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Jamal family

Contributed by Joop Mutsaers on 08.02.2006:

I am trying to paste together my wife’s family history, to give our children a better understanding of part of their heritage. My wife’s grandmother was Wadia Jamal, born in 1887 in Jeruzalem, and married in 1914 in Egypt to Elias Shehade. Wadia was the daughter of Assaad Jamal (and his wife Helene) who was born and died in Jeruzalem around respectively 1840 and 1920. Assaad had amongst others a son Shibly, of whom I am wondering if that is Shibly or Shibli Jamal who worked in the Palestinian government between 1920 and 1930. Does anybody have any information that can be of help? I also have another question. My mother-in-law attended between 1920 and 1930 (she was then between 4 and 14 years of age)a nursery or children school in Jeruzalem, run by German nuns (some religious order). She always remembered several German words she learned. Does anyone know which school that may have been? I appreciate any information.


Leyla Zuaiter

on 09.02.2006

Dear Joop,
Congratulations on being the first person to post a query on I hope you will set an example for the thousands of Palestinians, spouses of Palestinians, or people of partial Palestinian ancestry around the globe who are searching for their roots. I think I can offer some clues regarding the German School. There are two German Institutions that come to mind off-hand although there may have been others at the time you refer to.
Schmidt College for Girls is a well-known private German girl’s school run by nuns, just across from the Damascus Gate. The contact information according to the latest PASSIA diary is the following:
Schmidt’s Girls College
Director: Sister Bosco Lee
Tel: (972) (2) 628 2032
Fax: (972) (2) 627 53 21
P.O. Box 19070, Jerusalem
(4-18 years old)
However I suspect that your mother-in-law may have attended the Schneller Orphanage, founded in 1860, which was in operation at the time in question, but is now in the Western part of the city. I believe it no longer serves as an orphanage or school. I remember passing it in one of my walks and had been about to photograph it for its interesting architecture, when I noticed the signs in Hebrew, declaring it some sort of military area and forbidding photography. I wondered how the tourists in front of me were supposed to know that they were not allowed to take pictures and what would have happened if they had!

Schneller’s Orphanage is mentioned on pages 53, 84, 111, 161, 252 of Armenians of Jerusalem: Memories of Life in Palestine; (the Radcliffe Press, London/New York
1993) a wonderful memoir by John H. Rose, of mixed British Armenian parentage. This whole book should be of interest to you as you will get a feeling of the texture of daily life in Jerusalem of the period you are researching. While focusing on the Armenian community, it sheds light on life in Jerusalem from the late Ottoman Times, up to almost the present. The author’s aunt headed the sewing room at Schnellers, which is one reason that he had so much to say about it. According to the book, (p 53) the local population referred to it as “Shneynar”

According to the book, (p 84) the school could accommodate up to 500 orphaned boys and girls, many of whom came from other parts of the Ottoman Empire—(which might include Syria or Lebanon or Iraq, for example) At the time your mother-in-law attended, the British Mandate prevailed, but it is likely that the school continued to receive children from other areas. The school taught many trades and produced the “finest artisans in the country,” who had “little difficulty in finding work.” The school also had a trade school for the blind, a teacher training school and a seminary training preachers for Protestant missions. Bible classes were held daily.

Ah yes. On page 161, Rose, by now a young man, tells us that during WWII , the company he worked for had been moved to new premises at the Schneller Orphanage, “which had been taken over by the army.”

On page 253, we learn that the Schnellers Orphanage was started again Zerqa, in Jordan. So there is your clue. The other pages just mention people or products related to the school.
The reason I am able to locate this information for you so easily, aside from the fact that having recently read it the contents are fresh in my mind, is that the author kindly offered a detailed index, something that all memoirists should do to make it easy for those studying their family history to benefit.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who had family in the formerly Arab areas of West Jerusalem. For more about what you can find in the book see review on The Genealogy and Family History Website of the Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows/Bethlehem
Be sure to explore the whole site for a wide range of resources for Palestinian family history research.

I will look in my books of vintage photographs of Jerusalem to see if I find a photo of Scheller and if so, I will put it on the site and let you know—so check back on the message board. A picture is often a way to jog memories of the elderly. Try saying, “Schnayer” and see what happens.

As for your question about the Shehadeh family, I have no information, but will be sure to ask around and let you know if I get any clues for you.

Good luck in your research. And keep checking the message board for answers. You never know when someone new will see your message and respond to it—even years later.