institute was constructed in six years during which the first educational project was also planned. On June 30, 1971, Cardinal Maximilian Furstemberg inaugurated the school, whose management was entrusted to the Congregation of the Sisters Teachers of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts from Vicenza (Italy), already present in the Holy Land since 1927.
For the implementation of this educational mission, the Holy Father came to an agreement with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, with the CNWEA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) through the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, have pledged to contribute financially to the construction and then for the development of school activities
The name of the school refers to a passage in the Gospel according to Mark (7, 32-35): “Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”
On September 6, 1971, twenty-four deaf children began the audio-phonetic rehabilitation program with a school curriculum that, according to the rules, was planned to finish at the sixth grade. A few years later, until 1996, the School also organized a three-year course of cutting and sewing. In 1997 a two-year course for the Secretarial diploma was started, covering the study of computer science and some additional subjects, such as Arabic, English and the humanistic sciences. Since 2003, according to the law which extended the compulsory school to 16 years, the Institute launched the “M Project” that is the cycle of secondary school to reach the stage of the tenth grade. Today, in a changed cultural context, this curriculum appears incomplete, both in terms of audio-phonetic rehabilitation and of cultural profile: in fact it does not fulfill the basic training valid for the gradual integration into the world of work, for which the frequency up to the twelfth year is required, as well as the acquisition of academic qualifications that can formally justify the educational level attained. The School therefore is now committed in raising its educational and cultural offer to achieve this goal