Syrian Orphanage

The Syrian Orphanage was build by Schneller

Johann Ludwig Schneller came from Basel to Jerusalem in 1854. Schneller previously worked as a House father at the Spittler mission College in Chrishona, Basel, but had to quit that position in 1854 as he got engaged in Magdalene Böhriger. Spittler’s plan was to use only unmarried staff!

As Schneller came to Jerusalem he restarted the Brother House, previously founded by Schick and Palmer. But soon he bought a piece of land outside the city gates and started his own social work. At that time he became one of the first foreigner to live outside the city wall. Schneller quickly learned Arabic and taught at Bishop Gobat’s School (colleague with Schick then).

The facade of the former Schneller Orphanage.

As the 1860 Druze-Maronite conflict started, many Lebanese children were left alone. (The French supported the Christians, while the British supported the Druze). Schneller (as a neutral German) then founded an Orphanage in Jerusalem, called Syrisches Waisenhaus, Syrian Orphanage or Schneller Orphanage. The orphanage gave vocational traning, academic education and offered discipline and order to hundreds of boys and girls from all over the region. They focused on a number of subjects, as; printing, painting, metal working, shoemaking, carpentry and gardening. A special program for blind children became well-known. The children slept on beds of straw, four children on each bed.

The risen lamb was the symbol of the Schneller Orphanage

The Germans in Jerusalem formed a support committee for Schneller in 1861. Bishop Gobat, Schick and Frutiger were some of the committee members. The Orphanage had many buildings on the spot for different projects, designed by Conrad Schick’s pencil. The number of children reached 60 in 1870 and went up to 126 in 1880. As the different conflicts raised in the region, the orphanage opened its doors to other victims, like the Armenians 1894.

J L Schneller died in 1896 and he was then succeeded by his son Theodore Schneller.

By the year 1900 the orphanage was the biggest complex of buildings outside the city walls in Jerusalem, and it became the forerunner of diaconal and missionary activities in the Middle East.

The Schneller complex was taken over by the British administration in 1940, and then turned into a military camp, named Camp Schneller. The British army had a big arms deposit in the camp, some say the biggest in the Middle East. As the British left, the Israeli army took over the buildings for another 60 year, called it camp Schneller as well. The area has been empty for some years, but is today rebuild by an international company as a luxurious condominium for Ultra Orthodox Jews, called Merom Yerusalaim.

As Germans had to quit there work in Israel, the Schneller Orphanage continued its activity in Jordan and Lebanon.

The Orphanage was mainly financed by gifts from Germany, but also supported from the Swedish evangelical organisation Jönköpings Missionsförening (JMF), around 1880-1900. (Previus name of Svenska Alliansmissionen, SAM). JMF became the national contact for Sweden.

A personal note might be of interest. Small local groups of free, pietistic groups in Bjurbäck and Habo, Sweden (next to where I live) sent money already 1862 to a project called Lebanon through Jönköpings Missionsförening (JMF). This was the Schneller Orphanage!

The Schneller school in Lebanon still works upon the same methods and principles.

Also the Schneller School in Jordan work with children.

syriska-barnhemmet-julefrid-1899

Syrian Orthanage from an article written by Efraim Sandblom in the Swedish magasin Julfrid 1899

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