Feb. 15, 2007 – For the first time in years, ELCJHL women from Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour gathered together in Jericho for a 24-hour retreat celebrating the unity and strength of women and faith. Though the churches are close together geographically (Jerusalem is only about 13 kilometers from Ramallah and not more than 8 kilometers from Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, they have been unable to meet because of movement restrictions and the increasing isolation of Palestinians locked into small enclaves by fences, walls and Israeli-only roads. Unfortunately, it was still too difficult to get the women from Amman’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to come. They will have their own retreat.
Movement, energy and excitement filled the gathering of the almost 100 women, who sang, prayed, had devotions and reflected on the role of women in the church, civil society, family and government.
Pastor Ramez Ansara opened the retreat Thursday evening with a devotion about unity based on Ephesians 4:1-18: (the gifts he gave…) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. This text will also be the theme for the World Day of Prayer, to be held Friday, March 2, which the ELCJHL women organize together with other Jerusalem church women’s groups. The evening was also filled with favorite songs and a musical solo by Mrs. Hannelori Shihadeh.
Dar al Kalima Principal Mrs. Nae’la Kharroub led some movement and game activities, then a specialist gave a demonstration about the importance of care of face and skin. Bishop Younan opened the next morning with a devotion about Jacob, and then Dr. Nuha Khoury gave a presentation about the status of women in Palestine. the educational staffs are women, but that appears to be one of the only areas where women are accepted on a widespread basis. About 30%Recent studies continue to confirm that violence against women continues to be a problem in Palestine. A 2006 study showed that 61% of married women and 53% of unmarried women (18 and older) have suffered at least one episode of psychological violence, and that 23% of married women and and 24% of unmarried women (18 and older) have experienced at least one episode of physical abuse. Job opportunities continue to be limited for women, who also tend to be less likely to be allowed overseas for university education than their male counterparts.
The retreat ended as the large group broke into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas about how to foster leadership among women in the church, in civil society and politics. Recommendations are being compiled and Mrs. Suad Younan, the chair of the Women’s Committee who organized the retreat, will also be organizing the follow-up. All expressed wishes to gather again soon.