October 17, 2012

Meeting with Sabeel: Women's Voices

by Laura Branca

On Monday, October 15, the DCI Delegation met with leaders of Sabeel: Ms Cedar Duaibis, who is one of the distinguished contributors to the Kairos Palestine document (the Christian Palestinians' word to the world about what is happening in Palestine) Ms. Salwa Duaibis, a passionate advocate at the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), and attorney Gerard Horton, whose focus is on children prosecuted in the Israeli Military Court.

Sabeel is "an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology center and movement among Palestinian Christians started in 1993. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, non-violence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. The word 'Sabeel" is Arabic for 'the way' and also a 'channel' or 'spring' of life-giving water. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns."

Cedar Duaibis gave us a truly riveting introduction to Sabeel's liberation theology and an analysis of the catastrophic impacts of the occupation on Palestinians in terms of the material loss of their property, the loss of their identity as a people connected to their land, a theological loss which has necessitated a new understanding of the scriptures through the eyes of the Palestinian people, and the renewal of a faith that supports their work for justice and their refusal to accept the disasters they are experiencing as their fate.

Salwa Duaibis is working tirelessly on behalf of Palestinian women who bear an unusually heavy burden under occupation. She wrote to us, following up on some of the most poignant and sobering information she shared with us during our conversation with Sabeel. Here, with deep appreciation, is her letter:

Dear All,

It was a real pleasure meeting you all at Sabeel yesterday afternoon. Thank you so much for listening so passionately and for taking the time to find out the truth about this troubled part of the world. It means a lot to us to have people like you. Please keep us in your prayers, we badly need it.

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the work I do with Palestinian women. I am pleased to let you know that today the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) released a new report - Women's Voices: Glimpses of Life Under Occupation.  The report seeks to illustrate some of the day-to-day challenges faced by Palestinians living under prolonged military occupation through the eyes of ordinary women who struggle, on a daily basis, to cope with an extraordinary situation. The report includes 14 testimonies from women who describe the sense of intimidation felt by their families due to repeated night-time raids in which soldiers break into their houses, and even their bedrooms, simply because they dare to assert their legitimate rights to self-determination.   The women also describe the sense of fear and insecurity they experience as a result of attacks by armed Israeli civilians who live in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Other women describe how Palestinian society living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is coming under increasing pressure in the form of severe building restrictions and property destruction, an economic blockade and freedom of movement limitations which affect everything from where they can live, where they can study, and even who they can marry.

Also included in the report are two testimonies from Israeli soldiers, provided by the Israeli organisation, Breaking the Silence, that graphically illustrate the corrosive nature of Israel’s prolonged military occupation on everybody who comes in contact with it.  These are the stories that rarely make the headlines, but are nonetheless noteworthy because they are part-and-parcel of everyday life, and illustrate the practices and policies that have been implemented by the Israeli military and civilian authorities for nearly a half-century in a relentless effort to squeeze the Palestinian people into an ever shrinking space, whilst denying them their basic civil and political rights. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Salwa Duaibis
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)
International Advocacy Programme