In our small group of 30 we have Ryscilla, a Bishop from Canada; Mary Anne, a priest from Texas; Ann, our beloved priest,; and Amy, the theological fellow. These women, in addition to their vast biblical knowledge, carry the weight of their respective parishes in a loving and graceful manner.
Our first stop of the day was Ein Kerem, a small village and home to the Church of the Visitation. In the courtyard is a statue of Mary and Elisabeth together and joyous of their growing wombs and impending births of John the Baptist and Jesus. Imagine Mary, at such a young age, being given such responsibility of birthing and protecting the Son of God. And Elisabeth protecting her son from the slaughter of the innocents.
Our day progressed to the Israel—West Bank separation Wall where we met Islam in the Aida Refugee Camp. This camp was formed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war which the Palestinians call al-nakba or “the catastrophe” referring to the massive displacement of Palestinians.
Islam is a mother of 6 children, one with severe disabilities. As we arrived, Islam welcomed us with open arms and provided an incredible lunch. She then discussed her movement, Noor Women’s Empowerment Group (Noor WEG), a grassroots project created by and for refugee women in Aida Camp. Her group was initially created to help mother’s of children with disabilities to raise money for their enrichment and medical care. (There is no help from the government) She organized Palestinian cooking classes, home stays, as well as creating crafts and cookbooks for sale. Islam wanted to further her education and with the help of her children she finished high school and is now taking college classes. She credits her disabled son for her strength and courage. –Jennifer Schmitt