Water for Peace- One Woman’s Voice

THROWING WATER ON THE FIRE OF FEARpeace1

As fires continue to rage through the Israeli and Palestinian lands caused by dry air, strong winds and most probably multiple arsonists, there are also rumors that the fires were set by Palestinians intentionally as part of a resistance movement against the ongoing Israeli military Occupation.  So along with the flames of the fires there are flames of hatred and incitement  also raging.  Once again as a mother living here I am having to gauge the danger of these events and shield my children from the fear and hatred that accompanies acts of violence against one another.

In a gesture of unity the Palestinian fire department was the first to volunteer and thankfully the Israeli government accepted. It is beautiful to see the ‘two sides’  work so cooperatively, watering down any stories that we all only want to harm the other. The homes of both Palestinians and Israeli’s are burning, and the fires are being put out by both People’s protecting life together.  Shira Richter wrote the following ,

‘In days like this when fear searches for targets to blame, and I find myself being swept into the current and also want to find someone to blame, I stop for a moment and look for the news and places in which there are good people from all sides of the map. There are many more then we imagine. Popular media is not really interested in them because it’s not very dramatic. Media likes drama and fear and war. It’s a fact. It’s also ratings. Ratings are worth money. And also – there are those who don’t want you to know there are so many Jews and Arabs who cooperate. And they have lots of power. They threaten and punish those who cooperate. So yes, yucky actions exist , of course they do, but if we would know the numbers of the “normal” people who just want to live we would realize they/we are the majority and they/we are the hero’s and there are more of these kinds of people then the other kind. I learned this years ago when I made a film about an Israeli-Palestinian women friendship. I experienced firsthand what TV wants to show and what they are not interested in. They are not very interested in showing cooperation. Therefore, in my opinion, to those who feel helpless in this situation and want to DO something, there IS a way to throw water on the fire of fear. Water in the form of these stories of cooperation between Jews/Arabs/Israeli/Palestinian/Cristian/Druz, etc. Bring lots of water. Share this water with us. Lots and lots of water can put out fire.

This post is such an example. I wrote it in Hebrew and asked if someone would like to translate it to Arabic. Bilal Mousa did this from his own will. We don’t know eachother. Thank you Bilal.

A Peace Quilt

 

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As we gathered at our last meeting of the Midwives for Peace our cell phones were lit up with incoming messages….not about women whose contractions had started but from relatives, friends and colleagues who were being effected by the raging fires all over the Land. As the day went on the rumors started that the fires were not caused only from the extreme dry air and intense winds but from arsonists.  Soon the talk of arsonists turned to what the Israeli media referred to as ‘ Arab terrorism’ and that was described by the people who lit the fires as an act of resistance against Occupation. We continued our gathering with the same optimism and hope that unites us telling stories of our families, our birth work and our activism. One women had just returned from a small town in Northern Turkey  which took her flying from Tel Aviv to Ankara, boarding another two hour flight north, and arriving 10 minutes away from the war torn Aleppo on the other side of the Turkish/Syrian border. She provided training for Syrian midwives facing all the horrors of war, yet still she spoke of their dedication and belief in love. Another midwife had been at the Midwifery Today conference in France and had met with the recently imprisoned midwife Agnes Gereb. We discussed the ‘hunting’ of the protectors of the feminine and what this new Trump presidency signaled. Lastly we shared our contribution to the Piece Quilt by Women Wage Peace. A quilt , a comforter , a place of refuge- one little square at a time- this is the way of mother, of midwife, of sister of friend. For more on how to become involved with a PIECE OF PEACE , see; Women from all around the world will create together a huge patchwork quilt – PIECE for PEACE.
The quilt will serve as an artistic expression of our desire for peace in our region.
It will demonstrate, without violence and without words: Women in Israel and in Palestine want peace!
This project is organized by Women Wage Peace .
How can you participate?
Women are invited to make and contribute squares that express messages of Peace and Hope.

PIECE for PEACE – call for action

Her Peace Offering

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Barbara Ben Ami of MIDWIVES OF PEACE shares ‘ Her Recipe for Peace’:

I had the honor to attend a beautiful, peaceful, calm and healthy candle lit homebirth in Bet Jalla. Only 15 minutes from my home in Jerusalem.
A Christian Palestinian couple, a Muslim midwife from Ramallah, and a Jewish Israeli midwife (me).
I believe that babies are born into this world pure and simple, without hate, corruption and maliciousness. They have no prejudices, they do not see the “differences” between us, they are taught these things
I became involved in Midwives of Peace because I think that as midwives we have a special subtle role in promoting peace.
A peaceful, calm and respectful birth gently reverberates through out ones life. My hope and wish is that the more calm, gentle and loving births we can attend as midwives, there will be more peace and harmony around us. It’s a small step in a good direction.
It begins with listening to one another and treating each other with respect and compassion. It continues on to a professional friendship and on to a personal one.
Cooperation, equality and compassion and love.
( Image of Orli , one of the original founders of Sulha PEACE Project)

Peace Song

I am excited to share the official video of “Prayer Of The Mothers”.
A product of mutual effort made by dozens of women and men, who put in the best of their creation ,to spread the news of this historical event that took place in Israel. where thousands of Israeli and Palestinian Women marched together in a joint prayer for peace.
Thank you to “Women Wage Peace”, for your dedication and endless work that brought to this moment

 

Prayer of Peace of the Mothers

Women Wage Peace will work to bring about a viable peace agreement. We will place the option of a political resolution at the top of the public agenda, as it is the only outcome that offers life and hope. A new and different reality in the Middle East is feasible, and we must strive for it. We have therefore decided to initiate, mobilize and propose an alternative. The last round of violence has made it clear to all that we must break out of the spiral. Whether Left or Right-wing, religious or secular, Arab or Jewish, we want to live in a society characterized by normality, prosperity and human rights. All of us wish to lead a sane and balanced existence.

The movement will operate to enlarge the peace-seeking public interested in a long-term understanding between Israel, the Palestinians and other states in the region. Simultaneously, we will continuously engage decision makers and demand a change in priorities, giving a negotiated agreement preference over military and security-based approaches. We wish to bring together all the women’s initiatives in order to create as broad a base of influence as possible.
Join us. Spread the word. Influence change.

women wage peace

wwp1https://www.facebook.com/YaelDeckelbaum/

https://www.facebook.com/WomenWagePeace/

 

 

Cooking for Peace

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Throughout the war that took place during the summer of 2015 my family and I were exposed to 56 days of continued violence, to rockets,  to bomb shelters and sirens, but most of all to hate and fear. My heart ached at the suffering taking place on both sides of this armed conflict. I also worried about my children’s physical safety and emotional reaction to such a dark conflict.

When the war ended I vowed to stay active in creating peace. I started this blog, began attending peace demonstrations and meeting with Midwives of Peace. Over a year has passed during that time and although there was a lull in the daily experience of the armed conflict, despite its mechanisms still in place, there had been relative quiet.

Around a month ago ‘out of nowhere’ there was once again violence in the streets. An ‘armed struggle ‘ by some Palestinians began with a series of stabbing attacks. These attacks seemed desperate and criminal and hard to place within the context of the Occupation. My immediate reaction was concern for my children’s safety. Soon the new threatening situation spiraled out of control. There were attacks and counter attacks taking place daily. Once 12 year old Palestinian boys with scissors are being ‘neutralized’ by armed Israeli civilians it became very clear to me that this newest expression of the unresolved conflict is not criminal but based on the continued oppression and injustices taking place and the perpetuation of values that make finding a solution impossible.

Real threats mixed with lesser threats. Real fear mixed with lesser fear. A return to the cycle of violence.Impossible to excuse or explain an older grandfather in Synagogue praying being attacked. I truly understand both ‘sides’ of this situation. On a personal level I am no mere observer.  My daughter goes on school field trips with armed guards. This will never not be foreign and unacceptable to me. My urgency to be an active bringer of peace was reawakened. Already distressed by the violence here I woke up last week to the news of the attacks in Paris. It does seem like the whole world is in need of a detox, a sweat lodge, a session, a healing circle ……more prayers, more unity, more love, more peace.

I invite you now to share here your recipes for peace. This was my original intention of this blog and hence its name. I envisioned women from around the globe contributing an actual food recipe as well as a metaphoric ‘recipe’ for creating peace. Together lets fill these pages with our recipes for peace so that our children, our families and our communities are full and filled with peace.

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

Yoko Ono

 

 

Tattoo for Peace

These past months I’ve been too overwhelmed with the violent conflicts to write anything coherent about how peace activism plays out in my own life. Forgive the rambled blog post that is nothing more than a warm up and return to my presence as a mindful peace bringer. Over the past couple of months in Israel there has been talk of a 3rd Intifada or Armed Uprising of the Palestinian people. There have been waves of stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israeli’s resulting in new terminology for me , such a ‘neutralized’. As in the terrorist attempting to stab has been neutralized. Sort of like the wild West the nightly news and daily radio has featured stories of knife wielding Palestinians being neutralized on the streets by armed passerbys and armed forces. The issue is that some of these knife wiedling terrorists are 12 year old boys who have grown up under Occupation, have absorbed a military conflict their entire lives, so it would seem that the language of resistance and armed conflict is with context. But fears and violence and threats of stabbing also have consequences and the cycle of violence continues. I have many poignant stories that are seared in my mind, personal and collective that I intend to share in the coming weeks. I will say though that when the terrorist attacks happened in Paris it seemed that even the loveliest of places is no longer capable of remaining outside of the conflicts of the world. It is seeping in, like the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. What will we do? How will we respond? How do we heal? What steps can be taken so 12 year old boys play basketball not try to stab their neighbors? The questions and answers are complex. So for now I will arm myself with a new tattoo, a constant reminder of my commitment to peace. Any ideas on where I should get it? Design by VANYA @ merakilabbe

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Celebrating for Peace

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CO-EXISTENCE. In some ways such an obvious value that to celebrate it seems almost silly, too obvious or irrelevant to be applauded. As the US has recently declared same sex legal,  within  Israel it is  illegal for a Jewish and non Jewish person to marry, rendering coexistence a phenomenon that can occur within the parameters of segregation and separation at best.

For this reason societies are divided here and have very little exposure to one another. This is as true between the Orthodox Jewish Israeli’s and secular Israelis as it is for Arab-Israeli’s and Jewish Israeli’s . As a mother who is raising children in Israel , the degree that ‘the other’ is invisible, absent, without context or narrative and rendered non-existent is utterly shocking.

One outcome of this is that for children growing up here holidays such as Ramadan are not even mentioned within the ordinary school system. The message being if it doesn’t exist for us it doesn’t exist at all.

With the end of Ramadan culminating in huge celebrations for Eid Il Fitr we decided to take our family to the Arab Village of Jisr Az Zarka to celebrate with the Arab community.

Driving a mere 15 minutes north we entered into Jisr to the sound of the Mosque calling to prayer in the background. Suddenly a scene out of “Bagdad Cafe’ opened before our eyes. Color against the bright suns rays. Music against the quiet. Play against the trepidation of entering into a place with a multitude of social problems within the backdrop of an ongoing  military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

A year ago we were at war. A year ago rockets were falling. A year ago children were being killed.

Today children played together, Israeli and Palestinian. The children painted together, laughed together, made music together.

Not just any Israeli children, my children, the futures children, celebrating together with their Palestinian neighbors for peace.

DRIVING FOR PEACE

I wake up at 5 a.m. in order to drive 3 hours to Jerusalem to attend a workshop. During the first coffee break I see that my friend has arrived from Jenin. I am surprised and happy to see her; happy because I love her dearly, and surprised because I did not know she was planning to attend the conference, and therefore we did not arrange to get her permission to enter Israel. There was simultaneous translation into Arabic and I make sure she gets her headphones. She takes a drink and finds a seat. We are excited. During the lunch break I am approached by several different members of the group who ask me if I can take my friend back with me up north on my way home. I don’t give it a second thought and say yes. I am not sure exactly where the border crossing is located, but I figure that my friend knows and will guide me. It was a long day with a lot of sitting and listening, and at about 4 p.m. I decide that it is time to go. I have a long trip home ahead of me and want to try and beat some of the traffic. I find her and we go to the car. The two of us are alone in the car and I begin to realize that something out of the ordinary is about to happen.  I look over at her sitting next to me, with her body covered from head to toe, with her beautiful smiling face peeking through her dark grey clothes, and I appreciate the fact that we are a extraordinary couple.

Driving through the streets of the Israeli half of Jerusalem with my friend, many thoughts start racing through my mind: she has never been here, she has never seen the ‘other side’ of Jerusalem, she is in my car traveling with me illegally, I have no idea how she managed to get into Israel without permission and here I am taking her home. Questions started pouring in: What does it feel like for her? How does the city look to her? Is she surprised? Jealous? Angry? I look over at her and she smiles back at me. She looks happy and reaches out her hand to pat my shoulder and thanks me again for taking her home.

She doesn’t speak a lot of English and speaks almost no Hebrew. I do not speak Arabic. We both understand a bit of all three languages. We keep trying to communicate with our bits and pieces, each one speaking her language, hoping to somehow be understood. I try to communicate to her that I am curious about how she feels, driving through West (Israeli) Jerusalem. I do not succeed in making myself understood. We continue to drive. The streets seem so clean and orderly, almost sterile. There are very few people walking, shopping, riding bicycles or sitting on benches. The city seems bizarrely empty.

We find our way to the highway, guided by the voice of the electronic lady from the Waze application. She is the only one who is speaking. I put the radio on because the silence makes me feel uncomfortable. I would love to be able to chat with my friend. I would ask her about her children, her husband, her work, her life. I would take advantage of this opportunity to get to know her better, to allow her to get to know me better. But we have no common tongue. So we listen to music.

As we leave Jerusalem my head starts to spin with thoughts, worries and fears. I realize that I am driving in my car with a Palestinian woman who is in Israel illegally. She is my friend and I am taking her home. It is so simple and so complicated at the same time. We are travelling on a highway that cuts through the West Bank, close to the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian Authority. The wall is huge, and seems even more massive with my friend in the car with me. I wonder how she feels about the wall, which is too enormous be ignored. If I could speak her language I would ask her.

We are getting closer to a checkpoint. At the checkpoint there will be soldiers peering into the cars; they will be looking for people who look suspicious. Do we look suspicious? I would say so. We are an odd couple- an American-Israeli woman and her Palestinian friend. We can barely even communicate with one another. What are we doing in the car together? I rehearse over and over in my head what I will say to the soldiers when they ask me for an explanation. I speak with my husband on the phone every five minutes and ask his advice. Is this going to be OK? What should I say? How do I explain her presence in my car in Israel without permission? Am I doing something illegal?

I can hear my heart thumping in my chest and my hands are sweating. She can see that I am stressed. I try to explain to her that there is a checkpoint ahead. That she understands; the word ‘checkpoint’ requires no translation. A thought comes into my head (that I am embarrassed to even write down). Iconsider asking her to remove her head covering as we get closer to the checkpoint so as to raise less suspicion. I dismiss the thought as racially and religiously prejudiced and I am shocked at myself.

As we approach the checkpoint, I turn off the radio and we both hold our breath. The soldiers are chatting among themselves. They don’t even look inside the car. We drive on through the checkpoint and on into Israel. What a relief. We celebrate by listening to a disc (loudly).

My thoughts go back to my friend and what she is thinking as we drive down the highway. It is three lanes wide, smoothly paved, colorfully landscaped, super-modern, an automated toll road. The sun is beginning to set over Tel Aviv which we can see in the distance. I point out the Tel Aviv skyline to her. She is excited and says that she would like to see Tel Aviv. I would love to show it to her. I fantasize about the possibility as we drive on.

We near the rest stop. We both need the toilet and are ready for a cup of coffee. I park the car and my friend  refuses to leave the car. She is afraid and cannot explain to me why. I respect her refusal and go inside, use the toilet and buy two cups of coffee and some cookies. We have a little picnic in the parked car. She seems happy but it is hard to know for sure. She wants to go home. She speaks with her husband on the phone many times.It is about six o’clock. We are still about 45 minutes from our destination, the border, at a place called Salem.

The sun continues to set. Somehow the communication between us opens us. We begin to understand each other better. I don’t want this to end. I invite her to sleep over at my house. I promise to take her to the border in the morning. She refuses. She wants to go home to her family. It has been a long day. There is not a lot of traffic on the road and we get closer and closer to Salem surprisingly quickly. We are off the highway and driving through Wadi Ara, an area filled with Arab villages and towns. Again I wonder how she sees through her eyes what I see through mine. I am getting used to wondering and not getting any answers.

We get to Megiddo Intersection, turn right and drive another 10 minutes to Salem. I slow the car down and drive around looking for the border crossing. There is an army base, but there is no border crossing. We are both confused. We drive in the direction of the nearest village and scout out a man walking alone by the side of the road. Hal’a asks him in Arabic about the border crossing. The problem is that there is no border crossing here. There is a border, but no way to cross it. He explains to me in Hebrew how to get to the crossing at Sandale, which is about a half hour away. It is now 18:45. He tells her that there is another problem. The border crossing at Sandale closes at 19:00. There is no way we can get there in time.

It is getting dark. We head out in the direction of Sandale. I am driving as fast as I can. The emotions in the car are mixed. We feel like we are in an adventure together. Her husband calls every 15 minutes and is updated. I update my husband too. I invite her to sleep over at my house again. Again she refuses. We try to get to Sandale before 19:00 but it is just too far away.

We pull into the border crossing at 19:15. The gate is locked. Two men are standing on the side of the road. From the dust on their pants they look like construction workers. They explain to her that they got here at 19:02, the gate was locked and they were not allowed to go through. One is angry, the other is apathetic; both look very tired. They have been awake since 4:30 when their day began. All they want is to go home, have some dinner, see their families and go to bed. They are waiting.

A soldier approaches the car. I guess that he is probably 18 or 19 years old. He asks for our identity cards and asks to hear our story. I talk with him in Hebrew and explain that my friend just wants to go home. He takes our identity cards. Mine has a blue plastic cover, is clean and new; hers has a green cover, is rubbed out and ragged. I wonder how many times she has handed her identity card over to an 18 year old soldier. Hundreds? Thousands? This is my first time. He promises to try and take care of things as quickly as possible. He is sweet. We sit in the car together and wait. I turn off the engine. It is dark.

We wait. And wait. We don’t know exactly what we are waiting for, but we wait together. We both talk on the phone with our husbands who are both getting worried. I turn on the light inside the car. We eat some more cookies. I show her pictures on my smart phone of my son’s wedding. She shows me pictures of her daughter’s high school graduation. I show her a video of my 3 year old granddaughter dancing in my living room. She shows me a photo of her extended family, telling me a bit about each family member. Somehow language is not longer a problem. She is speaking English and even a bit of Hebrew. The time goes by and we are OK.

The sweet soldier returns and reports that our identity cards have been processed and that there will be no problems. We just need to wait for the soldiers with the keys to come open the gate. More than another hour goes by and we are still sitting and waiting in my car. The time is 20:30. The batteries on our phones are running low. I am losing my patience; Hal’a is worried. We start telling each other birth stories. The language barrier has completely disappeared.

I go looking for the sweet soldier to ask him what is going on. I approach the guard house and peer inside the window. I see one female and two male soldiers devouring a pizza. The female soldier turns to me and asks: “What is your story with this woman anyway? Why don’t you just go home?” I am stunned, both by the raw brutality of the question and by the simplicity, spontaneity and honesty of my answer: “Because she is my friend”. I am told that the soldiers with the key are on the way and I am ordered to move away from the window. I am shocked by the way I am being spoken to, but I move away. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize her chance to go home. I feel like I could literally explode from the irritation, frustration and anger that are building up inside of me. I cannot begin to imagine what Hal’a is feeling. For me, it is the first time. For her it is impossible to count the number of times that she has encountered this treatment, this waiting, this frustration.

I am back in the car. I tell her that it will be soon. I try to convince myself that what I say is true. Optimism has always been one of my stronger traits.

At 21:00 four soldiers in full combat gear arrive in a command car with the key. They take all the identity cards again and make a long phone call.

At 21:15 the gate is opened and we hug each other goodbye. She thanks me over and over again for waiting with her. I would have it no other way.

I wait and watch her cross over the border together with the two construction workers on her way home to her family. I get back into the car and drove back home to mine. I get home after 22:00.

It turned out to be quite a long and memorable day. It was the day the language barrier disappeared. It was the day in which I peeked into my friends world and she peeked into mine. It was the day when I declared that she truly  is my friend.

(names removed to protect the identities of these two amazing women)

Healing for Peace

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“What are you present to?” is the first question I asked the women who came, earlier this week, to a healing circle for my dear friend/sister Yoli who was diagnosed a month and a half ago with Pancreatic Cancer Stage IV.

Yoli (Jewish) is a member of our Arab/ Jewish women’s Playback Theatre Ensemble and you may have seen her smiling face hugging Tasnim (Muslim), another member of the ensemble, in one of our newsletters.

“Just having you here with me and for me…  I already feel so much better…” Yoli said to the women who came to create her healing circle, “I know I am facing a very violent form of cancer” She continued, “But I want to heal, I still have so much to do here… I think I can do it and so need your support…” I looked around and saw the glistening eyes of ten women who dropped everything with a three hour notice and came to form the circle.

It was then that I asked each woman to share something she was present to. Mostly they spoke about how they met Yoli, how quickly they felt so connected with her (I realized I was not the only one) and how they hoped for and believed in Yoli’s recovery… We cried and laughed and heard beautiful stories and then came Hadra’s turn.

Hadra is a Bedouin Muslim woman who lives in a village, just ten minutes walk through the hills from Yoli’s home. When Yoli gave birth to her twin girls, three and a half years ago, she knew she would need support and she chose Hadra to help care for her babies because Hadra is  amazing with children and her heart is so full of love. An added benefit was that Hadra  could speak Arabic to her daughters so that even though they grew up as Jews in a Jewish community they would have the most basic way to communicate and connect with their Arab neighbors – the language.

Hadra took care of the little girls for a few hours every day for two and a half years. They came to her home often and sometimes she would come with them to Yoli’s performances.

Since she found out about Yoli’s illness, Hadra has been coming every day to help. She is small in stature and huge in Spirit and when it was her turn to speak she could not speak… there were no words that could describe how painful it has been for her to see Yoli’s suffering… Perhaps she remembered her 17 years old daughter who died from an illness several years ago.

Until now Hadra had managed to hold back the tears, not wanting Yoli to see her pain, but encouraged by the tears of so many others, she let loose and began sobbing. Yoli came over and slipped into her arms. Soon they were both weeping…

“You are my daughter, my daughter … I am not going to let you die…” Hadra sobbed pulling Yoli closer to her heart. “You are not going to lose another daughter Hadra…” Yoli whispered through her tears.

We all moved closer, drawn in by the warmth of this unlikely connection, in a country so conflicted, between two women from different cultures and religions who shared one huge love….

Please share this with your circles and send your prayers for Yoli’s recovery…

Much love,

NITSAN

Nitsan Joy Gordon, Director
The Together Beyond Words Organization
04-9570481
0547975070