Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Not being present at a Tel Aviv demonstration on Saturday because I don't do demonstrations where people chanted Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies, I was especially pleased to attend a special women's interfaith gathering on Monday evening at Ticho House , a Jerusalem landmark restaurant. We were a group of nearly 30 women, many Moslems and many Jews and a handful of Christians. Our program was "How is each of us coping with the war?". I was very pleased to see a handful of Orthodox Jewish women in attendance as well. They're generally not present at meeting the Other, tending to be more insular.

Of course people's curiosity piqued at the sight of our eclectic group speaking Arabic, Hebrew and English, and even the Arab chef came out to meet some of us, while the waiters were doing double-takes, not knowing what to make of our group. I absolutely love when that happens.

We began with Moslem, Jewish and Christian prayers and each one of us spoke about how the war is affecting us. There was certainly alot of emotion in our short dialogues from the heart - some even speaking as tears ran down their faces.

Many of us spoke about how horrified we are at the irrational violence. One person spoke of how frustrating it was because she knew that both sides are saying the same things - namely, how 'the other side only understands violence - we have to show them we're strong' which only breeds another cycle of violence. Another said that to follow the way of God is not to kill. I spoke about my long-harbored desire to visit Lebanon, feeling it was going to be the next country after Jordan and Egypt to open up its borders to Israelis – unfortunately now its borders are not opened up to me, but to soldiers. I was angered by the fact that Arab towns in the North of Israel had no bomb shelters and no siren warning systems as Jewish towns have, and aimed to start a petition for the Israeli government to build these for them, as they have for others. Many nodded their heads in agreement and we are meeting next week for an "action planning group". Finally. I always thought our meetings were lovely but too passive. Nothing will change with just monthly meetings.

We stated our wishes to God that He should put the right thoughts into Hezbollah and our government - and compassion in the hearts of the leaders of this war. We feel peace cannot happen otherwise.

The leader of our group told everyone that she wanted each one of us to contact someone we would not "normally" socialize with and go to their homes. I applauded her for this because people just go to meetings and real friendships can form better with home visits of people you click with. And you can click with others. A Moslem woman named Adia, whose daughter lives in Haifa, who is in Jerusalem with her mom now, took my number. We had a wonderful conversation about Beirut and she told me how lovely Lebanon was - the Switzerland of the Middle East. She was especially thrilled when my cellphone rang because the ring tone is a well known Arabic tune. She held my phone up for her friends to hear and of course I missed the phone call, but what the hell. She just seemed too happy for me to grab it back from her. I do hope she invites me to her home. I'd love to visit and talk about everything. Like what all mothers and wives can talk about. We'll have what to say, I'm sure.


Katherine said...

not that I don't agree there should be shelters and sirens in Arab areas, but I think you should find out why exactly before you condemn this out of hand as Israeli government oversite. Arab towns such as Nazareth had the option to be connected to the national siren system, but refused because it would also have meant they heard the siren on Yom HaShoa and Yom Atsmaut. They were warned of the dangers and decided not to have the siren. As for community bomb shelters it is bad they don't have them, and something should be done, but as for private houses, it has been the law for quite some time that new houses have to be built with bomb shelters. If Arab builders have not been sticking to those laws you can hardly blame the government.

Sherril said...

As always, I enjoy and appreciate hearing your vantage point.