16 Peace Women In Palestine & Israel Strive For A Better World

peace_sign_pink.jpgSusan updates: This blog entry was posted December 29, 2009. It's now the beginning of September 2010, and tensions still run high in Palestine and Israel. Nevertheless, many, many people, including women around the world, continue to build peace bridges...

One year ago this week violence erupted once again in Palestine. It continued unabated for weeks. Hundreds of people were killed. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Millions of lives were impacted.

Today, one year later, the living conditions in Palestine continue to be disastrous. It’s an ongoing tragedy.

And yet, there’s also hope.

Many women, in particular, refuse to accept the status quo.  They are Muslims, Jews, Christians, Israelis, and Palestinians. They are women of all religions, races and nationalities. They believe in building bridges instead of fences, in the benefits of inter-cultural understanding and diversity, and in empowering and educating women. They constantly work toward achieving peace.

Here are some of them (courtesy of PeaceWomen Around The Globe; click on their names for more information):

Haya Shalom (Israel)
Born December 4th, 1944 in Jerusalem, Israel, to an Israeli-Sephardic fifth generation family, Haya Shalom is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in History Studies. As a feminist, human rights activist and a Lesbian, Shalom is especially sensitive to issues concerning women's oppression. Shalom is one of the first women who joined and assisted the Women in Black Movement, protesting for more than 16 years against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West bank.

Issam Abdul-Hadi (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Born in 1928 in Nablus, Palestine, Issam Abdul-Hadi has been involved in voluntary social work throughout her life. She played a leading role in resisting British and Israeli occupations by organizing and leading protests, writing petitions and by vocalizing the Palestinian ordeal in many national and international gatherings and calling for Palestinians to unite against the occupation. She was arrested with her daughter, Dr. Faiha, in 1969 and was  deported to Jordan.

Anat Biletzki (Israel)
Biletzki has been active in the peace movement and in several human rights projects in Israel for over 25 years. During the first Intifada she was one of the founders of the peace movement “The Twenty-First Year” – a group devoted to promoting civil insurgence against the Israeli occupation. In those same years she also worked with the Beta Committee that aimed to coordinate rehabilitation efforts for the West Bank village, Beta.

Yusra Berberi (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Yusra Berberi (born 1923) recalls that she began resisting the Israeli occupation since she was as young as four years old. Following the 1948 war and Israeli occupation of Palestine, she began holding meetings with women’s group in her house to discuss the consequences of the occupation and the methods of helping the refugees who were forced to quit their homes. She believed in peace and coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims. “The midwife who helped my mother through my birth was Jewish. For me that incident always remained a key symbol of peaceful coexistence that had been dominating the relationships between Jews and Muslims until the 1920s,” she said.

Aida Touma-Suliman (Israel)
A Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, Touma-Suliman is the sixth of seven girls, born in 1964 to a Palestinian Christian family from Nazareth. During the invasion of the West Bank and Gaza in April 2001, Touma-Suliman led many convoys of food and medical relief to towns in the West bank under curfew and siege, managing to deliver the supplies. She has dedicated her life to work with women from both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, promoting the peace efforts. She has been especially active in defending Palestinian women’s rights in Israel.

Nafeesa Al Deek (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Al Deek, a village woman and advocate for women's rights says: "The three divine religions honor human beings. Injustice is not a matter of religious conflict; all I seek to achieve is equal rights for all people. She recollects one of the incidents where she was arrested by Israeli forces, and says, “I was arrested at the age of 40 when I started going to adult-literacy classes. The interrogator asked me why I wanted to study at this age. I responded to him, ‘Jesus says: learn from birth to tomb.’ I have raised my children to love Palestine, and I am so proud of what I have achieved."

Angelica Livne (Israel)
Livne, born to a Jewish family in Rome in 1955, has lived in an Israeli Kibbutz, on the border with Lebanon, since she was 20. She describes herself as an "educator of peace through art." In 2002, she was inspired to create the Rainbow Theater, bringing together young Jews and Arabs, Christians, Muslims and Druses, who with mime and dance narrate what goes on in the mind of an adolescent living in a country at war. Livne passionately believes that art and theater can be a driving force for people who believe in human rights and ethics and want to exert a positive influence on the society.

Zahira Kamal (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Kamal has supported and helped to establish many women’s organizations in Palestine. When violence during the first Intifada in 1987 fostered hatred and intolerance between Israelis and Palestinians, Kamal organized house visits for Israelis so they could touch on the Palestinians’ ordeal and sufferings, an initiative that helped break the ice between the two sides and give them a chance to know one another on a people-to-people level. Those informal house visits opened the door for subsequent meetings in Italy, the United States, Belgium and Greece between Palestinian and Israeli public figures to discuss methods of peace promotion.

Nabila Espanioly (Israel)
Espanioly founded the group “Jewish-Arabic Women for Peace” and co-founded the Haifa “Women in Black” group. She is also a founder and chairperson of "Mosawa" (Equal Rights), a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization based in Haifa. In addition, she has coordinated poster actions and worked out appeals against the war, issued by different women’s groups for publication in the press. She has taken an active initiative in the preparations of the big demonstrations in Tel Aviv and set up, together with Reuven Moskovitz, solidarity programs for women’s groups in order to supply besieged Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with food and toys.

Salma Jayyusi (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Salma Jayyusi was constantly concerned with popularizing the superb achievements of profound literary figures in Arabic scholarship, as well as the voices of writers who would easily have been overlooked, particularly young women poets and writers. Jayyusi's vision and accomplishments produced not only a frame for deeper knowledge and broad-mindedness between the Arab and the Anglophone world, but also within the Arab world itself.

Amal Alh'jooj (Israel)
Alh'jooj is a Palestinian Arab, a citizen of the State of Israel and a Bedouin. She believes the sky is the limit for the Arab and Bedouin society in Israel and for Bedouin women in particular. Alh'jooj is the director of the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC), a division of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development. She is a founding member of the National Council of Arab Women in Israel and of the Negev Forum of Bedouin Arab Women’s Organizations, and is a member of many human rights organizations, and women’s organizations.

Hanan Ashrawi (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
She is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a recognized human rights activist. She founded the Miftah movement, a Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, of which she became Secretary General in 1998. Ashrawi is also a member of a number of NGOs and institutions including Woman for Peace and Justice in Palestine, and the National Reform Committee. Dr. Ashrawi is also a former member of the UN Secretary-General's Dialogue between Civilizations. She is a high profile dignitary because of her acclaimed efforts, and has been awarded several Honorary Doctorate degrees.

Rela Mazali (Israel)
Rela Mazali is a peace activist, who is networked to some effective peace building groups inside Israel. She is very committed to bringing about peace and tolerance between the Israelis and the Palestinians through mutual understanding and respect. She says, "I have conducted part of my struggle against militarization with and through a feminist group. We focused on women’s position within the context of Israeli militarization, after which we founded New Profile, a feminist antimilitarist group, working to de-militarize the society in Israel. We aim to change the society in which many of us were born and raised, and to readapt the culture that we all share."

Amneh Kamal Sulaiman (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Amneh Al-Rimawi grew up in a family of twelve children with an independent and strong personality, always defending the rights of her sisters. While studying, she embarked on voluntary social activities side by side with men, and also became the only female member of "Dababis", a Palestinian drama group. Over many years, she has fought for wage parity between men and women and has helped to establish a center for labor studies in Ramallah.

Ruchama Marton (Israel)

Dr. Ruchama Marton is a practicing psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and a long-term peace and human rights activist. She is the founder, driving force and president of the Physicians for Human Rights, Israel (PHR-I), a non-profit health and human rights NGO established in 1988 and based on cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian health professionals and human rights activists. Marton has been a leader in the peace movement in Israel and an exemplary force in the struggle against Israeli violations of the human rights of Palestinians. She has continuously promoted mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians working together, as a nonviolent alternative to war.

Amneh Al-Rimawi (Occupied Palestinian Territory)
Amneh Kamal Sulaiman, originally from Palestine, was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon in 1951; she was also raised there. She graduated from Beirut Arab University in 1977 with a BA in English Literature, and went on to work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). She became a refugee camp advisor in 1973 and Deputy Chairwoman of the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) in 1981, of which she headed the Lebanon branch since 1982. She became a member of Palestinian National Council in 1983.

Related links:
PeaceWomen Around The Globe
No Holds Barred
More About Palestine on AWR
More About Isarael on AWR