Sally Azar, a Palestinian coming from Jerusalem, became the first woman pastor of the Holy Land—a term referring to a territory roughly corresponding to the modern State of Israel and Palestine—after she was ordained at an event held at the Lutheran church in the Old City, attended by hundreds of international well-wishers.
“I hope that many girls and women will know this is possible and that other women in other churches will join us. I know it will take a long time, but I think it could be exciting if this changes in Palestine,” Reverend Azar said.
Christians are a minority in Israel and Jordan, and Palestinian Territories and most of them belong to the Latin Catholic Churches and the Greek Orthodox, which do not allow women to become priests.
However, the ordination of women has been happening in a growing number of Protestant Churches over the past few decades.
“Everywhere where you have a patriarchal society and culture, this is a major step,” says the recently retired Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Antje Jackelen.
“Since I’ve been ordained for over 40 years, I’ve met many people who didn’t think it was possible. But now they’ve seen women actually serving as pastors, as bishops, as archbishops, we know it works, and we know that it’s actually in accord with the Bible.”
As for the Middle East, churches in Lebanon and Syria have already ordained women, while at least one Palestinian woman has been known to serve in the US.
Her father, Bishop Sani Azar, conferred holy order on Ms Azar. She said that though his father’s example was a great inspiration, she never felt pressured into studying theology.
In her pastoral role, she will take on different tasks, such as leading spiritual services and conducting bible classes for English-speaking congregations in both Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.