Today I decided to talk about a local story, about dialogue between Israeli and Arabs, and on how this dialogue is possible. I decided to focus on a local and concrete experience, sharing with you the story of young women involved in this sector. The story I’m going to tell you about is about the role of the women and the importance that they have in enhancing the peace dialogue and the collaboration among the local communities. For this reason, today I want to share with you a local story originally published on Friends of the Earth Middle East's blog.
It is the story of Gundi, field researcher of the NGO Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) in the village of Ein Gedi. FoEME is an Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian NGO that works to build dialogue and peace among these communities through the protection of the environment. Gundi describes a recent cross-border meeting between Jordanian and Israeli women from communities around the Dead Sea involved in FoEME's projects. The story focuses on a meeting that took place in March 3-4, 2010, between Jordanian women from Ghor Safi and Fifa and Israeli women from the Tamar Regional Council – all participating communities in FoEME's "Good Water Neighbors” project.
On Wednesday afternoon we left, a few woman from the area, together with Michal Sagiv from the Tel Aviv office, in the direction of the Beit Shean valley border crossing.
At 5 pm the delegation, which included six women a man to accompany them, finally arrived, and we left together for the traditional agricultural center and the traditional crafts center in Beineh/Nujidat in the Galilee. After dinner and home hospitality, we visited an additional an additional women’s empowerment project in Arabeih. The meeting with the exceptional women of the Galilee was very exciting, and I hope that we will be able to strengthen the connection with our new friends from the Galilee by hosting them in our area, Tamar. At 12:30 we went down to the meal at the hospitality house at Ein Gedi, so we could finally rest from the long day we had had.
The next morning, women from Ein Gedi hosted our Jordanian guests with breakfast in the ecological garden. Youth from the very same Jordanian villages had previously been involved in the construction of this park. Throughout the visit we presented the women opportunities for women’s empowerment, in order to picque interest and give ideas on how to add – as women – to the family economy (besides through just the agriculture accepted in their villages). The women were impressed by a solar cooking demonstration, at the end of which each of the women received a solar cooking device to take back to her community.
After the meal we traveled south, to Neot Hakikar and Ein Tamar. There Iris Ben David, Tzipi Adiv and Dganit Ochayun (residents of the Tamar region) awaited us. We traveled all the way to the border, where our guests were very excited to see their houses from the Israeli side.
We all hoped that one day in the near future we will all be able to pass between the two sides for afternoon coffee. Afterwards, we visited an agricultural research and development area, which the women received with much interest. During a workshop by Esti Barak, a veteran ceramicist from Neot Kikar, we had the opportunity to chatter while participating in an international ceramics workshop that Esti holds each year (also a woman’s initiative!). We also visited Jojo, an iron sculptor, in his workshop. Jojo and his wife Deganit are a very successful example of how a family moved from supporting itself by agriculture to supporting itself by producing art.
On the way back to Ein Gedi we visited, and were impressed by, Beit Tamar, where we joined a workshop on ecological (earth) building and weaving from palm fronds. Worn out from the heavy heat and the jam-packed day, we sat with coffee and tea with Dalia, who started in Ein Gedi. After resting in the guest house, we arrived to a shared dinner. A Jerusalem-based group called “Nin”, that is composed of both Arab and Jewish musicians, gave a performance. Fadchi, the Good Water Nieghbors project coordinator on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, brought a presentation on the Ghor Safi and Fifa region, and the Jordanian women presented the handwork from women at the women’s empowerment center in their area. We closed the evening with an activity in which each one of the participants expressed her own dream for future cooperation.
On Friday morning the Jordanian delegation departed after breakfast with us. After stopping in Jerusalem to pray at the Dome of the Rok, they returned to the other side of the Sea. We remain hopeful that the border will open between us, and in this special region we will be able to visit each other more easily. I think that this visit drew the hearts from women on both sides of the border closer to each other and I hope that in the future we will be able to visit our new friends in their homes.
For more info concerning the NGO, please visit: www.foeme.org