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First female pastor in Palestine ordained


The Rev. Sally Azar is ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

February 24, 2023

The Rev. Sally Azar is the first Palestinian woman ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. (Contributed photo)

On Sunday, Jan. 22, Sally Azar was ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, making her the first female pastor in Palestine. In 2006, the Evangelical Church laid the foundation by deciding that women could also be ordained.

Azar grew up in the church. Her father was a pastor there and is the bishop now. It is a second home for her. She attended children’s services and youth events, and it was here that the decision matured in her to become a pastor. It was always clear to Azar that she wanted to work in a church context and with people, and many people recognized the potential of a pastor in her early on. But it was important for her to make the decision of her profession alone regardless of other people’s opinions and to have a wholehearted yes not only to the profession, but to this calling. That is why it took her awhile to decide she wanted to become a pastor. Her father, Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, was always a role model but never an interferer; he let her go her own way and make her own decisions.

Azar studied theology in Lebanon and in Germany. Nevertheless, it was always clear to her that she wanted to come back to her home country after her studies. Even though she felt very welcome and comfortable in the church in Germany, she feels at home in Jerusalem and wants to serve there. Working with young people is particularly important to her in the Middle East conflict.

“Young people grow up here with walls and checkpoints. They know nothing else and think that this is the norm,” Azar said. “I also grew up thinking that borders and checkpoints are commonplace. Only when I traveled to other countries did I realize that this is not everyday life in many parts of the world. I enjoyed this freedom and asked myself why this is not the case in my home country. Especially under occupation, young people need a place to recharge.”

Azar wants to do her best to help Palestinian Christians breathe a sigh of relief and create a home even in these difficult times. She will be working in the Jerusalem and Beit Sahur communities, and she is very much looking forward to connecting the English-speaking church in Jerusalem with the Arab assemblies and building projects together.

Of course, she feels the specialness of being the first Palestinian woman pastor to be ordained and thus make a bit of history. But this is not so important to her personally, as she is much more touched by the joy of the people in the communities. The communities were prepared for this by the establishment of the Women’s Desk in 2008, where the equality of women and men in the church and society was addressed. Azar noted it was the women in the churches who were against a female pastor — not necessarily the men.

As a female, and as someone who is still young, there will be many challenges. But she is experiencing a lot of support from the church leadership. Azar assumes that the first years will be apprenticeship years where she will also make mistakes. She fervently hopes that people will associate these mistakes more with her as a person and less as a female pastor. One of her first ecumenical projects is the World Day of Prayer at the beginning of March, in which women from every church will participate.

Watch a brief video on women’s ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land here.

 Damaris Plarre, Special to the Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Sally Azar first female pastor ordained in Palestine

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