Hind Khoury: Women, the harbinger of hope in the midst of despair
As we mark 50 years of Israeli occupation this week, the message from Kairos Palestine to the Church worldwide becomes ever relevant and present. In this article, Hind Khoury, Kairos Palestine board member reflects on how women can, and must, play a role in bringing about justice and peace for all in the Holy Land.
Having lived in the shadow of the Nakba (the Catastrophe), the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland in 1948, and through 50 years of the an oppressive occupation that started in 1967, it is easy to be disheartened. Peace in Palestine/Israel remains a shattered dream and hope an open question.
Time is the best teacher in the face of dispossession and exile. In this cradle of religion, injustice has been a school that forced us to study and review the implications on our reality of history, theology and morality. We have learnt how to view our people as plural, our land as holy, and our rights to life, dignity and freedom as universal, without any exception.
The shared heritage of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith is the key to peace in Jerusalem, the Holy Land, the Middle East and the World. We carry the burden of this responsibility very seriously, and we toil so that people of faith and conscience around the world will carry the burden with us. Only together can we become the true builders of peace that make us so fully human. This is the message embedded in the Kairos Palestine document-www.kairospalestine.ps -, the call of Palestinian Christians from the midst of their suffering.
We are a proud people. Perhaps as Palestinian women, we are especially proud, as we helped overcome the pain of oppression from one generation after another, nurturing lives, building homes, and sustaining families, preparing our youth for a better future that can benefit all. The resilience of the Palestinian people has been phenomenal ever since Palestine was promised to the Jewish people only as a homeland through the Balfour Declaration of 1917. This declaration has consciously delegitimized Palestinian Christians and Muslims in their right for self-determination. It has permitted the use of biblical interpretations, hence religion, to justify the establishment of Israel as a modern nation state for the Jewish people only, used religion to justify a political option and hence contributed to the spearheading of religious strife in the region and the world.
The main questions for the Palestinian people remain difficult. How do we end the harsh realities of occupation and its deeply rooted discrimination and policies of continued oppression? How do we reach peace that is based on compromises grounded in international law? How do we find a normal life? How do we control our anger in the face of so much injustice? And how we bring a life of freedom and dignity to our children that have been denied it for much too long?
What makes of peace?
Successive Israeli governments have repeatedly proven that they are not interested in peace. They have only sought to manage the peace process to pursue their own interests. Since 1948, we have witnessed the same policy of annexing as much of Palestinian land as possible and clearing it of its Palestinian inhabitants.
By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, we made a compromise, recognized Israel and accepted a reduced state on 22% of our homeland. We hoped that Israel would recognize our right to freedom and life on part of our land. These hopes are shattered on a daily basis as our rights are violated and our cause de-legitimized.
Throughout this harsh reality, Palestinian women, like me, meet the challenges they face and wake up every morning confident of their right and duty to resist so that life can be normal and better for all.
Perhaps our women are the best embodiment of this wonderful hope that drives Palestinian faith in justice and peace. Through thick and thin, they continue to teach the young and protect them from soldiers and violent settlers. They support husbands even when jailed for resisting injustice. They earn a living for the family, nurture deeply rooted traditions of working the land, and keep faith in a God of Justice. They do so as their mothers and grandmothers did over millennia and as armies came and went in this Holy Land.
Our women make a majority in schools and universities and maintain a literary rate of almost 95%, the highest in the Middle East. However they suffer from the shrinkage of the economy and the prolonged unemployment. In spite of these difficulties and a patriarchal system, they manage to reach important high position, in government as ministers and high level officials, legislators, doctors, scientists, professors, writers, cineastes, lawyers, judges, artists, researches, engineers and a lot more.
Only a couple of days ago we were thrilled to see younger and more professional women present themselves as candidates in the municipal elections conducted few days ago in Bethlehem and other Palestinian villages and towns. We were thrilled as a number of younger professional women gained their seats in city councils.
In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, both Lucy and Shireen are a source of pride and confidence in the future.
Lucy is an expert on women affairs, a social and political activist, a co-writer of the Kairos Palestine document (www.kairospalestine.ps), energetic, attractive, determined and truthful will surely be a breath of fresh air to the affairs of the city.
Shireen, a beautiful young women, a dedicated wife and mother, is a tourism development expert, an entrepreneur starting her own boutique hotel, dedicated to the development of the Old Town of Bethlehem and its world tourism heritage sites.
Just as spring never fails to return, as the flowers grow again including on battle grounds, as the light returns with every new day and as we continue to breath, live and reproduce, so does the hope for a better and a more human and moral world.
Source: BrightStarsofBethlehem blog
Ambassador Hind Khoury was the delegate general of Palestine in France (2006-2010) and the former Palestinian minister of state for Jerusalem affairs. She is a development economist and lives in Occupied East Jerusalem. She worked throughout a long and successful career as a development economist and lately was general secretary of a Christian Palestinian movement calling for peace based on a theology of justice and by ending occupation and injustice in the Holy Land.