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Barriers to Coexistence

Last week, I went to the beach with a friend. While we were there, we ran into two of her friends. We sat together enjoying the sun, a small picnic, and the peacefulness of the sea.

If anyone saw us talking and laughing, they probably never would have guessed that I am a Palestinian and the other ladies are Jewish, and that we could possibly be having a nice time together.

I met my friend in a coexistence / photography class for Jewish and Palestinian women. Once a week for seven months, 15 women met to discuss their lives, problems, and hopes, while learning the techniques of photography.

The class was a nice break from life’s realities. Jewish and Arab women had a chance to meet, something we may not have done otherwise. But after seven months, the group did not become close or develop trust.

Even though we were there to talk about the issues that divide us, and to develop understanding, we shied away from those issues. We maintained polite, superficial relationships with each other. The last day of class each lady said a few words about what she gained. Again everyone skirted around the issue – except me.

Close to tears, I told them about the humiliating checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel, and how twice my car and belongings had been thoroughly searched by security sniffing dogs and while I waited for close to an hour – one time while I was doing my project for my coexistence class! I told them about my 81 year old father, who as a child walked unhindered from village to village, and now teenage soldiers have the power to stop his passage. And I told them about the Arab citizens of Israel being evicted from their homes, and about demolitions of Arabs homes in Israel and the West Bank. I talked about the Wall and the settlements which are eating up so much Palestinian land, and destroying families and livelihoods. And I told them that classes like this are great, but until the Israeli public sees the reality, a class such as this will never work.

My “speech” was met with total silence. Then a couple of Israeli woman told me they had no idea this happens, and they felt disappointment and shame. In those minutes, just by speaking from my heart, I made an impact.

Overcoming the barriers which have existed for 63 years is not easy. It should happen slowly because with these barriers exist discrimination, pain and mistrust.

Although there are a few mixed cities in Israel, Jews and Arabs live in different cities, and associate mostly on a work level. I have played with the idea of bringing some of my Jewish and Palestinian friends together to make simple toys and blankets to donate to needy or sick kids from both sides. It’s hard to look into the eyes of a sick or poor child, and think about politics – one sees the human being, the heart and soul, instead of the nationality. When women work together with a common goal, good things can happen. (I have already talked to a social worker about this idea.)

In the meantime, I will continue contributing to PulseWire, and other online publications in the hopes that my message will be received with open hearts and minds.

Comments

Ariee's picture

Thanks for sharing this article

Dear Noreens,

Thanks for sharing this article.

I can understand how you feel standing in the checkpoints . We once had a mock security check session organized by the Palestinian students at my uni who wanted to tell us how it felt like waiting for hours to get pass the checkpoints. I got so angry with them as I needed to go to the IT lab to get some prinout and they were just not letting me go and acting so rudely with me, so I just walked out and didn't go to the lab until the whole mock session was over.

But later, it made me think of how women standing in those actual lines, feeling helpless for not being able to do anything about it.

Kudos to you for sharing your story with your peers and making them understand the difficulty people face living in a divided society.:)

Astha Joshi

noreens's picture

Thanks Astha! As annoying

Thanks Astha! As annoying as it must have been for the students, they got a feel for what the Palestinians go through on a daily basis. You could not get to the lab- imagine not being able to get to the university, work or the hospital. or standing in line for a long time, only to be told you can not pass. The checkpoints are not only on the border between the West Bank and Israel, they are also deep inside the West Bank, separating towns and families, and making life difficult. I don't think the students meant to be rude to you. They were just acting the way the soldiers sometime act. I'm glad you read my article. Thank you!

Noreen

Ariee's picture

hey noreens

I know , they didn't mean to be rude, they were supposed to be the soldiers and even dressed like one .

we're cool otherwise. ....... :)

I'm looking forward to reading your next article

Astha Joshi

Maddy M.'s picture

Dear Noreen, thank you for

Dear Noreen, thank you for sharing about the injustices committed against your people. It's absolutely outrageous to let that kind of human rights violation happened . The double standard international community has when addressing human rights issues is shameful... we can notice this right now while the stablisment of a Palestinian state is being proposed in the UN. Even though the majority of countries favor the existence of a Palestinian State, it's more likely this won't be passed in the UN Assambly... is that democracy?

In solidarity,
Maddy

noreens's picture

double standard

Hi Maddy,

Yes, definitely a double standard. Why is the Arab Spring supported but the Palestinian one is not? In the end, countries look out for their own interests, fair or not.It's expected that the Palestinian bid won't be accepted........and to answer your question, no that is not democracy! Thanks for reading!

Noreen

lspano27's picture

Inspiring

Your piece was a very inspiring read. You demonstrated a lot of courage to stand up and voice your story - I commend you for spending from your heart! Talking about the issues is a great step forward in helping people understand each other - you just need that one person willing to take the risk and step forward and speak out and that is you!

Keep it up!

noreens's picture

I appreciate your comment -

I appreciate your comment - thanks! Sometimes it's hard to speak out about such sensitive issues but sometimes a person just has to. I felt I had to say these thing. This is a subject that is so close to my heart so it was very easy form me to speak from my heart. Usually I depend on my writing to do that, but on that particular day, I was extremely proud of myself!!

Glad you liked my article!

Noreen

Adepeju's picture

I admire your courage

I admire your courage Noreens. Please dont give up on your effort.

noreens's picture

I will never give up on

I will never give up on something so important......thanks for reading it!

Noreen

irmia's picture

Simple thing, but great!

In my country -Indonesia, we've just had riot in one of the province that my dad used to say "the most peaceful province" (where christian and Muslim lived in harmony), and we've just had a suicide bomb in a town called Solo -a small town in Central Java (where someone blew him up near a church). All our media still cover the issue, but none of the cover the effort of peacebuilding done by small number of people. Soon after the bombing, a group of Muslims, Christians and Chatolics, hand in hand secure the place. They didn't identify themselves as Chritsian, Catholics, or Muslims. They identified themselves as Indonesians.

I think this is what we should do. Just do the simple thing, but bring meaningful thing to human life. And media should cover this simple effort -rather cover the story about the riot or conflict itself, because we know, even in the conflict area, there are people who live in harmony actually.

Cheers:
Mia

noreens's picture

Hi Irmia, It's such a shame

Hi Irmia,

It's such a shame that people are so divided by religion. It should not be that way. However, I think the problems here are different than those in Indonesia. Part of the conflict stems from religion but it's more than that - its human rights abuses in many forms. Yes, there are so many coexistence groups and so many good people from both sides. The issues are so deep that it is something that will take a lot of time. I hope we will see peaceful days in the near future.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article!
Noreen

noreens's picture

Hi Irmia, It's such a shame

Hi Irmia,

It's such a shame that people are so divided by religion. It should not be that way. However, I think the problems here are different than those in Indonesia. Part of the conflict stems from religion but it's more than that - its human rights abuses in many forms. Yes, there are so many coexistence groups and so many good people from both sides. The issues are so deep that it is something that will take a lot of time. I hope we will see peaceful days in the near future.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article!
Noreen

mvmagellan's picture

Hi Noreen, I think this

Hi Noreen,
I think this article is great. There are so many 'art' therapy classes as the new wave to peace building that are occuring, but what is the actual result of these? I think that you are right in that most often superficial relationships are made, but when people return to their homes, judgements and stereotypes of the 'other' return. Fortunately, you were brave enough to discuss what is a very controversial topic. One that could make other people that you had been friendly with, turn away from you. Taking these kind of risks is what we need more of in order to create more leaders that are working for positive, peaceful change. I wish you the best and you inspire me to continue to ask questions and talk about issues that many people are afraid to bring up.

Mary

noreens's picture

Thanks Mary. Your message is

Thanks Mary. Your message is very sweet and encouraging. It's not just about stereotypes. It's also about things that go on that people don't know about, or do know but turn a blind eye. Yes, they should be talked about. Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and thanks for the comment!

Noreen

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