APWA’s Mission and Objectives

18 Feb

American Palestinian Women’s Association 

American Palestinian Women’s Association (APWA) is a nonprofit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Virginia.  APWA is a non- political secular organization that represents American Palestinian women whether they may be Christian, Muslim, Jew, or not.

APWA’s mission:

  • Empower American Palestinian women,
  • Advocate for women’s equality across the entire social spectrums and spheres (economic, political, cultural, familial, educational, social),
  • Advance genuine change that meets the needs of all Americans of every faith, affinity, color, gender, social standing, ethnicity, sexual orientation, native born, and immigrant,
  • Advocate for the emotional and mental wellbeing of children whether they may American, Palestinian, or Israeli,
  • Support long lasting just peace among Palestinians and Israelis, and
  • Bridge and elevate the level of understanding between Americans and Palestinians.

***American Palestinian Women’s Association is a non profit, non-political, secular, tax-exempt, registered organization. APWA was established in 2004 by concerned American Palestinian women in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area (DC, VA, MD).

The Birth and Life of Jesus is the Living Experience of the Palestinian Christians

10 Dec

Christmas season in Palestine is unlike any experienced by any Church in the world.  In Palestine, Advent marks the birth of the faith of the Palestinian Christians, their witness, and truths. Jesus lived and witnessed a heartless world, confronted injustice and defended the vulnerable. No place on earth is more callous than the Israeli occupied and militarized Palestine where Jesus was born.

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Mai Abdul Rahman     December 2019

In Palestine the Advent season is unlike any experienced by any Church in the world. For the Palestinian Christians, observing Advent in context and purpose is defined by their uninterrupted connection to the first followers of the Christian faith. During Advent, Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus and remember the real meaning of Christmas. For the Christians of Palestine it marks the beginning of their faith and  the daily truths they live that determine the measure of their hardships.

On the first day of Advent candles are lit and church pastors in their special way mark the beginning of the Christmas season. Palestinians never take for granted these simple acts of faith. Advent under Israel’s unpredictable political climate and military occupation is an out of the ordinary experience. Observing Advent is a test of faith. Fulfilling the same customs set by their ancestors thousands of years ago is a trial of endurance. Even dipping the first candle in freshly pressed olive oil and lighting the last candle are formidable challenges. In Palestine, preparing for Advent and celebrating Christmas requires greater effort, ceaseless worry, and abundance of faith. The desperate world Jesus lived is affirmed in the daily trials and tribulations of ordinary Palestinians. No place on earth is like the Israeli occupied and militarized Palestine.

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem to bring joy to the world. On the first week of Advent the birth of Jesus is commemorated by lighting Christmas trees in town squares across the world without fear or apprehension. However, the city of Bethlehem’s Christmas tree is lit right beneath Israel’s illegal wall and watchtowers that seal Palestinians from their families and the rest of the world. Palestinians take comfort that Jesus also lived in a desperate and cruel world. However, those truths do not make it any easier for them to live an unjust world.

Celebrating Advent is ordinary and effortless for most Christians. But not for the Palestinian Christians. It requires special permits from Israel’s military administrators. During Advent church pastors, priests, and bishops all across the world recite the story of Jesus, his birth,  life and family that hailed from Nazareth. An Nasira (Nazareth) is less than sixty miles away from the Church of Bethlehem. For Palestinians the prospect of traveling 3,232 miles to Sweden is more plausible than clearing the 103 military manned Israeli check points that separate Bethlehem from An Nasira.

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The Christmas season is a time of spiritual reflection on the important foundations of the Christian faith. Palestinian Christians celebrate God’s love for the world within their walled and sieged churches. The tiny manger where Jesus was born is kept in the Church Bethlehem under the watchful eyes of Israel’s military occupation soldiers- who control their movement and access to their cherished church. Cruelty is carried on unabated in the same land and fields where Jesus witnessed wicked callousness.

During Advent the story of Jesus and the heartless world He experienced are abstractly described around the world. For the Palestinians, the cruel world Jesus confronted is contextually understood through the imposed conditions made possible by the callousness of neighbors and strangers. The life and world Jesus encountered is the living experience of Palestinian Christians.

Palestinians reside in the small town where Jesus was born, their cities were visited by Jesus, their fields is where Jesus the shepherd roamed, their orchards shaded Jesus, and His sermons were heard and recounted by their ancestors. Within their walled off churches, towns, and communities Palestinians contemplate each detail about the birth and life of Jesus. However, unlike all others, these biblical stories are an affirmation of their strong connection to the first Christians and ancestral churches they must protect.

During the last week of Advent, clerics and priests retell the story of the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks at night and were foretold of the birth of Jesus. Palestinian shepherds roam the same fields keeping watch over their flocks day and night afraid of Israel’s settlers and soldiers who at will and without cause harm them and their flock. As an infant, Jesus promised peace on earth, ultimate and permanent peace, but the peace promised has yet to materialize for the Palestinians. The descendents of the first church are walled and sieged as the world silently watches the zealots actively plot and plan their demise and the downfall of the Jewish people and Israel.

Christmas Day, Catholic and Protestant clerics will bear their ecclesiastical vestments that display Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery that was first worn by early Palestinian clerics. They will quote the scripture that was elucidated by early Palestinian scholars. Yet, few if any, will utter a word of concern for the plight of the Palestinian Christians. Their daily struggle to worship and maintain Christendom’s first churches are ignored.

Jesus defended the innocent. Cruelty is facilitated in the land and fields where Jesus protected the vulnerable. By any means necessary, Christian Zionists want Palestinians to relinquish their ancestral lands to the Israeli settlers. They strategically choose to intensify the tension and conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. They scheme to empty and reshape the Palestinian landscape. By funding, supporting, and expanding Israel’s illegal settlements they encourage the robbing Palestinian lands, fields, and water. Their goal is to affect the life and livelihood Palestinians. The consequences of their actions on the Palestinian Christians is by design.  In their view, Palestinian Christians are the necessary casual victims in their plot and scheme to hasten Armageddon.  However, unlike the Christian Zionists, Palestinian Christians faithfully advocate peace for friend and foe. They practice and honor the faith of their forefathers, speak truth to power, and work for justice and peace for their own people, and their occupiers. They carry the cross saddled upon them by fellow Christians with grace.

The Palestinian Christians live the true meaning of Advent all year long. Two thousand years of faith connects them to their past and present. Neglected by those who share the tenants of their faith, they draw comfort from the just and compassionate path that Jesus called upon their ancestors. Their faith is their hope. They pray the sluggish conscious of the faithful is aroused. And tirelessly work to bring peace where the Prince of Peace was born.

 

 

Peace is Doomed Without the Full Participation of Palestinian and Israeli Women 

1 Sep

Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists must become fully involved in shaping the peace they envision. Their shared outlook on the human cost of the Israeli military occupation on their young is an asset to Palestinians and Israelis. Had they been invited to participate, especially during the Oslo negotiations, Palestinians and Israelis would more likely be living as neighbors. But all is not lost.

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mai abdul rahman        September 2019

Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists share a unique perspective on the impact of the Israeli military occupation. Their outlook on the human cost of the daily violence on their young transcends the general view held by the predominantly male political establishment within Israel and Palestine.

Women Peace Activists Surpass the Limits of their Political Landscape

In spite of their difficult political environment, Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists have managed to transcend their fractured communities. They have built trusting relationships to end the cyclical wars and senseless suffering. They are guided by one shared goal. To realize the peace that has eluded Palestinians, Israelis, and the world. Their absence in every major and minor development as well as the decades long failed peace process has proved too costly. The relationships they built during and since 1980’s are an asset to Palestinians and Israelis.

The Making of Women Peace Activists

During the first Intifada (shaking off in Arabic) in the late 1980’s, Palestinian women began organizing at the grass roots level with Israeli women. Many Israeli women lead protests against Israel’s occupation policies within Israel. Together they collaborated in organizing events that involved educating Israelis about the occupation. Israeli women were actively involved with Palestinian women in planning and documenting Israel’s acts of violence, and participated in nonviolent direct action alongside Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Both parties understood the human cost of the occupation on their young, and both were driven to end it.

Transcending the Political Divide

Palestinian-Israeli women activism took root during the first Intifada. Twenty years after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, an Israeli military truck collided with cars carrying Palestinian laborers in the Jabalya refugee district of Gaza. Four Palestinians were left dead, and another 10 were wounded. Few hours later, Palestinians spontaneously poured into the streets of Gaza. The following day, on December 8, 1987, Israeli soldiers killed a 17 years old Palestinian protester, and injured 14 others including underage children, sparking the first Intifada. Their exasperation of two decades of Israeli occupation was mirrored across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A massive nonviolent uprising soon spread throughout occupied Palestine. Israel’s brutal response towards the Palestinian protesters gave the impetus for Israeli women peace activists to mobilize against Israel’s military occupation and policies.

The Israeli  military response to the unarmed protesters included a government sanctioned policy of breaking the bones of Palestinians irrespective of their age rapidly increased the number of fatalities. For example, in one swoop, the entire young population in Ama’ri refugee camp were “hopping on crutches or were in casts.” By any measure, this official Israeli response was too much to stomach.

According to the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, during the first Intifada alone the Israeli forces killed 1,070 Palestinians, including 237 children, arrested and routinely tortured more than 175,000 Palestinians many of whom were underage children. To boot, Israel’s illegal settlers  killed 254 Palestinians and injured countless others. In addition, Israel imposed long and recurring school suspensions (Kindergarten-college) and curfews, and deported hundreds of household heads. Israel’s open hostility towards the Palestinian protesters evoked the compassion of most observers including some Israelis.

More critically, the first Intifada’s limited aim gained the support of Israeli women. Palestinians sought self-determination only within the Palestinian Territories, not all of historic Palestine where from many of the protesters were forcefully expelled rendering them homeless stateless refugees. Their primary motivation was to divest from Israel’s military rule. The fierce desire of the approximately 1.7 million Palestinians, who had lived for two decades under the strict mandates of the Israeli military occupation to be free, made it possible for Israeli women to join the Palestinian call.

Also during that period, Palestinian women’s collectives had multiplied across the occupied territories. These collectives were keenly interested in reaching out to Israeli women. This was a radical departure from the past. The goals of the Palestinian Women’s Action Committees, the Working Women’s Committees, the Union of Women’s Committees, and the Women’s Committee for Social Work included the engagement of Israeli women.

Within the Green Line (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza) Palestinian women lost husbands, children, relatives, and communities. They witnessed unspeakable cruelty. In addition to confronting Israel’s daily violence on unarmed protesters, women faced family separation, and food insecurity that affected them and psychologically traumatized their children. Their social structures were destroyed, their relationships and traditional networks were severed, and they were left to head their households and communities

Israel’s harsh measures left a leadership void in every Palestinian sector, which necessitated Palestinian women to step in. They took over top political positions issuing directives to guide the Palestinian uprising, and managed the daily needs of thier communities.  Palestinian women coordinated strike days, distributed secret leaflets outlining weekly protest strategies, organized tax revolts, operated underground schools, ran agricultural collectives, set up mobile clinics and victory gardens, and sanitation projects. The first Intifada showcased Palestinian women as leaders and organizers. Above all, their collaborative association with Israeli women across the Green Line changed perspectives in their own society.

On the other side of the Green Line, Israeli women began establishing women lead groups in support of the Palestinian demands. ‘Women in Black’ was organized in 1988 to protest Israel’s military occupation. Israeli women were also key players in forming several Israeli human rights organizations including ‘B’Tselem’ and the ‘Israeli- Palestinian Committee Confronting the Iron Fist’. Several female Israeli lawyers, most notably Felicia Langer and Leah Tsemel dedicated their time and legal practice to defend Palestinian activists and prisoners in Israeli courts. Both were instrumental in calling attention to Israel’s mistreatment of underage children. All of which made it possible for Palestinians to distinguish between the Israeli State and its far right politicians whose actions robbed them their freedoms and lands, and Israel’s peace activists who rejected the actions of the Israeli State, its settlement enterprise, and political leaders. Their earnest dedication gained the respect of many Palestinians. It also opened the space for Israelis to question the human cost of Israel’s military policies.

The Budding of a Possible Peace and its Doom

While the mass mobilization during the first Intifada was not new for Palestinian women, the inclusion and cooperation of Israeli and Palestinian women at every level of society was distinctive. The collaborative efforts of Palestinian and Israeli schoolteachers, nurses, farmers, lawyers, and housewives played a central role in ushering the Madrid Conference and Oslo Accords.

During the peak of the first Intifada on November 15, 1988, the Palestinian National Assembly met in the Algerian capital where members endorsed the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.  On May 22, 1989, the US Secretary of State, James Baker, addressed AIPAC. He told attendants Israel should end its expansionist policies. This brought about renewed international interest for advancing the two state solution. In 1991, President George H. Bush called on the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives to negotiate an end of the Israeli occupation.

However, the official Palestinian and Israeli delegation was largely made up of men. Half of the two populations were represented by  two Palestinian women and one Israeli woman. Strikingly, the sole woman representative on the Israel negotiating team was the chair of the Likud in the Knesset, Sarah Doron.  The Madrid Conference lead to the Oslo signing, an incomplete agreement.  Soon after, it became clear ending Israel’s military occupation was “more distant” than before the first Intifada. The Oslo Accords entrenched Israel control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza by circumventing the economic and human rights of the Palestinians.

The Exclusion of the Palestinian and Israeli Women

Many have since argued that excluding the Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists may have doomed the peace negotiations from the onset. A recent study of 40-peace processes in 35 countries, found that when women activists were heavily involved, agreement that satisfies both sides was more likely. The active participation and engagement of women resulted in long-lasting peace.

If the goal of a peace process is to build peace, than the individuals and groups who created bridges of understanding and brought the parties to negotiate peace should be represented. Both shared an interest in ending Israel’s military rule that exacts a heavy price on the young Israelis who administer Israel’s military policies as well as the Palestinians. Nonetheless, the Accords were ultimately negotiated entirely by men. As time progressed they even excluded the three women representatives from the discussions.

Research shows that if members of Israel’s peace movement that was dominated by women had the opportunity to participate, the terms of the agreement would have been different. Denying them their earned right to participate made it possible for Israel to dictate terms that helped the continuation of its occupation policies. Similarly, the Palestinian women who bore the brunt of the first Intifada were largely absent. Their victimization, endurance, and skillful ability to reach across the Green Line were dismissed. Their active participation in the negotiations from beginning to end would have more likely produced sustainable outcomes.

Women participation in the peace process broaden the discussions on the needs of the both parties. Their participation ensures the two parties address wide range of social, economic, human rights, and security measures that protect the rights of all. However, men largely focus on their respective security fears, try to maintain their power and hold, and disregard the needs of the other party. From negotiation to implementation the Oslo Accords are a case study on how to maintain the status quo.

The absence of the Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists was a significant contributing factor that produced the flawed Oslo Accords. The abundance of data on the role of women in building sustainable peace proves it. Excluding the Israeli and Palestinian women who desire peace resulted in the failure of the Oslo Accords. In fact, the Oslo Accords extended and entrenched Israel’s military occupation, and authorized the expansion of its settlements. These facts are irrefutable.

We may never know what could have been possible if the Israeli and Palestinian women activists and leaders were invited as full participants. However, there is a mountain of evidence that their participation could have produced a different outcome. Women participation is linked to expanding discussions on democracy, human rights, and mutual security, all of which would have changed the Oslo outcomes. More importantly, if the goal of a peace process is to build peace, than it makes sense that individuals and groups who seek and work for peace participate.

All is Not Lost

To date, Palestinian and Israeli women continue to collaborate and organize. Many are members and leaders of several NGO’s. They tirelessly advocate for the end of Israel’s military rule, organize, and participate in non-violent action against Israel’s settlement expansion schemes. While there is little both can do under Israel’s current political climate, they continue to operate under Israel’s severely restrictive military laws and military occupation. Women in both societies are participating in nonviolent activism to push their political leaders toward a peaceful settlement, and call for equal rights in their own society and for their neighbors. In the meantime, past failures are  informative.

While peace between Israelis and Palestinians may now seem a distant prospect, women’s leadership and involvement in grass-roots organizing, peace-building and nonviolent resistance on both sides of the Green Line are hopeful signs that deserve recognition. When the future presents another opportunity for meaningful peace negotiations among Israelis and Palestinians, the women peace activists must take their earned seats. Without them a lasting peace is not likely.

 

Ramadan Mubarak

5 May

Monday, May 6th ushers the 9th month of the Muslim calendar, and the first day of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims across the globe devote the entire month to thoughtful reflection, fasting, prayer, and compassion towards all God’s creatures. For example, for the past 1,440 Ramdans, Muslims are prohibited from hunting animals. Ramadan is dedicated for spiritual cleansing, repentance, redemption, healing, and giving. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims demonstrate their repentance through genuine acts of kindness towards others to mend the heart, soul, and health of the individual and community.

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Ramadan Kareem: May your acts of forgiveness and kindness grant you God’s grace and mercy

Muslims affectionately call  the 9th month of the Hijra calendar Ramadan Kareem, ‘Generous Ramadan’. It describes the heaps of rewards worshipers and community receive through prayfullness, genuine acts of compassion, magnanimous forgiving, and altruistic acts of giving. Prayer and soul searching purify and rid the soul from harm committed by oneself. Genuine acts of mercy heal the worshiper and community. Tenderness and kindness towards the weak, poor, and suffering eases the burden of the distressed. Supplication, inner soul searching, and outward expressions of benevolence are performed to seek God’s pleasure and absolution.

Absolution requires sincere effort to awaken and recalibrate the conscience. Heartfelt reflection on the impact of ill deeds committed upon others and repentance, forgiving those who committed harm upon the individual and community, and easing the burden of the powerless, destitute, ill, heartbroken, and despondent.

Deliverance demands honest desire to alleviate suffering. For those of means it requires her to share her wealth with those in need, a friend, neighbor, or relative experiencing financial hardships, and by being kind, humane, and magnanimous. For those without the means genuine acts of forgiveness and the sharing a kind word, a smile, a warm greeting, and if possible sharing a meal is an expression of the spirit of the Holy month of Ramadan. Whether giving or receiving there is a blessing and grace in each exchange.

Ramadan is a reminder of our shared responsibility towards one another, the less fortunate, and an affirmation that each of us has the means to make a difference.  Heartfelt prayer, self-examination, purposeful deeds centered on compassionate giving and healing bless the giver and receiver. Hence, Ramadan is believed to bring blessings to all mankind.

While supplication and self reflection expunge pain, genuine acts of compassion towards all God’s creatures are performed to receive God’s mercy. However, they are incomplete without attending to the needs of the weak, and easing the burden of the poor and suffering. Genuine care and benevolence towards those in need heals the heart and mends the soul.

Ramadan Mubarak to one and all! 

APWA Condemns the Despicable Attacks on Christian Worshipers and Others in Sri Lanka

22 Apr

The despicable attacks on Christian worshippers celebrating Easter Sunday and others in Sri Lanka are outrageous and most appalling. May God speed the recovery of those injured, comfort the loved ones of those killed, heal the pain of the people of Sri Lanka, and unite them to erase all forms of hate and bigotry in their nation.

Palestinian American women stand with the people of Sri Lanka and fellow Americans of all faiths in condemning this act and all acts of violence wherever they take place and whomever they target. Today, we ask women around the world to pray and earnestly work to end of hate and division in their midst and in every corner of this earth.

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Happy Easter

20 Apr

This Easter, Palestinian Christians honor Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and sacrificed himself for the oppressed, sick, injured, imprisoned, and poor. They will draw comfort from the words he said of those who like them (Luke 6) struggle under considerable hardships to protect their families, children, life, and livelihood, and work to achieve justice and peace.

 “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be 
  comforted. 
  Blessed are you when people hate you, when they 
  exclude you,insult you and reject your name as evil
  Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after 
  righteousness for they shall be satisfied. 
  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called
  sons of God.
  Blessed are they that have been persecuted for 
  righteousness'sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” 
  (Luke 6).
            Happy Easter to one and All!

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An Interfaith Ramadan Iftar

20 Apr

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 11.02.17 PM Interfaith Ramadan Iftar 

 Hosted By American Palestinian Women’s Association

In Partnership With

  Churches For Middle East Peace

 Saturday May 11, 2019

6:30 PM-9:30 PM

Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ 

Carpenter Hall 5010 Little Falls Road Arlington, Virginia 22207

Event Proceeds Benefit

The Museum of the Palestinian People (MPP)

Traditional Palestinian Iftar

Promptly Served at Sunset 

Entry Fee $25 (adults) & $15 (minors under 14 years)

Press Link to RSVP

 

APWA is a non-profit organization under the IRS code 501(c)(3) 

 

Interfaith Ramadan Iftar: May 11th

20 Apr

Holy Week: Defines the Palestinian Christian Faith and their Arduous Struggles

18 Apr

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Palestinians are the living stones of uninterrupted generations of Christians. They are linked in faith and lineage to the first Christians. Holy Week for the Christians of Palestine is the most significant living faith experience that connects them to their past, present and future, and the quintessential cornerstone of their faith.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and concludes on Easter Sunday.  Palestinians follow the same path that Jesus took on his return to Jerusalem. Two thousand years ago, Jesus rode on a donkey as followers laid palm branches along his path.

During Holy week Palestinians retell the story of Jesus’ sabeel (Arabic for just path), visit their churches, and attend candlelight services at some of the oldest standing churches in Christendom (Bethlehem, Gaza, Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, Taibeh, Tabarieh, Arabe’, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala). All week, in prayer they will share the same stories their forefathers told of past Holy Weeks and linking how Jesus suffered and sacrificed himself for the Palestinian Christians who followed him then and continue to follow him.

They will recount how Jesus entered their cherished and tortured Jerusalem greeted by a loving crowd who waved and covered his path with palm branches. They will contemplate their organic experience and unique narrative that connects them to the very first Christians and ancestors who lived through and witnessed the countless biblical accounts that speak of Jesus and the heavy cross he carried, and they still carry. They will recount the hardships and the Joys their ancestors before them experienced, and pray for the peaceful end of the innumerable hardships they daily confront.

This week, like every Holy week since Israel’s military occupation, those few Palestinians with an Israeli permit march on foot and waddle through Israel’s Separation Wall, checkpoints, and soldiers 3aOlive-branch-offering-940x626while carrying and waving their Palm fronds and olive branches.

On Good Friday, twenty Palestinian men will carry the heavy cross that Jesus carried alone. Twenty representatives of the same families will place the cross on the same position that their fathers before them placed on their shoulders. They will retrace Jesus’ sabeel along the cobble stoned Via Dolorosa, mark the Stations of the Cross that lead to his crucifixion, reflect and pray at each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross that are depicted on East Jerusalem’s ancient walls. Others will carry and clutch the same small wooden cross their ancestors carried. Together they will march towards the Sanctuary of Flagellation and meander the narrow paths that commemorate the final steps of Jesus.

07079c71e9ed7699c216c4b8997f162eLike their mothers before them, young Palestinian women will gently release white pigeons of peace at the end of the procession in honor of their beloved and tormented Jerusalem. They pray for peace to reign on their precious city and reflect on their unique and arduous faith experience. Robbed of their lands, homes, freedoms, and peace for following and adopting their ancestral faith generations of Palestinian children continue to shoulder Jesus’s heavy cross and call for justice and peace.

On the eve of Holy Saturday, the Holy Sepulcher will spread the Holy Fire that has been kept lit for 1,500 years. The same fire will be carried to every town, city and village across Palestine. Before the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem interrupted the spread of the Holy Fire, Palestinians on foot carried the Holy Fire to neighboring churches in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.  Until 1967, and for 1.200 years before their restrictive occupation, Palestinian delegates, clerics, and laymen crossed the borders to carry the Holy Fire to neighboring Christian churches to share and spread it to the next church.

This Easter Sunday, most Palestinian Christians will be confined by Israel’s Separation Wall, check points and visa restrictions. However, before 1967, most celebrated Easter Sunday at the two holiest Christian sites that mark the birth of Jesus and his crucifixion (Bethlehem and East Jerusalem) where more than twenty separate masses are annually conducted within a span of 24 hours at the Church of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre.

For the Christians of Palestine, Holy Week marks and represents the organic manifestations of their faith, and directly connects them to their past, present and future. In faith, they relentlessly practice non-violence while working for justice and peace for their own people and occupiers- Palestinians and Israelis. Like every Holy Week since 1967, Christians of Palestine will reaffirm their faith, carry their cross and painful existence, and recommit to remain faithful to Jesus’s just path.

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

30 Mar

March 27, 2019

Dear Prime Minister Ardern,

On behalf of the American Palestinian Women’s Association, I would like to express our deepest appreciation for the manner and tone of your response, actions, sincere compassion, and warmth towards the families of the terror victims; including the six citizens and immigrants of Palestinian origin (Atta Mohammed Elayyan, 33 years; Osama Adnan Abu Kweik, 37; Kamel Darwish, 39; Abdul Fattah Qassim al-Daqqah, 57; Amjad Hamid, 57; Ali al-Madani, 66). Also among the injured many were of Palestinian origin (Wassim Daraghmeh and his young daughter Elin, Mohammad Elayyan (Atta’s father), Basil As’ad, Shehadeh Al-Senawi, and Khalid Hijjawi).

Your leadership stood apart from that which we have become accustomed to from Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 6.08.44 PM
male as well as female leaders who often repeat and emulate the pre-established rhetoric. Your consistent kindhearted demeanor and thoughtful behavior was reassuring. And your compassion was most comforting.

Leaders driven by prudence, rational thinking, compassion, and courteous manners create very close-knit and content societies. Conversely, irrational, cruel, inconsiderate, and incriminating leaders sow division, fear, hate, and discontentment. The day after the murderous attacks that took the lives of innocent Americans including members of our own community by foreign nationals on September 11, 2001, American Muslims and Arabs were blamed. In tandem, our community grieved the loss of loved ones who perished on 9/11, and the loss of trusted friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Since the colonial era, Muslims lived and died defending their country. However, most politicians wish to ignore this simple fact. Arab Americans immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800’s, and yet their innovations and contributions to community and society are disregarded.

It is not that the majority of Americans are hateful; in fact, most are as kind as the citizens of your nation. However, when civility is an anomaly, crudeness is the common standard. In recent years, and after Barack Hussein Obama became president, our hardships intensified. The loud and hateful rhetoric spewed by the far right extremists, their political operatives, and supporters that malign American Muslims as well as Arab Americans has become the accepted norm. In spite of this, our hope remains that this shall pass. Like you, we faithfully hold that love extinguishes hate. Benevolence, respect, and friendships repair broken bridges.

Our country shares many of your values, yet we are so different. When challenged with trepidation the inclination of our leaders’ is to use our dominance and power, you astutely showed us that strength lies in the kind manner and compassion a leader emotes when the nation is stricken, afraid, and in shock. Your actions untied your country and re-strengthened its moral and civic fabric. Your community whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or agnostic are fortunate to have you at the helm on a fateful day and a national calamity that has more than often shredded communities, separated, and divided nations.

As sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and mothers of adult children, or mothers like yourself of young children our hope now rests on your example. While you may not know it, Americans of every stripe, and especially Arab Americans and Muslim Americans paid close attention to every move you made and every decision you took. We have been thirsting for a leader like you to demonstrate a better way to respond, rebound, rally, and heal.

After witnessing the compassion and kindness you exhibited to the victims of hate and terror in Christchurch, the tender care for the well being of your citizens, your thoughtfulness towards the grieving families, your love of country, and all your citizens including the recent immigrants fascinated our political leaders and average Americans. Your actions showed us what to expect of a forthright leader for all citizens, not just some citizens. For that we thank you.

Your leadership is a credit to your country and the world. You are a magnificent example of a unifier and a great leader.

Most Respectfully,

Dr. Mai Abdul Rahman
President
American Palestinian Women’s Association

 

(Hard copies of this letter were mailed to the Prime Minister’s Office of Chief Executive in Wellington, New Zealand, and the Embassy of New Zealand, Washington, DC.)

Spring Equinox: Is Mother’s Day for Palestinians

20 Mar

Palestinians celebrate Mother’s Day on March 21st, which generally marks the first day of spring, the resurrection of nature, and the budding of new creations.

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Spring equinox is an astronomical phenomena that is determined by the movement of the sun that occurs between March 19th through March 21st. The specific date is determined when the sun crosses the celestial equator, and day and night are segmented equally at twelve hours. It signals seasonal change and the resurrection of nature.

However, the designation of March 21st  as the first day of spring was established in AD 325  by the  Council of Nicaea. It was set to usher the season of Lent leading to Easter in April.  For that reason, Palestinians celebrate Mother’s Day on March 21st  to signify the beginning of new life, new seeds, and the commencement of new creations.

On Mother’s Day, Palestinians honor their mothers as well as the maternal bonds that extend to grandmothers, aunts, and female family members. Palestinian regard maternal bonds as sacred relations that link families and connect them to past and future generations. During Mother’s Day public events are held, stories are shared, and poems are recited to honor the influence of Palestinian mothers on family and society.

Palestinian poets, writers, authors, and playwrights have dedicated much of their literary work to their mothers. While in an Israeli prison Mahmoud Darwish, the award winning author and poet dedicated a poem to his mother with the simple title “To My Mother.” The poem is written in letter-form and remains one of his most famous poems. It portrays the simple ordinary things that Palestinians treasure in their familial and communal relations, the crux of the Palestinian identity, and their arduous experience living under the Israeli occupation that often separates them from their loved ones (see poem below).

On the occasion of Mothers’ Day for Palestinians, and the advent of spring for all, may your day be filled with(فرح) happiness and (صحة جيدة) excellent emotional, mental, and physical health.

 

Oud player and music composer, Marcel Khalife (مارسيل خليفة) song “To My Mother إلى أمي” was written by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (محمود درويش). It captures the poet’s personal experience as a political prisoner longing to return home to be with his mother.

“إلى أمي  To My Mother”

أحنُّ إلى خبز أُمي
 Intensely I yearn for my mother’s bread
وقهوة أُمي
My mother’s coffee
ولمسة أُمي..
My mother’s tender touch…
وتكبرُ فيَّ الطفولةُ
Within me my childhood is raised,
يومًا على صدر يومِ
Day upon day
وأعشَقُ عمرِي لأني
For her I cherich life, because
إذا مُتُّ،
If I die
أخجل من دمع أُمي!
My mother’s tears will shame me.
خذيني، إذا عدتُ يومًا
Settle me, if I return one day,
وشاحًا لهُدْبِكْ
A thin veil on your lashes
وغطّي عظامي بعشب
With grass cover my bones
تعمَّد من طهر كعبك
Baptized by the purity of your heel
وشُدّي وثاقي ..
Untie my shackles
بخصلة شَعر ..
With a lock of your hair
بخيطٍ يلوِّح في ذيل ثوبك ..
With an unstitched thread at the helm of your thoub-dress
عساني أصيرُ
Perhaps I will become
إلهًا أصير ..
A tolerant god
إذا ما لمستُ قرارة قلبك
But, if  I could  touch the deep tranquility of your heart
ضعيني، إذا ما رجعتُ
Set me, if I ever return
وقودًا بتنور ناركْ ..
Fuel to light the fire you cook with
وحبل غسيل على سطح دارك
A clothes line on your roof
لأني فقدتُ الوقوفَ
Because I lost my strength to stand
بدون صلاة نهارك
Without your day light prayers
هَرِمْتُ، فردّي نجوم الطفولة
Old I have become… return me to the stars of childhood
حتى أُشارك
So I may join and chart my journey
صغار العصافير
With the fledgling sparrow chicks
درب الرجوع ..
To the homeward path
لعُش انتظارِك
Back to your awaiting  nest.

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