In December 2009 the publicized event of the "Ladies of the Forum" took place: Neighbors– Women Create Reconciliation". The successful event that took place at the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque, concluded long months of intensive work and a joint weekend during which the Palestinians stayed at the Israeli women's homes. Ever since "Neighbors", the women haven’t seen each other and this may be one of the reasons that the freezing weather in Beit Jala did not stop the Israeli and the Palestinian women who arrived at the Everest Hotel for the meeting.
The Palestinians were early and attended a lecture given by Ali Abu Awwad, a member of the PCFF.
Following Ali Abu Awwad's lecture, close to sixty Israeli and Palestinian women gathered around one stove with the purpose of reevaluating the group's goals and re-planning the next step together.
The women talked about long term goals (goals that apply to the entire Forum), such as creating the willingness for reconciliation in both nations, ending the occupation, acknowledging the life, culture, fears, and hopes of the other nation.
A conversation about short term goals raised the need to empower the Forum's women and to make their voices heard within the PCFF, the family, and the society.
A number of ways came up in the discussion as means to achieve these goals: language teaching, gaining experience in exposing the personal story as a first rate tool to achieve the attention and trust of the wide audience, holding many meetings of the women's group, art workshops, producing another event, etc.
Following lunch and a warm-up, four women, two Israeli and two Palestinian, told their personal bereavement story. The four bereft mothers: Hanan Lubebda, Nurit Grossman, Samira Hammed, and Sarit Bargur, told their stories.
Hanan Lubeda of Nablus lost her son Mas'ud when he was 14, in 1989.
Nurit Grossman of Gal'on lost her son Gal when he was 25, in 1996.
Samira Hammed lost her son Mussa when he was 14, in 1990.
Sarit Bargur lost her son Ziv when he was 23, in 1996.
It was interesting to observe the difference between the Israelis and Palestinians in the way they told the story. The Israelis focused more on the insights they had after the death of the son. The Palestinians seemed as if they were touching the story for the first time, and told about the death of the son in detail, including little precious memories.
Beyond the warm encounter that always takes place between the women, this meeting was accompanied by a sense that the group that has so far focused on feelings and emotions has taken a step toward handling ideological topics as well.
The Israeli bus driver that requested and was granted the permission to observe the meeting said to one of the women, you are brave ladies, you don’t understand how much, and what strength you have…
Photography: Mashka Litvak
Translation: Nitzan Halperin
We thank Aesha Aqtam, Tsurit Sarig, Mashka Litvak.