Olive Harvest 2021

This week, students from all ELCJHL schools participated in an olive harvest campaign.

In Palestine, olive picking is a joy and an important part of the Palestinian identity, but it is a lot of work. Often, farmers recruit many family members, friends, and volunteers from the community to help harvest all the olives and ensure there are as little olives left behind as possible.

This Monday, the ELS school did a farm tour that ended with olive harvesting to help out the Sarras farm. Also on Monday, students from Dar Al Kalima visited the EEC’s campus. The EEC is host to a garden full of olive trees, and students learned about the impact of the olive harvest on the economy, agriculture, and Palestinian culture before assisting in the harvest.

On Thursday, students from Talitha Kumi arrived at the EEC to lend their helping hands. They similarly learned about the impact of the olive and its economic, cultural, and health impacts on Palestinian society before an afternoon of harvest.

In Ramallah on Thursday students from the School of Hope were also picking olives and discussing how important olive trees are to Palestinian culture. Watch the video below for a glimpse at the student harvest this year at School of Hope.

We are so happy to welcome the olive harvest season and all that it means for Palestinian society, and look forward to the Olive Harvest Festival, hosted by the EEC, that will be happening next week!

Youth Fall Retreat

Unlike the Dead Sea, our Youth Ministry is full of LIFE!This Monday and Tuesday, youth from four of our five ELCJHL congregations gathered together in the wilderness to celebrate community, youth, and faith.Reverend and Youth Ministry Leader Rodny Said , with the help of Reverend Doctor Munther Isaac , organized a trip to Arab Il-Rashaed, (عرب الرشايدة), a desert campground 15 km from the Dead Sea. Upon arrival, youth enjoyed a campfire, a discussion on Martin Luther, prayer, and yummy zarb. They didn’t get much sleep, because at 4am everyone was driven across the desert to witness a beautiful Dead Sea sunrise. Everyone hiked the challenging 4-hour hike back to camp, where a hot meal and cold showers awaited. After some final song and prayer, youth returned home to their families.We love getting our youth together and hope to do it again soon! Thanks to everyone who came, and to another thanks to Pastor Rodny Said for a wonderful trip.

An ELCJHL Fall Farm Visit

Today, the eighth graders of the Evangelical Lutheran School of Beit Sahour, in a trip facilitated by the EEC and accompanied by an EEC educator, traveled to Sarras Farm to learn about Palestinian agriculture.

In Palestine, farming is always plagued with resistance from surrounding settlers and land disputes. The Sarras farm is no different. Students learned about the struggle of Mr. Sarras, who works his land with his sons and daughter. He feels called to continue to care for creation, despite how often the right to his land is called into question by outside forces.

Students also learned about the Sarras farm’s environmental work. All vegetables are grown organically, and unused vegetables are composted. The Sarras family also has bees on their farm, which help both the farm itself and any surrounding land, by providing pollinators to flowering plants. The farm is also home to bio-gas system that creates fuel from animal waste and compost. The gas created in this system invented by the Sarras family fuels all kitchen gas needs, eliminating the need for outside gas, ultimately reducing the use of more harmful gases.

As ELCJHL students and Palestinian students, learning about the struggle of Palestinian land ownership, in addition to the importance of local agriculture and a real-life example of environmental stewardship, are all necessary for students to learn in a memorable manner. Students asked great questions and now hold a tangible example of one way Palestinians resist peacefully, care for creation, and provide for Palestinian society.

ELCJHL Soccer Tournament at ELS Beit Sahour

Go team go!

Today, our four ELCJHL schools competed in a friendly soccer competition. Teachers, principals, and students from all schools traveled to Beit Sahour to cheer on their team, and spend time as a community.

Some great soccer was played! We are very proud of our players from all the schools.

Bird Week Fall 2021

It’s bird week at the Environmental Education Center!

This week, students from 9 different schools, as well as several community members and government officials, are flocking to the EEC to celebrate and learn about the birds of Palestine. Today, Bishop Ibrahim Azar visited to partake in the festivities. He offered an important piece of wisdom to the students, recalling the story of Noah’s Ark and how important the dove carrying the olive branch is to this story. In this story and in Palestine today, birds are a sign for peace. Bishop advocated for the protection of birds and their habitat through responsible human actions.

With the help of the EEC’s Director Simon Awad and EEC bird researcher Bashar Jarayseh, Bishop Azar, Director of Natural Resources Department Issa Edwan, and participating students all released two native eagle species and an owl, along with several sparrows. These birds have all been rehabilitated and marked through the Talitha Kumi Bird Ringing and Monitoring Station, which is run by the center’s team of bird researchers.

Bird Week will continue through Friday, with participation from Dar Al Kalima and Talitha Kumi students later this week.

Bishop Azar, Church Representatives meet New Apostolic Nuncio to the Holy Land and Cypress

Bishop Azar, accompanied by Reverend Gabi Aelabouni, Reverend Doctor Meghan Aelabouni, and Reverend Carrie Ballenger, met with the apostolic nuncio to the Holy Land and Cypress today. Archbishop Adolfo Tito Camacho Yllana is new to his position in the Holy Land. We warmly welcome archbishop Yllana, and look forward to hosting him at the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem sometime soon.

Bishop Accompanies Congregation Member through Land Dispute

On the eighth of October, 2021, Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, along with religious leaders from various local church institutions, accompanied church member and ELCJHL school principal Anton Nassar to his family land.

This land is currently undergoing extreme conflict both from the occupying Israeli government and the family’s neighbors. For many years, the Nassar family has shown immeasurable strength and steadfastness in the fight to keep their family land. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land fully supports the Nassar family, and is dedicated to staying by their side as they continue to struggle through the legal battles surrounding this issue. Our church community is stronger with the support of one another, and we walk with our congregational members through both joys and trials. May God bless the Nassar family and their difficult journey toward rightful land autonomy.

Prayer of Mourning for Lebanon

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. Psalm 57:1-2

Dear partners in ministry,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you to share the news of a terrible tragedy in Lebanon. On the evening of August 4, two explosions in the port area of downtown Beirut created widespread destruction, injury and death. As you have likely seen on international news reports, the second explosion leveled the area around the port, tossing cars and blowing out buildings. The toll in human lives is yet to be known, but as of this writing, more than 100 people are dead, more than 4,000 injured, and hundreds more are still missing. The official cause of these explosions has not been confirmed, but it may have been an accident due to a fire in the vicinity of buildings containing highly explosive substances.

Although there is no institutional Lutheran presence in Lebanon, we are in partnership with a number of Christian ministries in Beirut, including the Evangelical National Church of Beirut, the All Saints Anglican Church Beirut, the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical
Churches, and the Near East School of Theology, a seminary which a number of our ELCJHL pastors have attended. As of now, we do not know of any casualties in these communities, but some of their buildings sustained significant damage. And, of course, the nation of Lebanon has been greatly struggling in recent weeks with the economic and health effects of COVID-19, and with political turmoil. In addition to the loss of life, the infrastructure of Beirut has been significantly affected, including damage to hospitals and to the port area itself, which handles imports of necessary basics such as wheat.

I share this to give you a sense of the extent of this crisis, which is still developing, and to ask you to join me in prayers for our partners in ministry in Beirut and for the Lebanese people. This coming Sunday, August 9, our worship services in all of the ELCJHL congregations will pray for the victims of the Lebanon disaster, and we will hold a special offering to raise funds to support our partner churches in Lebanon as they serve their communitiesaffected by this tragedy. We pray that you will join us in answering the call to serve our neighbors.

In Christ,

Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar

Mais: I Will Not Leave My Home

Voices of the Living Stones: Stories from the ELCJHL

Before dawn on the morning of Wednesday, July 1, soldiers of the Israeli Occupation entered the Fadaiel home in the al-Tirah neighborhood of Ramallah. Mais Fadaiel, a rising 8th grade student at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, was at home with her mother, Haneen Nassar Fadaiel. The soldiers asked Mais’ mother for her identification and cell phone and told her to come with them. She simply asked for five minutes to get dressed.

As Haneen dressed, she comforted Mais, telling her daughter not to cry. The soldiers then bound Haneen and took her away, leaving 14-year-old Mais alone in the house. Desperate to say one last goodbye to her mother and wondering what would happen to her in Israeli detention, Mais followed the soldiers out to the street. The soldiers then fired a sound bomb at Mais, but she remained on her feet, refusing to run and hide.

The early morning arrest is not new to Mais or her family, but rather part of a long history of injustice perpetrated by the Israeli Occupation. “I kept thinking of a sentence one of the officers said to me – that history repeats itself,” Mais recalled as she described the events of that morning.

The Fadaiel Family: Haneen, Rami, and Mais

Mais’ father, Rami Fadaiel, was not present the morning of Haneen’s arrest because he is currently a prisoner of the Occupation, held in administrative detention for the last 20 months. Administrative detention, wherein a person is held without trial or charges on the allegation that the person plans to commit a future offense, is a tactic frequently used by the Israeli Occupation to hold thousands of Palestinians for lengthy periods of time. In fact, Mais has only spent a cumulative three years with her father, as he’s spent most of her life in and out of detention. There are very few pictures of the young family together and the gaps between the photos stretch months or even years, representing the time Rami has been held away from his wife and young daughter.

The family’s memory of unjust detention stretches back even further, however, with eerie echoes to Mais’ situation today. More than 30 years ago, in 1989, Mais’ maternal grandparents were arrested from their home in the predawn hours, leaving her mother Haneen and her uncle (then ages five and four, respectively) alone in the house. The children went to live with their grandparents for the 5 years their parents were imprisoned, leaving thire family home abandoned. Mais grew up knowing her mother’s story, and she refuses today to let history repeat itself by leaving her own family home.

Although she is only 14, Mais shows a remarkable resilience born of this family history of strength in the face of injustice. Mais stays in her family home alone in order to protect her family’s dignity and pride, refusing to abandon the house. In doing so, she keeps the spirit of her family alive and clings to the hope that they might soon be reunited.

Mona Fadaiel, Mais’ grandmother, believes that the arrest of Haneen was especially painful for Mais, as it left her without any parental care. “Where is the humanity?” she asks of the Israeli Occupation. “Is this not a crime against children for which the Occupation must be held accountable?”

Thankfully, Haneen Nassar Fadaiel was released from Israeli detention on Monday, July 20. After a total of 19 days living in her home alone, Mais was reunited with her mother. Rami Fadaiel remains in administrative detention, separated from his wife and daughter.

The Fadaiel family is a Palestinian Christian family living in the al-Tirah neighborhood of Ramallah, in the West Bank. Mais Fadaiel, age 14, is a student at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. She will be in 8th grade for the 2020-2021 school year. Her mother, Haneen Nassar Fadaiel, is a graduate of the School of Hope and serves on the Parents’ Council of the school. Mais’ maternal grandmother, Maha Nassar, was also a physics teacher at the school.

Unfortunately, the story of the Fadaiel family is not unique. Arbitrary detention and early morning raids are common occurrences in Palestine as a result of the Israeli Occupation. We ask for your continued prayers for the Fadaiel family and that all those held in captivity are reunited with their families.