For a second time, the families from the Hebrew speaking Catholic communities in Israel met together for a weekend in order to discuss the question of the education of our children. The meeting took place in the Casa Nova hostel in Tiberias on Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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The first meeting took place during Lent, in the month of April, 2011, and then it was decided that a second meeting would be organized during Advent. Once again, the families gathered in the Casa Nova hostel in Tiberias, alongside Saint Peter's Church. The managers of the hostel are the members of Koinonia John the Baptist, closely linked to our Hebrew speaking Catholic communities and their responsible, Father Giuseppe, serves as the parish priest in Tiberias and responsible for the Hebrew speaking community there. The members of Koinonia received the families with much love and helped organize the activities during the weekend.

This time, 23 families participated in the meeting, 21 slept over in the hostel – 41 adults, 30 children and youth (ages ranging from a few months old to 18). Families from all the communities participated (5 families from Jerusalem, 6 from Jaffa, 3 from Haifa, 3 from Beer Sheba, 3 from Latroun and one from Nazareth) and in addition two families from Tiberias joined the discussions on Saturday.

weekend_family

On Friday, the meeting began in the late afternoon. Time was given to getting to know one another and an exchange of news. Father David, Vicar for the Hebrew speaking communities, explained what the agenda would be and warned that the participants were in for a long and intensive day. Parallel to the meeting with the parents, Benny, from the Vicariate community, Franciscan Brother Alberto from Jaffa, Sinead and Lioba, members of the Koinonia, began a series of activities with the children, assisted by the youth from the youth group. Towards evening, all met together to celebrate mass, the mass of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. A group of Indian foreign workers integrated into the celebration in Hebrew as they are used to coming to mass in the church on Friday evenings. After dinner, half the participants watched an entertaining movie about Christmas while the other half went for a walk to watch the sound and light show on the shores of the Kinneret.

The following day, Saturday, the participants began with morning prayer followed by breakfast. At 9.00 the discussions began and lasted the entire day with a break for lunch and a rest. Among the many subjects that were raised:

- How do the existing structures help families in the education of children and in family life? These structures are: the parish communities, the children's summer camps, the youth group, the community days (at Easter and at Sukkot), the central committee.

- What are the tools that are available to the families in the education of their children and in family life? Among these tools are: religious education books (first volume "Kow the Messiah", second "Know the Church", third about to be published "Know the Feasts of the Church", our internet site, other useful internet sites, a library of books and videos, etc…

- What are the other tools that should be developed? A family prayer book, a simple guide to the mass, Hebrew subtitling films on Christian themes, books that teach Christian morals to our children and introduce them to the Christian aspects of our country (Holy Places and historical sites), material to help educate our adolescents…

- An important subject throughout the weekend was the challenge of living as Christians in a Jewish, Hebrew speaking society. For the most part, our families are practicing believers and the live in a completely secular society. The participants underlined the importance of educating our children from a tender age in order to prepare them to face the complexity of the circumstances of our lives in Israel.

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In the afternoon on Saturday, one of the mothers presented how to prepare for Christmas during Advent. She raised many interesting proposals: lighting candles, preparing an Advent calendar, songs and carols, prayer, setting up a crèche, etc… Of course, the context for such preparation is that the outside world (school, street, marketplace) bears no sign of the approaching feast.

The participants also divided up into smaller discussion groups according to the age of the children: parents with children from 0 to 6, children from 6 to 12, and those over 12. At the end of the work in smaller groups, all gathered in order to briefly share the fruits of the discussion. Before the celebration of a festive mass together with the members of the Hebrew speaking community in Tiberias, a date for the next meeting was fixed: during Lent next year. The mass was celebrated with great joy – the Gaudete mass, the Sunday of joy – and the epistle of Paul underlined this: "Rejoice always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Noteworthy, was the preparation of the children for the mass. Not only had they prepared beautiful decorations around the altar but they also sang a well known Christmas carol in Hebrew. One of the mothers cried out with great emotion: "Indeed, here is our future!"

The participants went home tired but full of hope that we are indeed helping one another to face the challenges of life in our country.