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Sabeel: Spring of Hope
by David M. Denny

Photo by Tessa Bielecki
Tapestry at the Sabeel center in Jerusalem.


Sabeel is an ecumenical grass roots Palestinian Christian movement working for peace in the Middle East. Friends of Sabeel North America has a Colorado chapter and when Tessa Bielecki and I learned of their fact-finding pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine May 12-26, 2007, we decided to go. It was a heartrending yet hopeful excursion. We learned so much from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim peacemakers. Discover more about our trip here.

Our introduction to Sabeel came in fall of 2006, when Sabeel invited PLO Mission Ambassador Afif Safiyeh to speak at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs. Safiyeh is one of the two percent of Palestinians who are Christian. He spoke about the peace process and recounted the myriad difficulties Palestinians undergo, including the daily loss of eight million man hours passing through 650 checkpoints in order to work or go to school or find medical help. I wanted to see firsthand what Safiyeh described. And Sabeel got my attention in a special way by reminding me that Jesus lived in occupied territory.

Sabeel grew out of Palestinians’ longing to understand their situation from a Christian perspective. They were disillusioned with a “spirituality” that taught them that their lot is to suffer. They convened for the first time in 1990 at Bethlehem’s Tantur Ecumenical Institute. They now focus their energies on six areas: community, youth, women, clergy, international outreach, and annual events that include ecumenical celebrations.

You may learn more about Sabeel’s Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem and find a list of excellent resources for shedding light on this troubled neighborhood here.

Friends of Sabeel--North America seeks peace and justice in the Holy Land through non-violence and education. They co-sponsor regional educational conferences, alternative pilgrimage, witness trips, and international gatherings in the Holy Land.

The Arabic word sabeel means “a way,” “a spring” or “a watercourse.” It reminds me of the Spanish word acequia, an irrigation ditch that brings life-giving water to arid land. Ironically, the word acequia derives from the Arabic al-saqiyah. The Arab and Berber Muslims of medieval Spain introduced the very irrigation practices that continue today in the American Southwest.

Please pray with us that by the grace of God and through peacemakers’ brave efforts living waters may flow to a Holy Land thirsting for justice, mercy, and lasting peace.


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