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What did you do today, to promote peace?
Jewish and Arab Women Talk:
War and Peacemaking

J. Zel Lurie

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 reconciliation."

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

The Common Ground News Service (CGNews) provides news, op-eds, features, and analysis by local and international experts on a broad range of Middle East issues. CGNews syndicates articles that are accurate, balanced, and solution-oriented to news outlets throughout the Middle East and worldwide. With support of the European Union, the Arca Foundation, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Finnish Foreign Ministry, and the Danish Foreign Ministry, the service is a non-profit initiative of Search for Common Ground, an international NGO working in the fields of conflict resolution and media production. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, not of CGNews or its affiliates.

Common Ground News Service promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

hagalil.com 22-08-2004



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