“Women need connections with one another, and they need a support group of which to confide. It is not surprising to find that women typically respond to stress through social connections. The phrase “tend-and-befriend” characterizes how women respond during stress: caring for others and seeking relational support.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land is committed to promoting the role of women in church and society as gender justice is it’s forefront priority. The Women’s Desk was established to follow up all issues related to women within the ELCJHL itself and also within the Palestinian society in general. The desk is run by a woman and informed by a committee of women. Since the desk was established, many accomplishments have been achieved. The committee has held many workshops and gatherings on many different topics and continues to empower women to achieve significant change by increasing public awareness and knowledge in women’s rights and public attitudes towards women which will positively impact both present and future generations.
The aim of the ELCJHL women’s desk is to achieve gender equality and justice, have strong women in leadership positions and promote women’s education to qualify them for full participation in life and the workplace with the emphasis on co-existence, respect for other faiths and promoting peace and justice. Accordingly, we aim to encourage communion and spiritual sharing, working ecumenically with other Christian women’s groups and other religious groups and raising awareness against domestic violence. Our goal is to build a community of empowered women who will be agents for change in their society.
The oppression of women continues to be a clear facet of culture in the Middle East. Palestinian society, along with Arab culture, is filled with many forms of patriarchy. Women of the ELCJHL are like women everywhere, busy trying to develop themselves and find balance in faith, life, work and family. But our women face unique challenges; living under occupation: checkpoints, permits, other restrictions of movement and the separation wall closing us off from schools, medical care, family and friends. Living under occupation is a hardship for all, but occupation for women presents another layer of difficulty.
The Women’s Desk History
The Women’s Desk is a ministry of the ELCJHL in cooperation with the Women’s Committee which is an organization of pastor’s wives, headed by Mrs. Nahla Azar.
The women of the ELCJHL are the backbone of the family and the church, standing fast in faith, hope and spirit, and seeking support from other women when they need it.
The ELCJHL Women’s Desk was able to return to ministry even after the most disconnected years following the second intifada. Mostly, each congregation’s women’s group organized and worked independently because of movement restrictions, checkpoints and the difficulty in getting permits.
For years, it was impossible to gather all congregations even for a few days. So in February of 2007, almost 100 women from Palestine’s five congregations gathered in Jericho for a 24-hour retreat. The presence of their sisters from The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at Amman was missed, however, because they were still refused permits.
The formation of an established women’s committee consisting of pastor’s wives and female leaders helped to systematize our work, organization and implementation throughout those years.
In 2018, the Women’s Desk represented the ELCJHL in a leadership seminar for women from churches across Europe and the United States. The seminar was sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) our companion church and fellow Lutheran World Federation member church, and was held in Wittenberg Center in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany. The Women’s Desk shared information about the status of women in the Holy Land and addressed both the challenges faced by women and the opportunities available for women in the Holy Land. The seminar was a great success, as the participants got to know one another and learn from women from other Lutheran churches. Together, the participants built relationships and networks that have continued long after the conclusion of the seminar.
Additionally, the Women’s Desk has developed its own initiative called #GenderJustice4Palestine to coincide with other global gender justice projects and commitments. The initiative is aimed at encouraging faith leaders, of all denominations and faith, to engage in gender justice as outlined in the LWF Gender Justice Policy created in 2013 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly SDG #5 “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls.”
The ELCJHL was highlighted as a model church at the United Nations Sixty-Third Commission on the Status of Women(CSW63) in New York, USA because of its recognition and establishment of the Lutheran Ecclesiastical Court in 2014 by the Palestinian Authority, and inspired by the LWF Gender Justice policy, the ELCJHL established a groundbreaking amendment to its Personal Status laws in 2015, encouraging other faith organizations to adopt a similar model.
The Women’s Desk and Women’s Committee have held conferences opened to the wider community for training on International Human Rights, understanding The ELCJHL’s Ecclesiastical Court Family Law, as well as meeting successful women in the community to share their experiences.
World Day of Prayer Services
The members of the Women’s Committee are involved in the preparation of the activities for the World Day of Prayer. Each year, these services have a different theme which is celebrated throughout the world. Women from churches throughout Jerusalem work together to plan these services. We hope that such gatherings are signs of a growing ecumenical awareness. We also pray for wisdom and guidance in our quest to find a better way to do ministry in a divided region with a multitude of socio-economic difficulties.
For more information about the Women’s Ministries of the ELCJHL, contact Mrs. Ranan Issa, the Women’s Desk Director at the ELCJHL Synod Offices at firstname.lastname@example.org.