The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


As head of Palestinian tourism ...

a Lutheran woman hopes to improve life for Palestinians

When Raja Freij, owner of the new 75-room Mount David Hotel on Bethlehem's main strip, mentions difficulties with municipal permits, Khouloud Daibes Abu Dayyeh promises to try to set up a meeting with the mayor. As the Palestinian minister of tourism, Daibes Abu Dayyeh makes a point of visiting, inspecting and assisting with the opening of every new hotel in the city.

The only female Christian member of the Palestinian cabinet, Daibes Abu Dayyeh grew up Roman Catholic, attended Lutheran schools and eventually married a Lutheran. She, her husband and their three children are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. It was not "a big change for me because I [was] very familiar with the Lutheran church and the community," she said.

Khouloud Daibes Abu Dayyeh, a Lutheran,
Khouloud Daibes Abu Dayyeh, a Lutheran, uses her doctorate in architectural conservation to help restore Palestinian cultural sites.

"This very small [Lutheran] community plays a very significant role, not only today but [has] for more than 100 years. This is a basis of pride for us," she added.

She hadn't planned on entering politics. When she was appointed tourism minister in March 2007 it was more as a "technocrat," said the still politically unaffiliated Daibes Abu Dayyeh. She took the position to make a "positive change" and "enable and empower the Palestinians to have a better life" through job growth in the tourism industry, she said.

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