On Saturday 16 April, Sabeel and Friends of Sabeel North America with the help of other Friends of Sabeel and partner organizations around the world held a prayer service online. Holy Saturday Prayer Services, the day before Easter, started online during the pandemic, and hundreds of people have attended the services over the past two years.
Sabeel and Friends of Sabeel are very thankful to all of the different groups who co-sponsored the event. These include: Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN), Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network (EPF PIN), MennoPIN, United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR), Disciples of Christ Palestine Israel Network DisciplesPIN), Alliance of Baptists: Justice in Palestine and Israel, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP), Global Kairos for Justice US (GJK-US), and Indiana Center for Middle East Peace (ICMEP).
On Saturday 9 April, Sabeel, Friends of Sabeel Australia, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network, and Palestinian Christians in Australia held a Palm Sunday service focusing on Palestine and Australia. The organizations raise awareness in Australia about the issue of Palestine, with a special focus on churches. To see the service please see the following link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x0reJDZsA8&t=22s
On Tuesday 5 April, Sabeel hosted its fifth Kumi Now – Palestinian Innovators session with Dr. Lily Habash. Dr. Habash is a younger Palestinian woman who has played many roles in the statebuilding of Palestine. She is a longtime advisor to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She has also been very active in Palestinian civil society and played a crucial role in founding and running many Palestinian NGOs. Dr. Habash is one of the founders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiation Support Unit, which aims to bring Palestinians from the diaspora back to Palestine to help with the negotiation process with Israel. Her experience working with the Negotiation Support Unit made clear just how unequal the negotiations are, as the Palestinians are significantly more limited than the Israelis due to the many challenges of living under occupation. She also served in Iraq, Nigeria, and Afghanistan and is now living in Tunisia as she manages an important project in Libya.
Dr. Habash is a very committed Christian human rights activist. She spoke about how her faith and her experiences of growing up in a Palestinian refugee family during the first intifada, her education, her community, and her parents have all formed the person she is. Dr. Habash breaks every stereotype that the world has of Palestinian women.
Through the Palestinian Innovators series, Sabeel wants to give a platform to people who are not well known by the international community – to showcase the amazing people and talent in Palestine.
On Friday 1 April, Omar Haramy from Sabeel met with a group from the United Church of Christ Palestine-Israel Network about the declaration that the UCC General Synod passed overwhelmingly last summer. This very important resolution, called “The Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel,” condemns Christian Zionism and the occupation. During the meeting, the UCC group listened to their Palestian partner about how to continue moving from words into action.
On Friday 1 April, Sabeel held our annual Easter egg hunt in Bethlehem for the first time since the pandemic began. Around 90 kids from different backgrounds in the community participated in the egg hunt. A group of musicians and performers from the city of Akko performed for the children, who enjoyed the music and dancing.
On Friday 1 April, Sabeel Nazareth held a special meeting led by one of the younger adults in the local community, Alaa Abu Rahmoun. Ala is a graduate of theology studies, he is also a well-known member of the church choir in Kufr Kana the place the first miracle took place. He presented a Bible study reflection about Lent and connected the suffering of the cross to the suffering of Palestinians.
On Friday 1 April, Sabeel Nazareth held an event to celebrate the new free community library project. The community has created 16 small bookshelves or libraries around Nazareth where people can borrow and share books for free. The libraries are housed in the offices of local non-governmental and other organizations. At the event, Sabeel members gathered at bookshelf #16, which is located at the YMCA. Anyone in the community is able to borrow a book from one library and return it to a different location. The bookshelves include all kinds of books on many topics. We hope to encourage people to read more and share their valuable books.
For the second time, Sabeel is opening the health insurance plan to the community for registration. Individuals and organizations are able to register until April 1st. Already 500 community members and five major organizations have expressed their interest in joining. We expect the numbers to grow in the coming days.
Last September, Sabeel and the community launched a new, groundbreaking health insurance program. Previously, not all Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza had access to a high standard to health care. Sabeel has been bringing people together to solve this problem affecting the community. Churches, non-profit organizations, laypeople, and businesses have been working together, in supporting the health insurance plan.
The health insurance program provides a collective pool of money that everyone can use according to their need. Approximately USD $150,000 each month are being used out of the insurance money pool to cover the medical expenses for people with chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Previously, many community members were not able to take medication regularly because it was too expensive. Now, they are able to take their medication on a regular basis. Everyone who wished to enroll and complied with the conditions of this health project, was accepted in the program. Based on Sabeel’s research, this is already the biggest community health insurance initiative that exists in the region. We hope that by the end of 2023 there will be around 10,000 members enrolled. This project was made possible through the support of Mennonite Central Committee MCC who are a long time partner of Sabeel. MCC supported Sabeel to research and develop an insurance policy that will be completely funded by the local community and rely on member contributions rather than on donor funding.
On Tuesday 29 March, Sabeel organized a trip to Jericho during Lent. The purpose of the trip is for the community of Jerusalem to reflect at the time of fasting and connect their faith to the suffering of the people specifically in Palestine/Israel. In Palestine, there are over thirteen different churches and they all have their own unique traditions during the period of Lent. Sabeel as an ecumenical liberation theology organization always aims to encourage the community to celebrate the differences and connect our faith to our reality.
On Wednesday 23rd March, Sabeel organized the Contemporary Way of the Cross event in Jerusalem. Over 100 people from Nazareth and Jerusalem, including a number of Nuns from different Catholic Religious Orders, attended the event. The group, carrying a cross, walked from the first station to the final station of the Via de larosa and were escorted by local groups who chanted in their Eastern and Western traditions. At each station, we connected our suffering as Palestinian Christians with the suffering of Jesus through song and prayers. A number of pilgrims and tourists in Jerusalem followed the group with cameras and joined in prayer. During the service, we also prayed for peace in Europe and an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine. Local churches in Jerusalem have asked their members to pray for peace and an end to the suffering created by the ongoing war over there.
For the past two years, Sabeel has not held the Contemporary Way of the Cross due to the pandemic.