The Gospel of Matthew states Jesus’ definitive answer for the first and greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The second greatest commandment follows with: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Loving one another is not easy. Servant leadership is found in the daily grind. It means loving one another and modelling a Christ-like spirit to others. It means seeing potential in people and working to help them develop skills and talents. It means going to work every day and using your skills to bless others. It means leading with grace, mercy and patience for people that you are influencing. It means bringing God glory in every encounter.
You don’t have to be in a place of power to be a servant leader. You can build the kingdom of God by serving others. The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land’s Elie Hajjar is a true servant leader, loving others and building the Kingdom of God through his work as University Scholarship Program Coordinator.
We recently interviewed Elie about his role, his hopes for the University Scholarship Program and the young scholars who inspire him. We invite you to join us as we get to know Elie a little better.
“I am convinced that only education can create a change in society and help people achieve their goals.” – Elie Hajjar
Tell us about your background and education.
I am a 34-year-old accountant. I grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, where I lived with my parents and my three sisters. My father was an employee, and my mother a housewife. Being a moderate-income family did not prevent my parents from teaching me and my siblings and making all four of us well-educated children. At Bethlehem University, I studied Accounting as a major and Business Administration as a minor. Having the opportunity to work within the scholarship program at FFHL has been a great experience. Because of it, I have seen the progress of the young people in my country and the significant life changes they have made. I am convinced that only education can create a change in society and help people achieve their goals.
How did you get involved with the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land and the University Scholarship Program?
After graduating from Bethlehem University, I started my work at the Custody of the Holy Land in 2009 as an accountant. After three years, I was also asked to work for the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land’s University Scholarship program. It is a great pleasure to work for a foundation so well-known for its mission to help those in great need in the Holy Land.
How has the pandemic affected education in the Holy Land?  What are some of the biggest challenges facing students?
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not easy for students to shift into the new online method of learning, but in time they began adapting. After the COVID-19 lockdown, many families suffered economically and socially. A lot of families lost their main source of income, preventing them from providing for their basic needs. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, families are still unable to meet their monthly commitments towards utilities and rent, making it nearly impossible for many students to continue paying their university tuition fees.
Fortunately, funds raised from FFHL’s generous donors afford many students opportunities to focus on their scholarly studies without concern for tuition fees. FFHL scholarship students are challenged to earn high marks, and they work hard to comply with the terms of the program, so they do not lose their scholarship.
What are some of the accomplishments that you are proud of?
It is very important for me to see the progress of the students, particularly those who were uncertain about what to study in the beginning. After finally completing a B.A. degree, students find greater success in life and in the workplace. I have formed great relationships with the universities, making it easier now to facilitate student registration and stay current on the student’s progress. It is very satisfying to know that after students graduate, they can become successful in their life and obtain high positions in society. These students are very grateful for the opportunity the scholarship program has afforded them.
What are some ways that earning a scholarship for a degree in higher education helps Christians in the Holy Land?
Without a degree in higher education, it is very difficult to find a job. Pursuing a college degree opens doors for a brighter future.
What are the greatest needs that the University Scholarship Program faces today?
The University Scholarship program is making very significant progress and giving students many opportunities to achieve their goals. Because this program helps decrease the unemployment rate, many students are encouraged to pursue a higher education degree. However, with limited foundation funds, not all students are able to be accepted into the program.
What would you say to someone to encourage them to financially support scholarships?
FFHL’s University Scholarship program gives hope to students in real need of college education financing. A scholarship can help future generations make a lasting impact on the world. Without the generous help of the good people who gave with love, many students wouldn’t have been able to continue their education. Their lives were changed because of this program. Without a university scholarship, these students would still be relying on the church and society for social help and donations.
Your gift will make a difference. Learn how you can make a lasting impact on a young scholar’s life today.