Today I attended an Easter service in Jerusalem . . . from my bedroom in Rochester, Minnesota. I was lucky I got in because I learned that the ZOOM gathering had exceeded its capacity of 500, and they were directing the overflow crowd to watch the service online from Facebook.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but I was raised a good Episcopalian who always attended Easter service in my new Sunday dress, patent leather shoes and Easter hat. The Easter egg hunt was far more interesting than listening to the sermons about Jesus’ resurrection. But my grandmother was the lead Church elder and I loved to watch her at the front of the church teaching the congregation in her gentle way.
Today, the messages from the Sabeel leaders in Jerusalem mentioned the difficult times we’re all facing with the Coronavirus, but also the opportunity that we have to build a better future around the world and in Palestine.
Mrs. Samia Khouri touched my heart when she spoke. My screenshot doesn’t do her justice. I sensed she was a very special woman and wanted to know more about her after the service finished.
Samia Nasir Khoury retired in 2003 after serving for 17 years as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur, a coeducational elementary school for the lower income community in East Jerusalem. She continues to serve as treasurer of the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem and on the board of trustees of Birzeit University in Birzeit, Palestine.
Samia was born in Jaffa, Palestine on November 24, 1933. She graduated from Birzeit College in 1950, and was awarded a BBA degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 1954. Samia then returned to Birzeit, and worked from 1954-1960 at her former school as executive secretary, registrar and director of women students’ activities. Birzeit, which was founded by her aunt Nabiha Nasir in 1924, would eventually develop into the first university in Palestine. In 1960 she married Yousef Khoury, an engineer. After 44 years of marriage and the blessings of two children and six grandchildren, Yousef passed away in early 2004 in their beloved home of Jerusalem.
Samia was deeply involved with the YWCA, including serving as the national president of the YWCA of Jordan for two terms (as the Palestinian West Bank had been annexed to Jordan in 1950). When Jordan severed its ties with the West Bank in 1988, the YWCA of Palestine was reestablished, and she was its first president from 1991-96. Her breadth of international experience has also included addressing two UN NGO Forums: in New York in 1996, and in Athens in 2000.
Samia writes about justice, truth, and peace for the Palestinian people, the relationships between people and the land, the context of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relationships in the Holy Land, concerns for children in conflict, and gender issues.
Mrs. Khouri was a founding member of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre and recently published her memoirs entitled Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope. She met met Pope Francis when he came to visit Bethlehem in 2014.
She reminded me of my grandmother. Her firm conviction that a future is possible where the current injustices in occupied Palestine are wiped away — mirrors my grandmother’s belief in a better future for everyone.
The service will be rebroadcast this evening.
We have arranged a Facebook watch party of our Holy Saturday service tonight, April 11 at 7 pm ET, where we can watch the entire service together. Go to our Facebook page at 7pm, and watch with us.
After the watch party the recording will be available there as well.
In the service we shared ways to stay connected and get involved.
To receive the Countering Christian Zionism toolkit and stay up to date on our Counter CUFI (Christian’s United for Israel) action sign up here.
To sign and spread word of our Black Church Call to End Israeli Apartheid: click here.
Join the Twitter campaign to Defund Gaza Blockade and invest in Healthcare for All: join here.
To donate to Friends of Sabeel North America: give here.