Bringing together Leader Volunteers from across the US!


More than 40 HCEF Leaders, including the Board of Directors, Advisory Board Members, Staff, Volunteers, and Supporters convened for an exciting and very productive 2 working retreat, on Friday and Saturday, March 15-16, 2013. Held at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, participants joined us from all over the country, including: Scottsdale, AZ, Boston, MA, Charlotte, NC, Rochester, NH, Tinton Falls, NJ Cleveland and Cincinnati, OH.


Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, President/CEO, HCEF and Christine Hill Hobbi, HCEF Board of Directors & Business Development Director and member of Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, AZ, opened the retreat with words of exhortation, giving an overall account of what we planned to accomplish and encouragement, as they thanked everyone for coming and stressed the importance of these leadership working retreats, as they are critical in strategizing our direction in support of our Christian sisters and brothers in the Holy Land.


Dr. Saliba Sarsar, HCEF Board Secretary shared an inspiring presentation focusing on HCEF’s core values (ecumenical, based on Christian peace and justice, service oriented, transparent) as the path for putting faith into action. HCEF’s programs goals are intended to strengthen its outreach, advocacy, charity, and development.  Dr. Sarsar stressed that during this Holy Season, we need to be “Walking alongside Jesus” as we seek to support the “Living Stones” of Christianity in the Holy Land. Dr. Sarsar stressed HCEF’s role as a bridge between peoples, its dedication to peace and justice and the need for its people to be servant leaders in strengthening communities.


As a special treat, honored guests and Advisory Board Member HE Bishop Barry Christopher Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop the Archdiocese of Washington  and Dr. David RenwickSenior Pastor of National Presbyterian Church shared comments with the participants  Bishop Knestout spoke to participants about the new direction for the Roman Catholic Church
Indicated by the newly elected Pope Francis. In particular, Bishop Knestout cited three points stressed by the Pope in his initial homily, “walking together” – solidarity with those in need; “building together”- St. Francis was called to rebuild the Church, and to go out and spread the word;  and “witness”  – infuse activity. with an identification with Christ. Dr. David Renwick, greeted participants and shared his enthusiasm to strengthen the partnership relations with HCEF as he expressed his delight in planning to travel to the Holy Land in the next few months.


The afternoon session focused on the 16 HCEF programs, and the need for staff and volunteers to provide leadership in strengthening and implementing the programs in their areas of concentration. 


“These programs, whether traditional or newly developed, provide immeasurable support in helping to ameliorate the lives of our brothers and sisters living under occupation in the Holy Land. Our work here assures them that they are not alone in their pursuit of peace and justice,” said Sir Rateb.


Sir Rateb also introduced the new Know Thy Heritage (KTH) video being developed. The KTH Program was created to introduce Palestinian youth of the diaspora to their Palestinian heritage. Dr. Hugh Dempsey, Vice President, HCEF Board of Directors and  Dr. Hanna Hanania, HCEF Board Member presented an informative photo tour of the new Bethlehem Museum for Palestinian Culture and Heritage, and discussed the significance of the Museum and its artifacts in preserving the Palestinian Cultural Heritage. They also challenged us to strongly consider the role can we play in promoting the Palestinian Christian heritage from the American

perspective and from the perspective of the Palestinians in the Diaspora. 


HCEF’s Advocacy and Outreach Program has been revisedand revamped to effectively address today’s challenges. Led by Jeff Abood, KHS, HCEF Advocacy and Outreach Director, the Advocacy and Outreach Committee will work to widen the outreach of HCEF on all levels.  


Christine Hobbi and Dr. Steve Corbin, Sr. Vice President, Constituent Services, Special Olympics, gave an insightful and important overview of the USA Churches and Investing in Palestine. “How can we, as servant leaders, develop an arm for each denomination, engage our churches and actively promote business, job creation, economic sustainability and solidarity in the Holy Land?” they asked. As an example of Positive Investment, Christine and Steve shared the excellent example and impact the Presbyterian Church is making by mandating positive investment for peace in Palestine. “What can we all do to follow this example in finding ways to attract investment and expand job opportunities in Palestine?” Retreat participants were encouraged to go beyond themselves and ‘Ask‘, ‘Seek‘ and ‘Knock‘ and the doors will be opened.


Later in the day, participants broke into smaller groups for open discussion and to develop specific recommendations for implementing the three main objectives of each session: Creating Jobs and Economic Growth in Palestine Promoting Palestinian and Christian Heritage, and Ecumenism through Outreach and Advocacy.

The retreat closed with an exciting and wide ranging discussion to come up with a potential list of themes topics and speakers for the upcoming HCEF 15th International Conference which will be held Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the Washington 

Marriott, 1221 22nd Street, Washington, DC. The Annual Awards Banquet, held in conjunction with the 15th International Conference, will be held Friday, October 18, 2013 from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm, also at the Washington Marriott! The retreat culminated with a dinner party allowing participants to continue networking, sharing and fellow shipping with one another!  HCEF is moving forward  as we continue Putting  Our Faith In Action!