Twenty clergymen gathered for Sabeel’s annual 3-day clergy retreat October 14th-16h at the beautiful and peaceful Hortus Conclusus convent, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Garden in the village of Artas near Bethlehem. These clergymen – representing different denominations – came from their churches around the West Bank (Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala & Zababdeh), the Galilee and Jerusalem to visit this sacred oasis run by 6 nuns of the Daughters of Mary of the Garden.
Before the retreat, the clergymen joined a demonstration on opening day of the Knesset in solidarity with the people of the villages of Iqrit and Bir’am, whose villages were depopulated in 1948 and not long after, destroyed.
In Artas, the retreat officially began with a prayer and a greeting by Bishop Atallah Hanna, who spoke of the importance of such a gathering of clergy from the different churches. Rev. Naim Ateek then gave a presentation entitled, “The Development of Theology in the Holy Book.” He gave all the clergymen several Bible verses to analyze. In the evening, Orthodox priest, Saba Khair, led a prayer.
The following day, Father George Daboub gave a morning prayer in the Catholic tradition. Then, Father Peter Du Brul presented his paper on “The Three Challenges of the Bible,” which he will also be presenting as a speaker at Sabeel’s 9th International Conference (November 19th -25th). The group read the first letter to John and analyzed the text.
Next, Father David Neuhaus, also a speaker at the upcoming conference, spoke about Joshua and the destruction of Jericho in his presentation, “Where is the Word of God in Joshua 6?” The clergymen said they enjoyed the presentations of the retreat and recommended that Father Neuhaus be asked to lead the retreat the following year.
Rev. Suheil Bathish gave evening devotions after dinner, and there was continued discussion about the tough texts in scripture. There was a loving and respectful atmosphere as the group did evaluations of the presentations and made recommendations for the 2014 retreat.
On the last day, the clergymen went on an excursion of the village of Artas, which was led by a guide who spoke of the village’s history and how important it was to have the monastery in Artas. The group then hiked up to Solomon’s pools and visited the St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church.