Those of us who live in the Middle East often find ourselves in the middle of the conflicts that arise here. I recently attended a conference of Christian Jewish and Arab women held in Jerusalem. The conference was organized by Musalaha, a ministry of reconciliation directed by Salim Munayer. I thought you would be encouraged by these excerpts from the conference report compiled by the Musalaha staff:
On February 16-17, 170 women gathered in Jerusalem for Musalaha’s sixth annual Women’s Conference. We were overwhelmed and delighted by the response of so many women to the invitation to meet together with their Palestinian and Jewish sisters.
The women who attended were taking a risk, becoming open to others who may hold vastly different cultural, theological, political and social backgrounds. In light of recent political events, on all sides the pain and hurt is fresh, sensitivities heightened, distrust and dehumanization is growing. As one participant said, “…we met as sisters very aware of the things that would separate us, very aware of how much easier it would be not to meet, but also very aware of the urgency of the work of reconciliation more now than at any other time.”
Together the women worshiped in one another’s languages, shared in times of fellowship and Bible study, and prayed together. As well, in order to get a glimpse of each other’s customs, some women shared cooking demonstrations of Arab and Jewish cuisine. As each woman has her own special recipe, this activity became an excellent conversation starter. “So how do you prepare this?” could be overheard during the coffee breaks.
The organizers felt it was also important to touch on the more difficult realities that women living in this land face. Therefore, three people (a Palestinian Arab living in Israel, a Messianic Israeli Jew, and a Palestinian Arab living in Palestinian areas) shared testimonies on how the situation has affected them personally, and how it has affected their family and faith community. Although these can be sensitive subjects, the women approached their audience with honesty and yet with continued emphasis on the Lord, how He has remained their strength and how the situation has challenged them to grow closer to Him.
Following the conference, the woman from a Palestinian area told us that immediately prior to sharing her testimony, she had been so blessed by a Jewish believer who had prayed with and for her. This small exchange reflected an underlying theme of the conference: despite many difficult and divisive issues, we are united by a God who loves us and commands us to love each other. It was encouraging to see so many women who deeply desire to obey that command and to build bridges between believers.