The Ephpheta Paul VI institute was established in Bethlehem when the Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964. During his visit, his Holiness noticed that there was plenty of deaf children from Bethlehem who were not getting the assistance and education they needed. He then expressed his willingness to establish an educational institute for their rehabilitation and education.
The institute was built in a period of six years. During this period, it was planned to start the first educational – Rehabilitation program. On June 30th, 1971, Cardinal Maximilian Furstemberg inaugurated the school, whose management was entrusted to the Congregation of the Sisters Teachers of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts from Vicenza (Italy), already present in the Holy Land since 1927.
For the implementation of this educational work the Holy Father agreed with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with the CNWEA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) through the Pontifical Mission for Palestine that they commit themselves to contribute financially for the realization of the work and then for the development of the institute’s activities.
The name of the institute refers to a passage in the Holy Gospel, according to Saint Mark (7, 32 – 37) which says: “Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him: “Ephpheta!” which means “Be opened”. At this, the man’s ears were opened. His tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”
On September 6th, 1971, twenty-four deaf children began the audio phonetic rehabilitation program with a school curriculum that, according to the legislation, was planned to finish at the sixth grade. A few years later, in 1996, the institute also started a three-year vocational training course onf cutting and sewing for young deaf people. In 1997, a two-year training course on secretariat is also available, including subjects such as computer science and the Arabic language, English and the human sciences.
Since 2003, according to the law on the compulsory schooling extension to the age of 16, the Institute has started the "M Project", that is the secondary school cycle, reaching the stage of the tenth grade.
In a changed cultural context and due to the rising need to raising the institute’s educational level, The Ephpheta Paul VI institute started the M2 project to continue the education process at school until the 12th grade (Tawjihi) and to let the students admit for the governmental high school exams. This has given more opportunity for the deaf students to reach university education.