School History
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Arabic Edition

The Friends School has a long and honored history in Palestine and it is interesting to trace the origins of our two schools of which we are justly proud. The history of the Friends School is one closely tied with the history of Palestine.  Over the last century, the School has experienced Turkish, British, Jordanian, and Israeli occupation, world wars, and closures. The Friends School, in its checkered political history, has served not only as schools, but also as a center for refugees, hospital, and a center for community lectures, concerts and other cultural activities.

The Ottoman Empire

Friends work began in 1869 with a number of small schools for girls in the villages surrounding Ramallah. In October 1889, Friends Girls School opened as “The Girls Training Home of Ramallah”. The fifteen students who enrolled the first year came from Lydd, Jaffa, Aboud, Jerusalem, Beirut and Ramallah, and six years later the first class graduated. Miss Katie Gabriel from Lebanon was the first principal, serving eighteen years. In 1897, the first addition was made to the original two-story house—a dining room with adjoining room and hallway, and a dormitory above, which is now Swift Hall. Gradually, classes were added until the Friends Girls School became a secondary, as well as, an elementary school. In 1910, the third floor dormitory was added. A Boys Training Home was founded in 1901, at the urging of community members, for the purpose of providing Palestinian boys a rigorous academic program guided by the principles of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).  The school was first housed in a building near the Friends Girls School in Ramallah and as the school grew from its initial enrolment of 15 students, land was bought in El-Bireh in 1905 and the first stone of the main building laid in 1913. The first experiments in mixed classes of boys and girls began in 1902, the two training homes for Boys and Girls had classes together for one and half hours a day and it was hailed as a great success.  The Friends Meeting House in the center of Ramallah was built in 1910.

First World War

In 1914 the Friends Boys School Main Building was completed but it only came into use as a school in 1918. The Girls Training Home and the Boys School, like all other schools in Palestine, were closed throughout the war. During those years Turkish and then British troops occupied the buildings. British troops used the Boys School as a hospital in 1917.

British Mandate

Both schools reopened in 1919. At the newly named Friends Girls School, day students, as well as, boarders were accepted. Electric light was first used at the schools in 1923. Building at the Girls School continued and in 1925 the remainder of the third floor was constructed. At that time the former dormitory on the second floor was converted into an assembly room and named Swift Hall in honor of Sara J. Swift of New England. The home economics cottage was built in 1929 and Whittier Hall in honor of Alice Whittier Jones in 1934. Boys first took the Palestinian Matriculation examination in Jerusalem in 1926. The Lowell Jones Library was given by Rufus Jones in 1928.  Tennis courts were added in 1927. Grant Hall was built in 1933.


The partition of Palestine in 1948 and the subsequent expulsion of many Palestinians again changed the character of the School. Friends Meeting House and the School grounds became the temporary home for refugees. School numbers swelled to accommodate refugees from the coastal cities. The White Gifts giving was instituted to give foodstuffs and money to needy families. There was a conscious endeavor to increase the Schools’ scholarship support. As World War Two came to an end, once again the schools continued to struggle to be a positive influence in a troubled world.

Jordanian Rule

The School had a relatively peaceful life during the Jordanian period from 1948-1967. The fifth secondary class of the Friends Girls School was added in 1956, and plans were ready for opening the sixth secondary in 1963. In 1962, four classrooms were added to Whittier Hall.  During Jordanian rule, the Friends School earned a reputation throughout the Middle East as a superlative educational institution.  Attracted by the educational practices, expectations of student discipline, and commitment from faculty and staff, students all across the Middle East came to the Ramallah Friends School, a legendary boarding school at its time, to complete their studies. This period of School history also engendered many successful alumni who have attained prosperous careers in various professions throughout the world.  Beginning in the later 50s, enrollment figures for the FBS rose dramatically, reaching a peak in 1966 at 320 students.

Israeli Occupation

Following Israeli occupation, the boarding sections in both schools were closed, as students from neighboring countries were no longer able to come. The enrollment figure for the class of 67/68 plummeted to 180, compared to the previous year of 320. Gradually, enrollment figures began to rise steady. In less than a decade, the student population would reach 350, and would continue to rise steadily thereafter. 

Since the very earliest years of the School’s foundation, both boys and girls from the two separate campuses had shared some classes and this strategy had proved successful. Both boys and girls were always taught together from Kindergarten to Grade 2 and merged again under the science and arts Tawjihi tracks in the 11th and 12th grades. The Upper Kindergarten had begun very early in the Friends Girls School history and was permanently expanded to the Lower Kindergarten in 1983. There was a growing belief that co-education was educationally sound and could work well in Palestine. As the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, grew in strength, enrollment plummeted. The financial situation also put pressure on the Board to look closely at how to use the resources of the two schools more efficiently.  In 1990, the campus of the Girls School became a co-educational Elementary School and Kindergarten and the campus of the Boys School became a co-educational High School.

Palestinian National Authority

Following the Oslo agreements, the uneasy peace brought greater stability to the School with the emergence for the first time of a government in waiting that had a real interest in Palestinian education.  The second Intifada began in September 2000.  Since the beginning of the second uprising, the Friends School has been in the center of towns exposed to a new level of violence with sequences of nightly shelling from Israeli tanks and light artillery and attacks by helicopter gunners.  The psychological well being of our parents, students and staff was shaken and our enrollment figures fell to 370 pupils in the FBS and 540 in the FGS in 2000/2001 as families left for America and elsewhere to escape the violence.  However, following each tragedy the School has recovered, maintaining its reputation as a leading academic center in the Palestinian community.  

Despite everything today, the Friends School continues to demonstrate the resilience and patience of the Palestinian community keeping alive the hope and vision of a better future.  The adoption of new programs during this period reflects upon this interest. In 1999, the School became accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), offering students in Palestine for the first time an IB Diploma Program. New buildings at the Upper School were erected to accommodate more students from ASHA grants, namely the new Science Building and Multipurpose Hall, and plans are currently underway to create a new Special Needs Resource Center and Kindergarten Building with monies provided by the UNDP.

Following the Israeli pullout from parts of Ramallah and el-Bireh in 2003, School services have remained uninterrupted.  The School cherishes the prospect of greater stability in the future and continued growth within the community.

FGS Principals

Huldeh Leighton
Katie Gabriel
Alice Jones
Victoria Hanush
Edna Haviland
Mildred White
Sylvia Clark (acting prinicipal)
Elaineh Lubbat (acting prinipal)
Annice Carter
Anna Langston
Kenneth Shirk (acting prinicipal)
Margaret Paull
Donn Hutchison (acting prinicipal)
Shirley Tuttle
Lewise Curless
Nancy Nye
Peter Kapanga
Abla Nasir
Diana Abdel Nour


FBS Principals 1901-2001


Friends School Directors

In 2001, the position of School Director was created to unilaterally manage both the Upper and Lower School.  The Director is appointed by the Friends United Meeting (FUM) of Richmond, Indiana.  The first such Director, Colin South, a Quaker and member of the British Yearly Meeting, served the School in this capacity from 2001-2004.

Colin South and wife, Kathy

Joyce Ajlouny, a Palestinian Quaker and member of the Ramallah Friends Meeting, assumed the responsibility of School Director in 2004. She is also a graduate from the Class of 1983.