Over 90 women from five of the six ELCJHL congregations took place in a retreat on meditation and music therapy over three days in July near the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias. Organized by Mrs. Bassimah Jaraiseh, Women’s Work Facilitator and led by Suad Younan, the Chairperson of the Women’s Desk of the ELCJHL, the retreat focused on repressed emotions and how to deal honestly with the self and with others.
Families from the five ELCJHL churches gathered during the first days of July in Jericho for a retreat about “Christians in a Changing Society.” As usual, the Amman congregation could not join because of the stringent movement restrictions and permit system. About 60 people gathered for the event, a mix of Bible study, lectures, prayer, discussion, fun and fellowship. Bishop Younan and Redeemer Pastor Sani Ibrahim Azar gave a foundation of Lutheran theology and the church’s role in a modern world. They tackled some of the same challenges that are the same world-wide: protecting children from the negative influences of globalization and internet; strengthening relationships in family and marriage with more two-parent working families and other ethical issues. They explored ways of strengthening ties with the church because the church has such deep meaning for them.
On the lighter side, kids and families splashed in the pool, others played cards or backgammon, and one evening they played a biblical version of “So You Want to Be a Millionaire?” with questions about the Bible.
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.
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.
No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous! Joshua 1:5-6a
They reflected on the meaning of our baptism into the Body of Christ and the tension it calls us into. Our belief that God comes to us in a small baby in a manger, the mystery of the Incarnation, illustrates how the Christian journey asks us to live in contradiction to ordinary values. In our globalized, militarized world, God calls us to find our strength in weakness and true power in vulnerability and compassion.