The church-run schools in East Jerusalem are considered the best schools in that part of the city — some would say in the entire city. Their Christian administrators are proud of the religious tolerance and openness that typifies their institutions, where a majority of the students are Muslim.
But in recent years, these schools’ adamant refusal to let female students wear a hijab on school grounds has threatened to disrupt this openness. The tensions reached their peak in the lead-up to this year’s graduation, with parents and student protests against the ban escaping school grounds and marring Christian-Muslim relations throughout East Jerusalem.
Two incidents ignited the protest. The first was the refusal of Schmidt College for Girls, a German Catholic school near Damascus Gate, to let a girl wearing the traditional Muslim head scarf into the graduation ceremony. The name of the student, a graduating senior, was deleted from the program, and when her parents protested, they were removed from the auditorium. Other parents who were there say that members of the Palestinian Authority’s preventive security force helped eject the couple, in cooperation with school administrators.