Peter Gubser died of cancer on September 2, 2010.
Below are the following remembrances:
- Remembrance by his daughter, Christi Gubser
- Remembrance from ArabNews.com
- Remembrance from UNRWA.org (United Nations Relief and Works Agency)
- Remembrance from ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid)
- Letter from the President and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
- News story from ANERA website, November, 2015
PETER GUBSER, 69
Scholar's main focus was on the Middle East
Peter Gubser, a scholar and author who spent 30 years as president of a
group promoting development and humanitarian assistance in the Middle East,
died Sept. 2 of prostate cancer at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. He was 69.
From 1977 to 2007, Dr. Gubser was president of American Near East Refugee Aid, a Washington nonprofit agency that offers economic, educational and nutritional aid to Palestinian and Arab refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan and other parts of the Middle East.
Among other efforts, Dr. Gubser led a 2003 initiative to establish a program providing milk to thousands of preschool children in the Gaza Strip. His relief agency also funded the construction of educational centers at West Bank colleges to offer training in business management.
In 1983, Dr. Gubser helped found the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, which seeks to foster greater understanding of the Arab world.
He wrote several books and articles on social and economic conditions in the Middle East. In April, he published a major biography of Saladin, a 12th-century Islamic leader who fought against Christian crusaders from Europe.
Peter Anton Gubser was born May 9,1941, in Tulsa and became interested in the Middle East while taking a year off from college to travel.
After graduating from Yale University in 1964, he studied at American University of Beirut, receiving a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic language in 1966. He received a doctorate in social anthropology
from England's University of Oxford in 1969.
Early in his career, Dr. Gubser was an adjunct professor at the University of Manchester in England and worked for the Ford Foundation in Lebanon and Jordan. After moving to Washington in the 1970s, he worked for the American Institute for Research before going to American Near East Refugee Aid.
He was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service from 1995 to 2003. He was a board member of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Builders for Peace, and other groups supporting humanitarian efforts in the Middle East.
Locally, Dr. Gubser had been a member of the Town Council of Somerset, a small Montgomery County community, and he served on the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board.
Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Annie Yenikomshian Gubser of Somerset; two daughters, Sasha Gubser of Denver and Christi Gubser of Boulder, Calif.; his mother, Mary Gubser of Tulsa; two brothers; and two granddaughters.
Remembrance of Peter Gubser at his Memorial Service
by Christi Gubser, his daughter
September 14, 2010, Cosmos Club, Washington, DC
Greetings, greetings! That is how my father, with his beautiful head of
white hair and the moustache that I never saw him without in all my 33
years, would have greeted you all today. It is a heartbreak to us that he is
gone. It is hard to believe. All that we can hope is that he is at peace
It is amazing to see all of you here this afternoon — people from all walks of life who have been touched by my father. He was a man who lived life to its maximum, and showed us that the most important thing one could do, would be to do the same.
Many of you knew him as a humanitarian who thought of and carried out tremendous projects in the Middle East, trying to create a life of hope for those who had little. Many of you knew him as a scholar, a writer, a professor and an expert on all that was politics in the Middle East. Many of you knew him as a community activist, first in our small town of Somerset as a member of the town council and then as a member of the Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, always looking to ameliorate what was around him. Many of you knew him as a leader, a participant, a friend. I knew him as a father. I speak for my sister Sasha, my mother, and myself in saying that he was the best.
I want you to know a little bit about Peter Gubser as a father. As a young girl, I remember him at the grill, relishing the cooking of a perfect steak. He was a very present father. When we were younger, we played endless games of three-person whiffleball in the backyard. As we grew older, we played badminton in the summers, and Scrabble and cribbage in the winters. We would score the badminton games in Arabic, which is where I learned the meaning of "cipher". Unfortunately for him, as time went on, his score was often "cipher" as our scores climbed into the higher digits. He was always so happy to teach us new games, as well as learn them from us, and we continued to connect this way well into our college years. Coming home for a holiday always meant spending the evening playing cards and games with him in front of the fire in the living room. I will truly miss that.
He watched the news, the Simpsons, and the Redskins. We spent countless Sundays in our high-school years waking up to booming classical music — his favorite to wake us with was Holst — the Planets or Carmina Burana — and we would roll out of bed and watch the Redskins. We would turn off the television sound and turn on Sonny, Sam, and Frank on WMAL to get the local broadcasters' perspective on the game. We would cheer on our team, hope for a win, but mostly revel in each others company. It was during Redskins halftimes that our Dad taught us to throw a spiral with a football, and throw and catch a softball. These, to me, are memories I will hold forever. I feel lucky to have spent that time with my Dad. We were thrilled that the Redskins beat the Cowboys last Sunday night for the season opener. We know he would have been happy.
We spent countless weekends exploring the Washington DC area. One of our favorite spots was the Billy Goat trail on the Potomac. We must have done that trail hundreds of times with our old dog Argo. I have distinct memories of walking the trail when I was still young enough to be carried, all the way through my college years. Walking that trail with my Dad almost became a meditation in my young life, and fostered in me a deep love for the outdoors, which ultimately brought me out to Colorado which I have made my new home. Those years on the Billy Goat trail ignited my passion for exploration and adventure in the wilderness, a gift I will keep with me forever.
For all you Somerset residents who are here today, we will all remember Peter as the starter for the Somerset swim team. Sasha and I swam for our local team for 10 summers, and our Dad was highly involved. He started out as a timer for our Saturday morning meets. Of course, he needed a new challenge in that arena too, so he attended a clinic to become the official starter for the swim team. Everyone always giggled at his pronunciation of: "50 meter butterfly." He was the most well spoken of all the starters of the Montgomery County Swim League. Our Dad, the orator.
I could go on about fond memories with my Dad — I have so many. He loved being a father, and always told us that. Family dinners together every night were the highlight of our evenings, with conversation that grew more and more meaningful as we grew older. To us, family always felt like his priority. In fact, it seems that we all go through much of our young lives thinking that our parents are simply our parents, and anything else they do is quite irrelevant. I knew my Dad went to work — each morning at 7:15 either my sister or I would run down the stairs to kiss him goodbye as he was leaving for the Metro, and he would return promptly at 6 PM announcing his arrival with "Hello, girls!" What he did in between those hours was a mystery of little importance to me for a long time. I used to like to visit him at the office for the chance to take the Metro downtown and announce myself as the boss's daughter. To get to walk back to his office and see the little model boat I had built for him sitting on his desk. But I remember the day that I began to realize that he was up to something big. He brought home an Arabic newspaper one day in my high-school years that had his picture in it with a long article in Arabic following. It was a time in life when I was starting to think of the world outside of myself, and what I might want to do about it. When I asked him what the article was about, he told me it was praising some project that ANERA had done in the West Bank. It was then that I started to see my father as more than just a Dad. I had insight into how many of you who are here today see him — as a humanitarian leader. As time went on, and I started learning more about Middle East history, I felt compelled to share his story. I remember at University telling people with great pride about what my father did for a living, and realizing that it was indeed unique for one's father to do grass-roots projects in the West Bank and Gaza. When friends did not understand the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, I took it upon myself to explain the entire history as my Dad had done in my own high-school history class at WIS. I began to live a bit more under his influence, and it became a source of pride.
While I was still in high school, my sister and I were fortunate enough to be able to travel with our parents to many exotic locales around the globe. After we left for college my Dad and my mother Annie pursued their shared love of travel with even more gusto. Our friends could not believe it when we told them our 60-some-year-old parents were traipsing around the Peruvian rainforest or that the new beautiful rug in our house had been bargained for, bought and hand carried by my mother back from Turkmenistan. My mom and Dad have been a model for a caring and supportive relationship. They loved each other deeply and truly enjoyed each other's company. They taught us not to wait for opportunities to come to us, but to create them for ourselves.
Though neither my sister nor I ended up doing work in the Middle East, we have both very much followed in my Dad's, indeed both our parents footsteps. They taught us that you can love your work, and make a difference. They taught us that you learn by doing, and by going and by participating. Sasha, my sister, is currently a doctor in an underserved area of Denver, and has volunteered her skills extensively in Central and South America. I have taught as a volunteer in Kenya, for Latino immigrants in Boulder, in an inner-city public school in Oakland, and now teach and coordinate the volunteer program at a high school in Boulder, Colorado. Our father made us feel that these services to others were not only an option, but a way of life. Living a life of service is the way that my father lived and it is the legacy that he leaves behind. In death, the outpouring of love that we have received from all over the world for him, has been monumental. We knew that he had touched lives, but so many! And so deeply! I am so proud to be his daughter.
He also taught us to take risks. How many young men from Oklahoma set off to travel the world and become interested in one of the most war torn and conflicted areas on the globe? My Dad was an extremely organized risk taker. He was not afraid to try something new, and to step out of the ordinary to attempt something extraordinary.
There is a quote by the poet Audre Lorde that states "When I use my strength in the service of my vision, it makes no difference whether or not I am afraid." My father was the embodiment of this idea. He did not let fear stand in his way of what he was passionate about — he knew that the Palestinians needed their basic needs met and they needed a chance to hope. This was more important to him than any fear he may have had around the turmoil of the area, what may happen to him if he put his dreams into action. His strength, his willingness to take risks, resulted not only in what would become a fruitful and successful career, but also in the opportunity to meet his beautiful Armenian wife, our wonderful mother Annie YeniKomshian, in Beirut where he began the studies that led him down this path! This purposeful risk taking is what is behind so many extraordinary people.
My sister and I spent time talking about this just a few nights ago while cooking in her kitchen in Denver. We talked about how important it is to both of us that this part of our father's legacy lives on in both of us, and that we are committed to it not only for ourselves, but to pass that on to our children as well. Our Dad was a role model in "actions speak louder than words." His ideas became realities, his hopes and vision changed people's lives. Growing up with that has made Sasha and me both want to do the same.
When my Dad got sick, we pulled together even more strongly as a family. With my sister and me in Colorado and my parents in DC, it often felt difficult to be far away. But we rallied together, and saw each other many times in the past year. Our Dad loved becoming a Grandpa, and I am so happy that he had the chance to get to know his grandchildren — Sky and Sophie. This time last year he came out to Colorado en route to his 50th high-school reunion in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had a fantastic visit, with my Dad, his 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters exploring a creek in Rocky Mountain National Park and spotting elk in the woods. He also shared the good news of the official publication of his book on Saladin as we sat around eating dinner at Sasha's house in Denver. This project was a source of pride for him, and the first project he undertook after retiring from ANERA. Not only did he see the book through to publication, but he was also in the process of organizing its promotion by scheduling speeches and book signings around the country just days before his passing. After his wonderful visit to Denver, he went on to Tulsa where he impressed his old high-school chums with his full head of hair and all his accomplishments, both in his professional and personal lives. He also spent time with his mother Mary Gubser, our phenomenal Grandma, and his brother Mike, one of his closest friends. I love knowing that he spent his final year in the company of people who loved him dearly.
We all decided to come back to DC for Christmas last year because of the ups and downs of his health, and the desire to celebrate that he was in good health in the moment. Sasha, Brian, Jeff, Sky, Sophie and I came out for what will always be a Christmas to remember. My father loved his sons-in-law dearly. He was thrilled to have discussions with them about history and the state of the world — conversations that could go on for hours. One evening during our stay at Christmas — I believe it was Christmas Eve — we all sat around the living room, talking and laughing for hours. It wasn't long before there were more empty bottles of red wine then there were people in the room. We were laughing, crying, appreciating each other. At one point my father said: "This is it. This is what everyone hopes for. This is what life is all about." I am so happy that he left the world with that experience in his recent past.
My father knew how much he was loved. Nothing was hidden. I had the chance on so many occasions to tell him how much he meant to me, and show him that I had learned the life lessons he taught me. He and my mother had a strong and loving relationship, and he knew, in life, how important he was to her. He was, in life, acknowledged by so many for his wisdom, his leadership and his contributions to the lives of others. I feel thankful that he knew all these things when he was living, and that no one waited around to tell him how much he mattered until it was too late. I feel that maybe he went so quickly because he had no unfinished business left in the world — he felt complete with all the people he loved and with what he had accomplished in his life's work. Of course, I mourn that he did not get to live for 20 more years, but I have to focus on how deep the quality of his 69 years on this Earth were. He created and lived a full, meaningful life. Sasha and I will always be proud to be his daughters, and my mother will feel forever blessed to have shared more than 41 years of her life with him. He lives on in us everyday. This afternoon, raise your glass of red wine and toast to Peter Gubser, a truly wonderful man.
Peter Gubser: A true friend of the Palestinians
An article from ArabNews.com
Sept. 5, 2010
Dr. Peter Gubser, humanitarian, author and devoted friend of Palestinian
communities throughout the Middle East, died Sept. 2 at the age of 69 after
A determined optimist, he never stopped seeking a better future for the Middle East even after retiring from the American Near East Refugee Aid, ANERA, in 2007, where he served 29 years as ANERA's president.
While at ANERA, he directed long-term development projects in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Jordan, as well as coordinating initiatives within national and international NGOs.
Prior to joining ANERA, Gubser, fluent in English, French and Arabic, worked with various non-governmental agencies in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
An adjunct professor at Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service, he published extensively on issues related to Jordan and economic development in the Middle East.
His latest book, "Saladin, Empire and Holy War" (Gorgias Press, April, 2010) offers a remarkable and highly readable portrait of the complex warrior-king. He also wrote several books on Jordan, including a historical dictionary of the Hashemite Kingdom.
Under his leadership ANERA touched the lives of millions of Palestinian families.
He was instrumental in the construction and establishment of IT Centers of Excellence at four universities in the West Bank as well as the creation of ANERA's "Milk for Preschoolers" program in Gaza, established in 2003 to distribute fortified milk and biscuits to preschoolers. That program today reaches nearly 20,000 children across the Gaza Strip.
For this reporter, Gubser will be most remembered for his humility. In a town of giant-sized egos, his fun spirit, big heart and kind demeanor were refreshing and inspiring. And — a true sign of success — he was loved by his colleagues, both here and in the Middle East.
ANERA's current president, Bill Corcoran, said Gubser was "full of life and a bit of mischief, too. He was always able to put a smile on our faces."
Pausing, he added: "Please let it be known that as some Palestinian Americans began to hear of his impending death, they asked us to mention that Peter was ‘a true friend of the Palestinians.'
"His great love for education was a means of investing in the future of Palestinians. He believed education gave them a future where politics denied them a future," said Corcoran.
"Another key thing about Peter's personality is that many people involved in the Middle East and Palestinians affairs eventually became burnt out. Not Peter. He was eternally filled with hope. He was not naive or overly idealistic, but felt one could make progress with one family at a time."
Marjorie Ransom, a Middle Eastern specialist and retired State Department Public Diplomacy Officer, remembered that "Peter's job was particularly difficult because he worked on aid for Palestinians, something that was not always an easy sell.
"Peter tackled his job with enthusiasm and skill. He won the respect of those he worked with because he always knew the specific detail of where ANERA's money went. Beyond this he was an extraordinary individual who touched everyone with his great humanity."
"Peter was an extraordinary human being. His was an often lonely but always a strong and courageous voice in America for bringing justice and compassion to the people of Palestine," said Les Janka, a resident of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia who served as Chairman of the Board of ANERA for six years.
"ANERA's record of development is a lasting monument to Peter's many talents. I was proud to work with him for more than 30 years."
Dr. John Duke Anthony, President and CEO of the Washington-based National Council on US-Arab Relations, also spoke of his great sadness is losing "a fellow laborer trying to place the relationship between the United States and the Arab world on the firmest footing possible.
"He was not only a great teacher, scholar, and lucid writer as well as author of several very good books on Lebanon, Jordan, and Saladin. He was also a role model as an inspirational leader, an institution builder, and the longtime head of one of the world's most effective philanthropic organizations devoted to the alleviation of suffering as well as the provision of opportunities for those in need, as well as an indefatigable champion of the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation."
Anthony also spoke fondly of Dr. Gubser's "great sense of humor and incisive wit. His joy in laughter, even when the joke was on him, was boundless."
Ironically, Dr. Gubser died on the day that the Mideast peace talks began again in Washington. Donations in his honor can be made at: http://www.anera.org.
UNRWA Marks Death of Dr. Peter Gubser
An article from unrwa.org, the website of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Sept. 3, 2010
With deep sadness UNRWA marks the passing of Dr Peter Gubser, committed
advocate for the well-being of Palestinians over many decades, and true
supporter of UNRWA's work in the region. Dr Gubser was the Chairman of the
Board of the American Friends of UNRWA from 2008 until his death. He was
also president of ANERA — American Near East Refugee Aid — for 29 years.
Peter Gubser died yesterday, 2 September 2010, after a battle with cancer.
His pioneering work on providing quality education for Palestinians and a peaceful future for the people in the region will endure. He will be missed by UNRWA and the refugees we serve.
ANERA Mourns Death of Former President Peter Gubser
An article from ArabDetroit.com by ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid)
is with enormous sadness that ANERA announces the passing of Peter Gubser,
humanitarian, author, educator and devoted friend of Palestinian communities
throughout the Middle East. Dr. Gubser committed 29 years of his career to
improving lives of Palestinians as president of ANERA. Peter Gubser died
September 2, after battling cancer. He was 69.
Peter Gubser never stopped seeking a better future for the Middle East even after retiring from ANERA in 2007. He was Chairman of the Board of the American Friends of UNRWA from 2008 until his death. Dr. Gubser also lectured on the Middle East at Georgetown University.
"Peter was a unifying figure who energized ANERA programs and supporters for 29 years," said ANERA president Bill Corcoran. "His legacy was providing Americans with a positive means of developing the economy of Palestine and thereby changing lives. He has left many friends and admirers who respect him greatly and will miss him."
During his tenure at ANERA, Dr.Gubser's persistence and enthusiasm helped turn a $1 million organization into $35 million sustainable non-government organization dedicated to humanitarian development among Palestinians throughout the Middle East..
Peter Gubser was dedicated to providing quality education for Palestinians, starting as early as preschool. Once asked why, he said, "The big picture may be slow to change, but to the person receiving a textbook, the future is immediately better."
Some of his hallmark achievements included a campaign against malnutrition among Gaza's children through the "Milk for Preschoolers" program, which was established in 2003 to distribute fortified milk and biscuits to preschoolers. The program today reaches nearly 20,000 children across the Gaza Strip.
Another success story reflected his passion for education. Under his leadership ANERA funded the construction and establishment of IT Centers of Excellence at four universities in the West Bank. The centers offer specialized classes in IT business management and act as incubators for young Palestinian entrepreneurs while also providing services to the local Palestinian business communities.
In an earlier tribute to Peter Gubser, ANERA colleagues summed up his impact: "He is the personification of ANERA: capable, practical, enthusiastic, supportive of new ideas and willing to make them happen."
Dr. Gubser was a keen observer of Middle East society and an historian at heart. He published articles and research papers on various aspects of Middle East economic development. His latest book, Saladin, Empire and Holy War (Gorgias Press April, 2010), offers a remarkable and highly readable portrait of the complex warrior-king. He also wrote several books on Jordan, including a historical dictionary of the Hashemite Kingdom.
Before joining ANERA, Gubser worked for the Ford Foundation in Lebanon and Jordan and as an Associate Research Scientist for the American Institute for Research in Washington, DC. After receiving his BA from Yale, his MA from American University of Beirut and his PhD from St Anthony's College at Oxford University, he worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and conducted year-long projects in Zahleh, Lebanon and Karak, Jordan.
Dr Gubser is survived by his mother Mary Gubser, and by his beloved wife Annie Yenilomshian Gubser, whom he met while living in Lebanon, their two daughters Sasha and Christi and their two granddaughters Sky and Sophie.
Letter from the President and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
Published by the Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service
IN MEMORIAM: PETER GUBSER (1941-2010)
September 3, 2010
By John Duke Anthony
President and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
It is with great sadness that I write to say that Dr. Peter Gubser has lost his battle with cancer.
Peter was not just a fellow laborer in the vineyard of trying to place the
relationship between the United States and the Arab world on the firmest
footing possible. He was not only a great teacher, scholar, and lucid writer
as well as author of several very good books on Lebanon, Jordan, and
Saladin. He was also a role model as an inspirational leader, an institution
builder, the longtime head of one of the world's most effective
philanthropic organizations devoted to the alleviation of suffering and the
provision of opportunities for those in need, as well as an indefatigable
champion of the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. And
he was still more. His devotion to his beloved wife Annie, their two
children and two grandchildren, together with his great sense of humor,
incisive wit, and joy in laughter, even when the joke was on him, was
For the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, Peter was all these things and many more. He was one of four friends who agreed to join me in establishing the Council in 1983. In the twenty-seven and a half years from that founding until the board's most recent gathering this past May, Peter, whose sage input and comment always enriched the sessions' deliberations, was the sole board member never to have missed a single meeting.
In addition to being one of the National Council's cofounders, Peter served from the beginning to the present as its treasurer. In the process, he introduced to the Council its system of accounting that has remained in place to this day. That gift helped pave the way for the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations being awarded this past year the highest possible rating for effective financial management and stewardship by America's foremost charitable organization accrediting agency.
More than with any other founding board member, Peter and I had a particularly rich formative experience in common. The late Joseph J. Malone, former head of the history department at American University of Beirut (where Peter had been a student) and later chair of the U.S. National War College's Middle East Program, was long Peter's and my mentor, close friend, and colleague. Indeed, Peter was first introduced to me by Joe in 1971. When I was the then Assistant Editor of the Middle East Journal, Joe persuaded me that, because Peter's command of Arabic was so good and his detailed knowledge of Lebanon's system of governance and political dynamics so thorough, he should be the person to review Man Yuhakim Lubnan? [Who Rules Lebanon?] for the Journal's Book Review Section. Peter did just that, thereby cementing a friendship and professional relationship between us that lasted 39 years.
Many friends of the National Council are aware that the Malone Family earlier this past year bequeathed to the Council Joe and Lois Malone's outstanding pre-Islamic Pottery Collection. Peter and Annie were both on hand for the event that commemorated this bequest. In the evaluating criteria that influenced the family's decision to award the collection to the Council, it mattered much not only that Joe himself was a founding member of the Council's National Advisory Board but also that Peter Gubser and I as Council cofounders, together with our respective wives, had long been close to Joe and Lois.
Yet another positive factor in the Malone family's decision was that following Joe's passing on December 4, 1983, Peter lent his support to the National Council's decision to establish its premier university educator award: the Joseph J. Malone in Arab and Islamic Studies Fellowship. As the Malone Family entrusted the Council with its priceless pre-Islamic treasures in part because of Peter's long, faithful, and effective service as Council cofounder, board member, and treasurer, so too will the Council, its friends, and supporters forever treasure the memory of Dr. Peter Gubser. Fare thee well, Peter.
The following news story was published on November 11, 2015, on the ANERA website.
Renovating a Palestinian School and Training Center in Al Tireh
Five years after the passing of former ANERA president Dr. Peter Gubser, his daughters could not think of a better gift to honor the memory of their beloved father than a Palestinian school.
“The projects he worked on were very varied, but the ones that stood out to us were focused on education,” explained his daughter Sasha who lives in the United States. “He truly believed that education acts like a backbone to support a person’s potential.”
Sasha explained how so many friends and colleagues of her father had contributed to the special fund because they wanted to support his vision and what ANERA could do with it. “Our family was overwhelmed by the generosity of all those who loved and respected him and chose to donate.”
Choosing a Palestinian School for the Project
After careful deliberation and research, ANERA’s Education Committee chose a project that would help both children and teachers: a rehabilitation project at UNRWA’s Refugee Women Training Center (RWTC) preschool at Al Tireh, Ramallah. RWTC is the first institution in the Middle East to offer teacher training and vocational courses for refugee women. It was established in the 1960s. The center is at the heart of Ramallah, the most prosperous city in the West Bank that many consider an intellectual, educational and cultural incubator.
ANERA undertook the center’s rehabilitation as part of its Early Childhood Development (ECD) program’s initiative “Right Start!” The program is designed to develop ECD in the West Bank and Gaza through school rehabilitation and teacher training.
The Rehabilitation Begins
The preschool was centered around a spacious but poorly-ventilated room with inadequate sanitary facilities. The cluttered room was a noisy open area with no defined learning areas. What characterized it the most was a long row of tables and chairs where some 50 children gathered to practice drawing or enjoy their morning breakfast snack.
With $60,000 from the Peter Gubser fund, ANERA renovated the infrastructure work, installed new and sanitary child-friendly toilets and built a private room for the teachers as well as kitchen and two learning rooms. Then the ANERA team carpeted, decorated and equipped the school with child-appropriate furniture, games, books and learning materials. The balance between the soft-colored walls and furnishings and the inviting, stimulating games and learning corners, has created a healthy environment for children to nurture their imagination.
The head teacher-trainer has also undertaken a teacher training course with ANERA to guarantee the project’s long-term sustainability. “This program helps develop young children’s growing minds and also prepare young teachers for a changing world, it felt like a really good match to what was important to our father,” explained Peter Gubser’s second daughter Christie.
Celebration, Remembrance and a Trip to Palestine
Sasha and Christie Gubser were able to travel to Al Tireh to celebrated the successful rehabilitation. It was their first trip to the Middle East since childhood. And, it was their first trip to Palestine, which they both described as an emotional visit. Sasha told the audience gathered for the celebration, “It is very meaningful to both of us to be invited here today and to see something tangible to represent my father’s vision.”
After the ceremony, Sasha and Christie couldn’t wait to meet the children and joined a group that was busy playing with colorful building blocks. Both Christie and Sasha are young mothers whose youngest children are four years old. “They would be here at this school too. They are also in early childhood education,” said Christie with a smile. Christie is herself an elementary school teacher. Her sister Sasha is a doctor. Gathered in the rehabilitated outdoor playground, the Gubser sisters surprised the children with colored pencils and other gifts.
A plaque on the school’s wall honors Peter Gubser. “Our father would be thrilled to see this preschool rehabilitation completed,” expressed Sasha. “And seeing the plaque on the wall is the permanent reminder of his devotion to human rights and equality.”