In the second video of the TAMAM column with Giovanni Scifoni in the Holy Land we took you to Bethany, the small Palestinian town that is just 5 km from the Mount of Olives.
Bethany, al-Azariyeh in Arabic, is a very important place for the Christian tradition. It is here that stands the great church that recalls the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the great friends of Jesus. A place of friendship and sharing, today al-Azariyeh is marked by conflict and division .
Along the narrow streets of Bethany, the pilgrim is invaded by the sweet scent of nard, the precious oil used by Mary to anoint the feet of Christ. The episode is recounted in the Gospel of John: “Mary then took three hundred grams of pure nard, very precious, sprinkled Jesus’ feet, then wiped them with her hair, and the whole house was filled with the aroma of that perfume.” (Jn 12:3).
From this evangelical tradition were born numerous activities aimed at creating links between the local population and pilgrims and increasing tourism in this Holy Place.
In the video with Giovanni Scifoni, the character of Lazarus overcomes his defeatist thinking and decides to donate to Pro Terra Sancta projects in support of many women of Bethany .
This small Palestinian town is for us a testimony of female solidarity.
The projects that are realized here are original and creative as the laboratory of al-Hana’a society women development, founded in 2009 by Ola Abu Damous and today managed by her daughter Odna Abu Damous.
Isolation from Jerusalem
Ola is the president of al-Hana’a and in the interview that will be released on Thursday on our Youtube channel she tells of the difficulties for the inhabitants of Bethany born following the construction of the wall that has separated the small Palestinian city from Jerusalem for twenty years.
In 2002, in fact, the families of Bethany suddenly found themselves isolated and without the possibility of going to work and study in Jerusalem. Many fathers and husbands arrested in the years following the construction of the wall. It was up to the women of the family to work to bring bread home. Ola Abu Damous observes everything and decides to help her city. She begins by teaching a group of ten women what she already knows how to do and enjoy: cooking and sewing.
Sweets, cheeses, typical dishes and objects produced by their work are sold to anyone who wants them, especially on the occasion of Muslim and Christian holidays. Ola asks nothing in return for her first training courses for ten women in need.
The community of women grows with time and hairdressers and make-up artists join who in turn teach the trade to other young girls. Soon there were eighty “entrepreneurs” and Ola decided to formalize the community by founding the al-Hana’a society women development in 2009.
All the participants had never worked before. They rolled up their sleeves to feed and send their children to school, while their husbands were in Israeli jails.
Over the years, women have been added to this community who have had the courage to denounce their abusive husbands and others who have been abandoned. Thanks to these training activities, they are able to live off the fruits of their work without depending on anyone. Al-Hana’a Society welcomes everyone and judges no one.
Here the engine is friendship, just like two thousand years ago.
The challenge of the pandemic and the project with Pro Terra Sancta
After eleven years of valuable community service, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic difficulties forced Ola to close al-Hana’a.
This is where his daughter Odna Abu Damous comes in. Odna grew up seeing the good that al-Hana’a does every day for her mother and for the community of Bethany, of which she is a city councilor, and she does not accept this decision.
In the interview that will be released tomorrow on our Youtube channel, Odna says that “working for the social and personal growth of women means working for the growth of society”.
Odna was born and raised in Bethany. He is well aware of the critical issues of Palestine and its city under the control of the Palestinian Authority since 2002.
As already mentioned, life here for the population is very difficult. The heart of the al-Hana’a Association is women’s emancipation and for this reason it wants to be a glimmer of light for the women of Bethany. The young Dr. Odna, graduated in Marketing and Business Administration, decides to dedicate part of her time to manage al-Hana’a and think of projects that can revive the Association.
First of all, is addressed to Pro Terra Sancta, which has been promoting women’s emancipation projects since 2014, and together they successfully implement the women’s empowerment project. Bethany Candles. In the large laboratory of al-Hana’a, a few steps from the church of Lazarus, women learn to design and shape candles according to three perfumes, three colors and three sizes that Odna tells us in the interview. Thinking, producing and selling these candles certainly represent an important economic income to support the family, but al-Hana’a is first and foremost a place that unites young and old and encourages them to raise their voices and show everyone that they exist and want to live a dignified life.
Odna says: “We women emancipate ourselves when we work here. We must fight for this Association. When we are strong, we value all other women as well.”
Pro Terra Sancta shares and supports the values and ideals of these courageous women also through the preservation of the great cultural heritage of their Bethany.
By Veronica Brocca | proterrasancta.org