main

Palestinian Territories: New Women\'s Group Report

March 22, 2007


Dear Friends,

Thank you for partnering with us in prayer. In the last two months we have asked you to pray for several big events of Musalaha. We are happy to report that we had a sucessful Leader\'s family gathering and two women\'s conferneces. In this e-mail we\'ll tell you about the new women\'s group in Prague and in the next few weeks we\'ll include reprots on the family gathering where we discussed our historical narrative, adnt he women\'s conference on Identity.

In January we asked you to pray for a group of 20 Palestinian and Israeli women who flew to Prague for a four-day conference. God was at work among the women as they began forging relationships with each other. A report of the conference follows.

We are in the midst of planning several more projects and ask that you keep these in your prayers also.

Blessings,

The Musalaha Team


New Women’s Group in Prague

In January, a new group of twenty women met in Prague, Czech Republic for four days. The Palestinian group, flying out from , arrived a day before the Israeli group, coming from Tel Aviv. We had all packed layers upon layers of clothing in preparation for the drastic change of climate. Our winter has been relatively warm, with little rain. In the Czech Republic , on the other hand, everything was covered with snow: leafless trees, huge expanses of open fields, fleets of Skoda cars… Arriving in a new country is always exciting from a cultural perspective, but to suddenly experience a totally new climate fills one with awe of the beautiful diversity of God’s creation. Even while we were still circling down over Prague in the airplane, this glimpse of His pure white blanket over the countryside told us we were in for four very unusual days.

When the two groups met up in town for our first gathering, we were all asked to share the story of how we got invited to the conference. One of the Palestinians, Areen, said that she has many friends who attend Musalaha projects, but she never wanted to attend any herself. Sometimes she would even discourage others from attending. Then, however, one of her friends returned from Musalaha’s October ’06 Young Adult Desert Trip and told her about an Israeli soldier who apologized on the trip for things he had done during his service in the West Bank . He publicly admitted that he had not stood up for his beliefs, but had allowed his surroundings to dictate his behavior. When Areen heard this, something in her changed, and at that moment she said to herself, "Maybe it is time to go and experience Musalaha for myself."

I remember that trip in October. It was one of the trips we had a hard time recruiting people for because there were so many other things going on at the same time. As I listened to Areen share this story, I perceived how much influence we, Musalaha participants, have on those around us. When we leave a Musalaha trip, it is not the end of anything: It’s only the very beginning of our work as agents of peace in our communities.

Most of the women were in Areen’s position: attending a Musalaha conference for the first time. As we usually do at such conferences, we divided the group of 20 into smaller groups so that the women could talk more intimately and get to know one another better. I shared sleeping quarters with three Israelis and two Palestinians. From the beginning, our identity as Christians was clear to all of us. One of the Israelis said, “You are more my family than my neighbor, who is Israeli. I came here to get to know my sister better.” And yet, at the same time, our sisterhood felt like that of a family divided, one that has been shattered by enmity and has only now dedicated itself to the long, hard path of reunification. The women’s mere attendance was proof of their willingness to persist in that path. Said an Israeli: “You can live your whole life thinking you know something, but you actually don’t. I’ve lived in all my life and I don’t know Palestinians. I came here because I want to meet, understand, and know them.”
Together, we studied biblical principles of reconciliation and the Book of Daniel. From Daniel we learned that, when we are confronted by a conflict between our faith and a threat to our faith, choices have to be made. Over the long term, all such choices we make will determine how and how much we growth in our faith. Facing unusual challenges, that is, stepping outside our comfort zone, forces us to confront such conflicts, to make such choices—forces us to grow in faith. All the participants of this conference did just that: they left their homes, jobs, families, and comfortable lives to come to a foreign country to meet with people considered to be their enemies. We came to this conference not just because we, as believers in Jesus Christ, have a broader and better understanding of the urgent need for reconciliation, but because we understand that we cannot reconcile if we do not grow together in our faith and let it unite us.

The more one interacts with different communities in our country, the more one realizes just how necessary this faith is to our reconciliation. The roots of our segregation reach deep.
My nephew, for instance, is a very energetic, talkative 3-year-old, currently infatuated with repeating people’s words over and over again. The other day, as we were playing together at my parents’ house, he burst out with a degrading comment about Jews. He made the comment in a very adult manner, so it was obvious to us that he had picked it up somewhere. However, a close friend of our family, an Israeli Jew whom I consider to be like an aunt, was also sitting with us, and this was not obvious to her. I laughed (from shock, really) at my nephew’s comment—she did not. And I could relate: It reminded me of times my Israeli friends made jokes at the expense of my people and I didn’t laugh either. The truth about my family is that they couldn’t care less “who you are” or “what you represent”. That is all the more reason why this incident upsets me: even in such an open, loving family as ours, the black tendrils of our society’s hatred and hostility have a hold.
But I am not discouraged, because “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.” [Matt 15:13] I know that God can change hearts—even whole societies. All we need do is ask Him. For the participants of this trip, the journey toward change and wholeness has already begun. The women still have many more events to attend together in the months to come, and each time their relationships will grow deeper. We at Musalaha believe that it is these relationships that will make change in our societies possible in the long run. After all, “…the root of the righteous yields fruit.” [Prov. 12:12]
~ Shadia Qubti, Project Coordinator

PRAYER REQUESTS:

Bridge Builders Desert Encounter April 3-7
This is the second encounter for a group of Palestinian, Israeli and Norwegian young adults. They met in last summer and now they are going to the Desert to experience desert life and to continue the relationship building. The program will consist of a mixture of camel riding, jeep-riding, teaching and devotions. Please pray for safe travel of the participants, for deepened relationships and wisdom for the teachers as they prepare the sessions.

Youth Desert Trip April 7-10
40 youth have registered for the Youth Desert Trip. Please pray for ht eleadershi and the youth that they will have meaning ful time as many new participants are attending. They will spend 4 days in the Negev Desert .

Leader\'s Desert Encounter and Youth Leader\'s Training
We have had to postpone these two events because of increased security alert issued by the Israeli government for . Please pray as we reschedule both of these events. The Youth Leaders\' Training will be held in in June. We are still finalizing dates for the Leader\'s Desert Encounter. Please pray for wisdom and for the participants who have to adjust their schedules.

Women\'s Small Group Meetings
Thank you for praying for the Women\'s conference in . The women had a very blessed time. In the coming months each of the small groups will be meeting to follow-up and process much of the learning that took place. Pray for the women as God continues to use the learning to transform their hearts and relationships.


Thanks to all who have covered this ministry and its activities in your prayers. If you would like to contribute towards covering the expenses of Musalaha projects, please send donations (tax deductible) according to following information: In the USA, checks should be made out to Reconciliation Ministries and mailed to: PO Box 238, Medina, WA 98039-0238, USA. Please attach a letter designating the funds to Musalaha. In the UK, checks should be made out to The Andrew Christian Trust and mailed to Mr. Roger Tootell, Rockwood, Storth Road, Sandside, Milnthorpe, Cumbria LA7 7PH; Registered Charity Number: 327845. Please attach a letter designating the funds to Musalaha. Donations may also be sent directly to Musalaha at the

PO Box 52110, Jerusalem, Israel 91521.