Jewish and Arab Women Talk:
War and Peacemaking
Four women, two Arabs in their thirties and two Jews in
their fifties, residents of the Israeli village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al
Salam, wowed an overflowing audience of over a thousand, hanging from the
rafters, at the Chautauqua Institution last month.
Chautauqua's theme that week was "Women." The Director of Religion, Rev.
Joan Brown Campbell decided to put together a discussion of the role of
women in war and peacemaking. What better women could be found to talk about
war and peacemaking than the Arabs and Jews who live together in the
Oasis of Peace in the Judean Hills?
"The Jews are my enemy but they are also my friends," said Nehiya Daoud, a
doctoral candidate in public health at Hebrew University. She will be the
first female Arab doctor in public health in Israel. Bringing up three
children has not deterred her.
The rapt Chautauqua audience was fascinated by the life stories of these
women who chose to live together and prove to the world that peaceful
coexistence of Arabs and Jews was feasible.
Dafna Schwartz said that she "met many barriers between me and the others,
I couldn't break them. I was crashing into them. I had to send my 3-year-old
child to a kindergarten with a Palestinian Moslem teacher. My mouth saying
yes, I have no problem with that, but my heart was shaking."
Maram Hijazi, who is a doctoral candidate in special education, said that
men had created conflict in the Middle East. "Mothering and the universal
experience of giving life unites women and can be a stone for building
peace," she said.
Daniella Kita'in gave birth to four, but her eldest was killed, when two
army helicopters collided seven years ago. "Life has since turned upside
down," she said.
"In his name" she continued, "and in the names of others killed in wars,
killed in vain, it is not always so easy to be against war."
She called for a process of healing between Israelis and Palestinians. "It
takes a second to draw a gun, but it takes patience to reach
The second Jewish woman, Daphna Schwartz added: "I'm sorry to say that both
sides are right."
A unique experience that shows the love and admiration that these four
residents of the Oasis of Peace instilled in Chautauquans occurred one
evening as the women and I were walking past a porch on which a few people
were chatting. Upon seeing the Jewish and Arab women they began clapping
loudly. In my nine summers at Chautauqua I had never seen such a spontaneous
demonstration of affection for a speaker.
This Jewish-Arab village started with five families thirty years ago and now
has fifty families with three hundred more on a waiting list.
"Why not build another village?" asked a Chautauquan. "No land is
available," Answered Kita'in. Fr. Bruno Hussar, whose ecumenical vision
started the village, had the good fortune to lease a barren hilltop from the
Latrun monastery. The village has some adjoining land and is now in the
final stages of putting ninety-two more building plots on the market, which
will triple the size of the village.
When I first visited the village almost twenty years ago as a leader of New
Israel Fund's first tour, the village's primary school was one room with
eleven pupils. I built a beautiful building to house 150 students. There are
now 300 students, ninety percent are bussed in from outside the village.
An additional school building, financed by the American Friends of the Oasis
of Peace, is being completed.
For more information contact the Friends office at 12925 Riverside Drive,
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Source: The Jewish Journal, August 17, 2004
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