Palestinian women are the focus of the summer edition of Cornerstone from Sabeel in Jerusalem. Here is Sabeel Director Naim Ateek's cover article, "Through the Eyes of Women - Their Faith and Courage."
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Through The Eyes of Women - Their Faith and Courage
by Naim Ateek
In this issue we focus on the life of Palestinian women under occupation. The intention is to highlight the important role women have played and continue to play in the struggle against the illegal Israeli occupation. The general impression is that men are the only political players and that women are uninvolved, and at best, play a minor and passive role.
It is true that Palestinian men have been the key players in conducting both the armed struggle and the political negotiations, and that women have had a relatively minor role to play, though some of them have been active in both. Yet when we consider the multiple layers on which the liberation struggle has been conducted and the various fronts on which the resistance has taken place, it becomes clear that Palestinian women have been vanguards in their direct and indirect involvement and especially in its nonviolent aspects, though some have been involved in the armed struggle as well.
Sabeel’s Theological Position
In many countries and throughout many centuries, history, culture, and religion have contributed to discrimination against women and perceived them as inferior to men. Sadly, religion has played a despicable role in this. In fact, it has taken humanity thousands of years to rise above such primitive theologies and, unfortunately, in many places around the world women still suffer from prejudice and discrimination.
Palestinian Liberation Theology has always affirmed that the God we believe in is the God who loves all and created us all equally -- both men and women. “…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God created us all as humans and endowed us with gifts, talents, and responsibilities in all aspects of life. It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus related to both men and women with respect and honor as equal human beings.
Consequently, Palestinian women played a prominent role in the establishment of the Sabeel center in the early 1990’s and have continued to be involved in the articulation of its theology, vision for ministry, policy, and decision-making. Women have been conspicuously active on the board and staff as well as representing Sabeel both locally and internationally in various forums and conferences.
At Sabeel, it is theology that guides us rather than any cultural or religious limitations. It is our theology of God expressed and exemplified in the life and behavior of Jesus Christ towards all people – men, women, Romans, Greeks, Jews, Samaritans, and others. Our faith in the God of love for all people must transcend those aspects of culture that are discriminatory and biased against
Women Under Occupation
The burdens and responsibilities which many Palestinian women have to bear under the Israeli occupation cannot be underestimated. Life under the illegal Israeli occupation has been and continues to be extremely difficult especially when one considers the obstacles that the occupation has imposed. Israel has placed before Palestinians insurmountable stumbling blocks that obstruct and impede their daily life. In addition to the separation wall which Israel built and the military checkpoints which are enforced, there are numerous other military regulations and daily challenges that obstruct even the nitty-gritty matters of daily life.
The role which women have played has been very significant. One can summarize it with the word courage – courage to withstand the injustice, to confront and face the Israeli army and engage it with boldness and determination and sometimes suffer the consequences, courage to make hard decisions when caring for the wellbeing of their families, when, at times, their husbands and children were in detention or incarceration.
Moreover, it is not only the physical but the psychological and emotional drain that many women have to bear. It is the day in and day out of continuous hardships caused by the lack of freedom that is accompanied by a sinister humiliation at every turn. Palestinian women have been involved in the struggle directly and indirectly, in their homes as well as outside, showing unflinching vigor and resilience.
In light of all the hardships, we thank God for the undaunted faith and courage of many Palestinian women, their unwavering nonviolent struggle against the oppressive occupation, and together as men and women we look for the day when justice will be achieved and the occupation will come to an end. We express our hope that soon all the people of Palestine will celebrate their freedom and liberation and all the people of our land Palestinians and Israelis, men and women, will live together in peace and security.
The Rev. Naim Ateek is the Director of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem: www.sabeel.org
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