Palestine / Israel


Scots in Palestine/Israel 

Tabeetha School

For more than 150 years Scots have had a significant input into this region, and some of the institutions which they founded still exist.  Christians were drawn to the Holy Land, which at that time was under Turkish rule, and the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland became involved in various efforts to improve the lot of the population.
 In 1861, EMMS (the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society) established a clinic and later built a hospital in NazarethThe first Doctor, Kaloost Vartan, had studied in Edinburgh.  He and his Scottish wife, Mary Anne Stewart, ran the clinic and dispensary from their own home until the hospital was built.

In 1863, a Glasgow woman, Jane Walker Arnott, founded a school for girls in the ancient port of Jaffa, and named it Tabeetha School. She was disturbed by the lack of education for girls, and the low esteem in which they were held.  The first 14 girls were a mix of Arabs, Jews and Turks and were taught in Arabic.  Sewing, especially lace-making, was an important part of the curriculum, as was religious instruction. The growth of tourism benefitted the school.  Thomas Cook met Miss Walker Arnott and was very impressed by her work.  His tours of the Holy Land always included a visit to her school and it was he who bought the land for a bigger, more permanent building and gave a generous donation towards it. In the early years, parents would give their daughters into the keeping of Miss Walker Arnott, often even signing contracts agreeing not to remove them from the school.  The girls became prized as wives because of their ability to sew and count! Miss Walker Arnott left her school to the Church of Scotland, which continues to support it; it is the only school in the world which they own and run.  Many Scots have gone out to teach there.  Its academic standards are high and there is always a great demand for places. Over the 150 years of the school’s existence, it has seen many changes.  For example, in the 1950s and 60s, the pupils were 60% Jewish immigrants into the newly formed State of Israel and 40% children of diplomats from the world’s embassies. Now, although there are still some Jewish families, the pupils are mainly Arab children from the Jaffa area.  There is still the strong international presence which makes the school such a fascinating place to be in – both for teachers and pupils. The school’s 150th anniversary in 2013 saw alumni coming back from all over the world to celebrate their time there. 

In 1894, Dr David Torrance built a hospital in Tiberias, by the Sea of Galilee.  Dr Torrance, known as “the Galilee Doctor”, became famous for his work in saving the lives of many women in childbirth.  His son Herbert continued his work.  The third Superintendent, Dr Bernard C. Walker, stayed until the hospital closed in 1958.       

After the First World War, money was raised in Scotland to build St Andrew’s Church and Hospice in Jerusalem, which was dedicated in 1930 as a memorial to the many Scottish soldiers who had died in the conflict in Palestine.  Congregations around Scotland sponsored the chairs in the church.