Sabeel started its programming for Advent 2011 in the West Bank at Beit Jala, at the Cremisan Convent and land. Recently, the Israeli government unjustly confiscated hundreds of acres in preparation for the construction of more segments of the separation wall, so it was a blessing to still be able to meet at this place. Sixty-three women from Sabeel Jerusalem and Bethlehem’s Wi’am Center for Conflict Resolution gathered. They took part in a joint retreat, which featured inputs from Melkite priest Yacoub Abu Sa’da , Roman Catholic priest Louis Hazboun and Greek Orthodox priest George Shahwan. Each of the clergymen shared a spiritual reflection about Advent.
Though from different denominations, all three priests agreed that the meaning of Advent lies in its message of love, hope, peace and expectation, and that these are the basic and main elements of our Christmas celebrations. Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, we should focus on preparing our souls and spirit for receiving baby Jesus. Christmas is not about Santa Claus, gifts, ornaments and Christmas tree lights. It is about the joy and anticipation of the new born king, our savior.
After the Advent reflections, the women joined together for a simple meal of falafel sandwiches, and socialized. In the afternoon the women joined the people of Beit Jala, Christian Palestinian owners of the confiscated lands, and Cremisan nuns to celebrate the Eucharist. This Eucharist is special because it takes place amidst the threatened olive trees and it is both a service of thanksgiving and protest (officiated by the Roman Catholic priest Ibrahim Shomali). The celebration of the Eucharist is a testament of the hope, faith, and steadfastness that we have as Palestinian Christians. A statement that Jesus, justice, and care for all of God’s creation are at the center of our faith.
Additionally, after the service a young Palestinian woman brought pieces of wheat bread and Zeit and Za’ater(olive oil and seasoned thyme) to the people who were at the service, exemplifying the importance of the land and showing pride of what the land can produce. We pray that the Cremisan lands and convent will still be accessible to Sabeel programming next Advent season