WWP Diversity Team is instigating a series of thinking sessions in order to explore complex issues as part of the movement’s activities. The sessions will take place in different parts of the country. The first session dealt with the following questions: Why are the participation and visibility of Israeli Arab women so limited within the movement? How can we develop Israeli, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Palestinian participation? What are the challenges and what are the possibilities?
On Tuesday, 17.1.2017, about fifty women, twelve of whom were Israeli Arabs, (about ten women could not attend because of financial reason and/or because the meeting took place in the evening), met in ‘Beit Hagefen’ in Haifa to have a heart to heart discussion. The discussion was moderated by Nurit Hajjaj and Ulfat Haider (a Jew and an Arab).
The meeting proved to be loaded with complications. Harsh words were uttered, words such as: ‘Where were you for the past 70 years? What do you want of us? We are suspicious of you. Arab women did not wish to come.’
On the other hand, we heard warm words too: appreciation and excitement about the meeting; hope and the understanding that, as women, we can work together; excitement and curiosity about women working towards peace. Arab women asked us not to make a distinction between Arabs and Jews – we are all Israelis, they stressed.
There was some misunderstanding as to the aims of the movement and what is happening within it. This hampered the discussion and brought about disagreement concerning the issues raised, issues such as the movement’s direction and activities on the ground, the construction of a smaller Arab/Jewish thinking group. Often, we had the feeling that we are talking in ‘different languages’ and that the gap between the past and present, old and new is extremely wide.
It was an evening of many expressed thoughts and emotions. There were suggestions for activities in order to learn to know each other better, for local co-operation and even for a gigantic art project. We came to various conclusions concerning discussions in large groups versus smaller groups and of the need to fight for the aims and needs of the women who have come.
To summarise the evening, most Arab women I spoke to have a great wish to work together with us. Some said that it was a wonderful evening and that they had not believed so many Jewish women will arrive. Some suggested that we are all pieces in the same puzzle and that cooperation is only natural. Others felt that the movement seemed to be created for them. There seemed to be a need to find a way to know each other better and to express our women’s solidarity. Almost all the Arab women wished to get used to and understand the movement’s ideology. But, others are already cooperating with Jewish women and work locally.
One participant, Hiyam, summed up her experience this way: We’re here to find out what’s going on and will act on it with love.
Translated from Hebrew by Sarit Bloom