Green Life Practices

Celebrating the Environment; Responding to Climate Change

Bethlehem – The Environmental Education Center (EEC) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) launched its Tenth Annual Palestinian Awareness and Education Conference Green Life Practices, Models, and Climate Change and Jerusalem–Capital of Arab Environment 2019 with the blessings of ELCJHL Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar.

The conference was particularly important this year because it launched on the eve of the declaration of the City of Nativity as the Capital of Arab Culture in 2020. It also comes shortly after the conclusion of the 14th National Week of Bird Ringing and Monitoring, the initiative that was created because of the conference and then became a seasonal tradition in partnership with the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority.

“Everyone should make time for the environment each day.” Photo by EEC

The conference began with an opening ceremony attended by hundreds of guests. Bishop Azar opened the conference with a few words expressing his gratitude for the EEC’s work and the launching of his new initiative “Green Hour,” encouraging everyone to make time for the environment each day.

“All organizations, schools and community entities must work together in facing these environmental challenges.” Photo by EEC

Governor of Bethlehem Kamel Hamid, emphasized the importance of the work of EEC that continues to be in Palestinian society, as well as how great the environmental challenges are facing Bethlehem.

“This initiative and passion, of the EEC is very admirable and inspirational in facing environmental issues.” Photo by EEC

Head of the Environmental Quality Authority (EQA) Adala al Attireh shared a moving story about how she was surprised to learn, upon taking her position at the EQA, that the EEC was incorporated before the EQA existed.

“I am excited for the ability to bring all of these different people together in the spirit of caring for our shared environment.” Photo by EEC

Finally, EEC Executive Director Simon Awad welcomed all to the conference and shared his gratitude for the platform these conferences provide in discussing environmental topics. A few topics included in the discussions were solid waste challenges, recycling in refugee camps, land degradation, climate change and more.

A performance by the Evangelical Lutheran Talitha Kumi School choir. Photo by EEC
Performance of the Palestinian National Anthem by the Shepard Scouts. Photo by EEC
Photo by EEC

A group of experts, officials and academics in the Preparatory and Scientific Committees presented papers after the opening ceremony and on day two of the conference.

Summaries of the papers were available to participants.

Maddi Froiland from the EEC contributed to the story. ELCJHL edited.

Von Palästina nach Deutschland

Austauschschüler gewesen – lebenslang Vorteile

Fadi (vorne links) tanzt traditionellen palästinensischen Dabke-Tanz in der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Beit Sahour während einer Schulvorstellung im Jahr 2016. Foto von Ben Gray / ELCJHL

von Fadi Elyateem

Austauschschüler gewesen – lebenslang Vorteile

Ein ganzes Schuljahr verbrachte ich als Austauschschüler in Deutschland, um genauer zu sein: in Xanten. Dort besuchte ich das Gymnasium und wohnte bei zwei extrem verschiedenen Gastfamilien. Eine tolle Erfahrung war das, wodurch ich viel über Deutschland, andere Länder, sowohl die englische Sprache als auch die deutsche Sprache kennenlernte.

Xanten ist die Partnerstadt von meiner Heimatstadt Beit Sahour. Das Gymnasium in Xanten hat auch eine Partnerschaft mit meiner Schule, die Evangelische Lutherische Schule in Beit Sahour. Das machte die Wahrscheinlichkeit hoch, in das Gymnasium in Xanten rein zu kommen. Dort ging ich in eine internationale und englischsprachige Klasse, die Europaklasse.

Durch die Europaklasse hatte man Gelegenheiten, über viele andere Länder mehr kennenzulernen, weil sich in der Klasse 21 Schüler mit 8 verschiedenen Nationalitäten befanden. Schüler aus Deutschland, Spanien, Italien, der Türkei, Montenegro, den USA, Bulgarien und natürlich Palästina nahmen in der Klasse teil. Das hat meine Wissen über diese vielen Länder verbessert.

In meinem Austauschjahr wohnte ich bei zwei Gastfamilien. Von den beiden Familien lernte ich die deutsche Sprache und lernte auch viel über die deutsche Kultur kennen. Die erste Gastfamilie wohnte in der Stadt Xanten, kochte modernes Essen und war atheistisch. Da ich aus christlichem Hintergrund komme, war das für mich am Anfang sehr komisch. Durch die Zeit erfuhr ich viel über die Atheistin und dessen Leben. Nach einem halben Jahr bei dieser Familie konnte ich anders und kritisch darüber denken.

 Die zweite Gastfamilie war extrem anders als die erste Gastfamilie. Sie wohnte auf dem Land irgendwo weit von Xanten, kochte oft Bauernessen und war Christ. Zur Schule musste ich zuerst Fahrrad fahren und dann den Bus zur Schule nehmen, wobei ich bei der ersten Familie mit dem Fahrrad 5 Minuten bis zur Schule brauchte. Die zweite Familie hatte viele Kinder, die immer zusammen aßen. Vor und nach dem Essen wurde gebetet und sie gingen fast jeden Sonntag zum Gottesdienst. Das änderte meine Sicht auf andere Konfession en des christlichen Glaubenes und konnte nachher noch kritischer darüber denken.

Eine dritte Gastfamilie gab es auch. Bei der lebte ich nicht, sondern spielte Posaune in ihrem Posaunenchor. Der Mann war der Posaunenchorleiter. Sie fuhren mich immer von und nach Hause. Mit dieser Familie hatte ich viel Spaß und verbrachte mit der viel Zeit, weil wir viele Proben und Konzerte hatten. Die Frau ist eine Proffesorin an der Universität Duisburg-Essen. Mit ihr war ich mehrmals an der Universität und konnte einen Sprachtest machen, der bescheinigte, dass ich an der Universität Duisburg-Essen studieren darf, ohne andere Sprachkenntnisse zu haben.

Da die Evangelische Lutherische Schule in Beit Sahour eine PASCH- Schule ist, durfte ich den Sprachtest Deutsches Sprachdiplom Stufe Zwei (DSD II) schreiben und absolvieren. Damit hatte ich die Möglichkeit überall in Deutschland zu studieren und ein Stipendium von DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) zu beantragen, dessen Voraussetung war, die Bestehung des DSD-II und ein Schüler an einer PASCH-Schule zu sein.

Ich bekam letztens das Stipendium und einen Studienplatz für ein. Medizin Studium an der Universität Duisburg-Essen. Ohne das Austauschjahr kann ich mir nicht vorstellen, wie mein Leben wäre.

 Das Austauschjahr in Deutschland veränderte mein Leben. Wegen des Jahres kann ich fließend Deutsch, lernte die deutsche Kultur und viele Leute kennen und finde jetzt immer in Deutschland Hilfe. Je mehr man Leute man kennt, desto einfacher und schöner das Leben. Deswegen bedanke ich mich bei alle Leuten, die ich in dem Jahr kennenlernen durfte. Zuletzt möchte ich der Evangelischen Lutherischen Schule und deren Lehrern danken, weil sie mir viele Möglichkeiten und Chancen gaben und mich, um mein Ziel zu erreichen, unterstützten. Vielen Dank!

From Palestine to Germany

Exchange Students Have Lifelong Benefits

Fadi (front left) dancing traditional Palestinian Dabke dance at The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour during a 2016 school performance. Photo by Ben Gray/ELCJHL

Written by Fadi Elyateem

The exchange year in Germany changed my life.

Because of the year, I can speak German fluently, I know the German culture better and now I will always find help in Germany.

The more people you know, the easier and more beautiful your life.

In my exchange year, I lived with two host families. The first host family lived in the city of Xanten, cooked modern food and was atheist. Since I come from a Christian background that was very funny for me in the beginning. Through time, I learned a lot about the atheist and his family. After half a year with this family, I could think differently and critically.

The second host family was extremely different than the first host family. They lived in the countryside far from Xanten, often made peasant meals and was a Christian. I had to ride a bicycle and then take a bus to school. The second family had many children who always ate together. Prayer was given before and after dinner and they went to worship almost every Sunday. This changed my view of other Christian denominations which allowed me to think even more critical.

There was also a third host family. I did not live with them, but played the trombone in their trombone choir. The man was the trombone choirmaster. They always drove me to and from home. With this family I had a lot of fun and spent lots of time with them because we had many rehearsals and concerts. The woman is a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen and she introduced me to the university several times and I was able to do a language test, which certifies that I am allowed to study at the University of Duisburg-Essen without having any other language lessons.

Xanten is the twin town of my hometown, Beit Sahour. The high school in Xanten also has partnership with my school, the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour. That made it all the likelier to get into high school in Xanten. There I went to an international and English speaking class – a European class.

The European class provided opportunities to get to know more about many other countries. In the class there were 21 pupils representing eight different nationalities. Students from Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Montenegro, the USA, Bulgaria and of course Palestine participated in the class. The exposure to these international students improved my knowledge of these countries.

The Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour is a PASCH school or “Schools: Partners for the Future” initiative. It is a global network of some 1,800 schools that place a high value on German.

PASCH is an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), the Goethe-Institut (GI), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (PAD).

I was allowed to write and complete the language test German Language Diploma Level Two (DSD II). This gave me the opportunity to study all over Germany and apply for a scholarship from DAAD, the prerequisite of which was to be the DSD-II and a student at a PASCH school.

I was awarded the scholarship and a place to study medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Without the exchange year, I cannot imagine what my life would be like.

That’s why I want to thank all the people I met during the year. Lastly, I would like to thank the Evangelical Lutheran School, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and its teachers for giving me many opportunities and for supporting me in achieving my goal.

Many Thanks!

National Bird Week Opening Ceremony 2019

Bishop Ibrahim Azar does a little birdwatching. Director Simon Awad shows him where the birds are in flight. Photo by EEC

By Simon Awad, Director of The Environmental Education Center

His Grace Bishop Azar launched the Fourteenth National Bird Week with a speech beautifully articulating how important the EEC’s work is, in addition to calling upon everyone to engage in care for creation. The EEC-ELCJHL was honored to be in the Bishop of the ELCJHL’s company for the fourteenth National Bird Week. Members of all ages were delighted to learn more about Palestine’s bird populations and engage in part of the bird ringing process.

The EEC-ELCJHL launched the fourteenth National Bird Week in partnership with the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority this Monday, 7 October. The EEC holds the study and celebration of birds in Palestine as a top priority. The Talitha Kumi Ringing and Monitoring Station which is utilized by researchers at the EEC, sits at a prime location for bird ringing – right in the center of the Eurasian-African flyway. Those at the EEC use this important research location not only to further their own understanding of birds, but also to spread this knowledge and enthusiasm to members of the community. Throughout this week, many school groups as well as any interested community members can come to the EEC and see the Talitha Kumi Ringing and Monitoring Station, speak with some of the bird researchers at the center, and learn more about the importance of bird biodiversity and migration to Palestine.

A Chat With The New Vicar

Rodny Said Returns Home After Seminary in Canada

Rodny Said is the new vicar at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour. Photo by Ben Gray / ELCJHL

A lifetime member of The Evangelical Lutheran church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Rodny Said tells about his internship to serve the church at home in Palestine and his feelings of excitement and uncertainty returning from theological studies at Martin Luther University College/Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. Said will do congregational work at The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour with 150 members and teach religion to 11th and 12th grades at Beit Sahour School

He talks about the gifts he has to offer the Palestinian church and his hope for communal healing. 

You just returned in August. What do you think of your internship assignment? And how are you feeling since you’ve been back? 

When you come back you don’t know what to expect after being gone for six years. I’m excited to work with the church and I’ve already started getting more involved with the Beit Sahour community. So far, it has been a good experience. I will be working with Pastor Munther Isaac who will be in charge of administrative work at the church which he will divide with his congregation in Bethlehem. He will have to be there for communion for instance, since I can’t do baptisms, marriages, and communion until I complete the internship. 

Tell me more about your path to theological education. 

Before I went to study for my Master of Divinity degree, I went to Bethlehem University for Hotel Management and a bachelor’s degree in Christian and Global Citizenship at Wilfrid Laurier University. Once I complete the year-long internship then I will be eligible for graduation because all of my coursework is completed. This is the final part of the degree program.

I’d also like to add that it was (Former) Bishop Munib Younan who helped me connect with people from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and helped me get the scholarship to attend.

With all of your exposure, studies and transformational experiences, what gift do you want to give to the church? 

I am trained in a theological way, preaching on Sunday is important but being in the community is just as important. I will tell you what the people in Beit Sahour told me, “You can preach whatever you want on Sundays but what you do on a daily basis in the community is what is important.”  Much of my training in spiritual care and psychotherapy will be the gift that I give because I have worked on myself and will be able to counsel them on their journey. 

Why do you feel that those gifts and education in spiritual care and psychotherapy are necessary in the Palestinian community/church?

The Palestinian community is suffering with a lot of trauma so people can feel that the pastor can care for them. Jesus did this ministry on the streets with the depressed. I think that if I were to preach, I have to be there on the ground with people, visiting them, walking with them, too. 

What is unique about serving the congregation and community in Beit Sahour? 

In Beit Sahour if you are not out in the community you cannot make it as a pastor.  The people expect you to be at the community events, with the Muslims celebrating and with the Orthodox and Latin churches. It is important to participate with the whole community. There is a super strong connection with all the people there. If you, as a pastor, are not doing this then you are disconnected from the community. I was born and raised in Jerusalem so I am still learning this way of being in community in Beit Sahour. I must stop at the shops on the street to say hello to the shop owners, even go to the government and be a part of the solution, that is what’s expected of me from the church. 

What do you want people to know about you and how you do ministry? 

In our society people always think the pastor is too busy so I want people to feel safe coming to see me, but even better I want to take that first step to meet them. I am not a magician so I can’t solve everything but I think talking helps people feel some relief – that’s the therapy of talking and the beginning to many solutions. It’s the way people grieve here, by talking to each other; talking in communities.

There are some pretty good examples of this type of pastoral care within the ELCJHL, do you think so? 

Yes, I do! Pastor Ashraf is a great example. He knows the entire village; when you say Pastor Ashraf’s name everybody knows him. This is a lot of pressure to follow. I have to step up my game! He was my pastor when I was a youth. We worked together for many years and I’ve learned a lot of skills from him. 

Also, Bishop Barhoum has known me since I was born. He was my pastor for 25 years and a perfect example of being humble. I think pastors and bishops forget this when they are on the seat but really we are nothing, we are people. This is what Bishop Barhoum has taught me through how he talks and relates to people.

What else do you want to say? 

The pastor’s role is to serve and not be served. The pastor sets the example. What I learned in Canada is to encourage the role of the community as valuable too, not just the pastor as leader. I think this concept of communal work does two things: It makes the people feel like they belong in the church, that they are not just there to pray – they feel like it is home. Next, people need to understand that they are the Church. The Church is them, this is important. The Church is us. The Beit Sahour community realizes this and takes ownership for the church, and this results in the pastor being able to focus on other stuff.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada – Eastern Synod is a companion with the ELCJHL and sponsors Rodny Said’s education. Martin Luther University College also gives financial support. 

ELCJHL Church Synod Elects Ms. Nancy Khair

The Women´s Desk Learns About The Status of Palestinian Women´s Rights

(left) Ms. Nancy Khair Qumsieh seen with Ms. Nahla Azar (right) photo: ELCJHL

Jerusalem – On the heels of The Status of Palestinian Women’s Rights and the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) workshop when more than 50 women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) met to discuss international conventions like CEDAW and to increase women’s participation in decision making within the church, Ms. Nancy Khair Qumsieh of Beit Sahour was elected to serve on the ELCJHL Church Synod, last Friday.

Ms. Qumsieh, who will complete the term of Ms. Muna Salfiti Tannous who resigned due to extensive travel abroad, was elected Synod Secretary until the end of Ms. Tannous’ term in 2021.

Of the 38 synod member seats, there are 31 men and six women. The other five female synod members are Hilda Thabet, Sonia Khoury, Rita Duqmaq, Basma Amer and Rana Khoury.

“This was a surprise for me. I am so proud to be chosen as a woman synod member for the church and the trust from the church. It is a huge feeling of responsibility, but I am kind of fearful because this is the first time I have taken such a sensitive role.” Ms. Qumsieh said. “ I hope and pray to be a source of inspiration for all.”

During the CEDAW workshops on 21 September, Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar said that he would like to see the synod have a balanced representation of women, men and youth that mirrors the Lutheran World Federation Gender Justice Policy (2013) mandate for LWF member churches, which states 40 percent men, 40 percent women and 20 percent youth representation in church decisions and that the gender quota is also represented in youth representatives.

“It is good that you have gathered here together. You are one with the men and we are one with the women. You are the Church.

Bishop Azar

The workshop included lectures and discussions by Ms. Saida Al Atrash, Director of Mehwar Center for the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Families, Ms. Wafaa Al-Araj, legal Advisor at the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Justice Somoud al-Damiri, first female Chief Prosecutor of Personal Status for the Upper Council of Sharia Courts in Palestine and Judge Scarlet Bishara, first female Judge in the Ecclesiastical Court of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Following the lectures, Judge Bishara split participants into three groups to brainstorm recommendations to be taken to the church.

Three questions guided the brainstorming session:
• What are the challenges facing women in the church that limit their participation in decision-making positions?
• What do women need to participate in church decision-making positions?
• What programs are needed to increase women’s access to church decision-making positions?

Recommendations included:
• Provide continued training and education opportunities about the LWF Gender Justice Policy,
• Provide training to equip women for decision-making positions,
• Promote awareness on women’s rights,
• Promote gender equality in schools and the household,
• Hold workshops and conferences,
• Encourage pastors and church leaders to use their role to educate on gender justice,
• Ensure the presence of men at gender conferences and their comfort in discussing gender justice,
• Educate and encourage youth to become active members in the church.

Further follow up is required to put these plans into action.

“The workshop was a huge success, bringing together the Lutheran congregations of the ELCJHL in important dialogue, training and brainstorming regarding the status of Palestinian women’s rights and gender justice in the Holy Land,” Women´s Desk Director, Ranan Issa said.

Lecture Synopsis

Ms. Saida Atrash, Director of the Mehwar Center for the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Families, opened the workshop with an overview of the center’s services and shared their expertise in dealing with domestic violence survivors’ issues in the Palestinian context. Mehwar Center is the first in Palestine offering specialized anti-violence services for women and their children. It was inaugurated on 27 February 2007 as a shelter to provide services for the community at large. The center aims to improve physical and psychological health conditions among victims of violence hosted in the shelter, build up legal knowledge, improve social and life skills in order to help sheltered women and minors’ reintegration into society, reduce incidences of violent behaviors against women and children, and increase social engagement in women and children’s human rights.

Ms. Wafa Al Araj, Advisor in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, summarized and discussed the achievements of the Palestinian Authority in general and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in particular in the field of women’s rights and implementation of CEDAW. Ms. Al Araj highlighted the challenges Palestinian women face such as local customs and traditions, the Israeli occupation, old discriminatory legislations, lack of monitoring and workplace control mechanisms in the private sector, as well as a shortage of labor inspectors.

Justice Somoud al-Damiri, Chief Prosecutor of Personal Status for the Upper Council of Sharia Courts in Palestine, encouraged Lutheran women to push towards achieving significant changes in women’s rights awareness and public attitudes which will have lasting impacts for generations to come.

Judge Scarlet Bishara, Judge in the Ecclesiastical Court of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, offered statistics regarding the disproportions between men and women in high positions in the church. The church consists of three bodies of authorities: the church council, the synod and the church elders. In 2012, the synod approved the ordination of women and in 2015 a new family law was adopted. The ELCJHL is the first and only church in the Middle East to adopt a constitution providing gender equality in family issues including inheritance rights.