First Russian school to open in Bethlehem

Moscow, January 23, Interfax - The first Russian school in Bethlehem is due to open on September 1, 2014.

The issue was discussed at a meeting between Palestinian National Administration leader Mahmoud Abbas and the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society Chairman Sergey Stepashin at the Society's office building in central Moscow on Thursday.

"Mahmoud Abbas has asked for more schools," Stepashin told reporters after the meeting.

Before 1917 there were around 100 Russian schools in Bethlehem, he recalled. Russian schools could also open in Ramallah and Gaza Strip in the future, Stepashin said.

"A miser pays twice. We must not lose the Middle East," he said.

Also, in one year's time Bethlehem will see the launch of a multi-functional Russian center, one of the biggest in the Middle East, the Society chairman said. In 2013, some 450,000 Russian pilgrims visited Palestine, he recalled. Before the revolution the region was visited annually by around a million people from the Russian Empire.

Today, Russia does not have any property issues in Palestine, Stepashin said responding to a question posed by Interfax. "There is no problem with Palestine. It gave everything that is needed, even more," he said.

Also, Sergius Metochion is due to open in Jerusalem in 2015, Stepashin said.

This spring the Society is planning a number of conferences in Beirut and Geneva, as well as cooperation with Pope Francis on the subject of protecting Christians in the Middle East, he said.