Hand in Hand - The Hand of Friendship – between Palestinian and Israeli Women
I sat, grasping the hand of my Palestinian partner in the project in sheer delight, as together we watched and listened to the women all earnestly talking together in small groups. *
My mind wandered back to that first, awkward meeting, some six years ago, held in a tense and almost sullen atmosphere, when we took the first tentative steps to create a Palestinian /Israeli women’s dialogue, educating towards peace. We were putting into practice everything that had been preached at a recent women’s leadership conference of ours, on the importance of the woman’s voice in conflict resolution.
But the first day was hard, trying to break the ice and to overcome the mutual mistrust. The Palestinians - in Israel for the 1st time – said that they saw the Israeli soldiers as devils incarnate; For me, with my two sons in uniform, two boys raised as decent human beings, now doing their national service, this came as a sharp shock that took some intense soul-searching to overcome. I felt terribly hurt and angry… But three days after this first encounter, I realized that despite all disagreements, friendship between us can be a reality if only we give ourselves the possibility to listen to one another. And so the understanding between us was gradually built up; the bonds of trust tightened slowly but surely and friendship flourished, despite the difficult situation in our region.
And then…in the summer of 2006, the bomb – quite literally- dropped. ..
War broke out and my city – Haifa - came under bombardment day after day for more than three weeks. We tried to go about our daily work, tight- faced and anxious, taking shelter as best we could from the sudden bombings.
Returning to my office from the bomb shelter one morning, I answered the telephone. A Palestinian friend, tearfully extending the hand of friendship, speaking emotionally down a crackling phone line: ‘Mazal, she implored, ‘we see Haifa being bombed on the TV news. We watch streets and shopping centers we have visited being destroyed. Please come to stay with us until this madness is over’.
Choking back my tears, I was awed by the depth of friendship that had been created between us. The women’s voice had been tested in this trying time and had sounded loud and clear.
*MCTC holds regular Seminars for Palestinian and Israeli Women
« Women Building a New Reality » . #20 was held in April 2010