If you participated in any part of the March of Hope, you surely noticed the very tall marcher with long hair who led the march with her shorter friend. Ulfat Haider and Hagit Lavi (see a separate article about Hagit) led hundreds of marchers over the course of two weeks from Rosh Hanikra, at the northern border, to Jerusalem. They were there not only at the moments of “glory” but also during the difficult and sometimes boring parts of the march on dirt paths and in the afternoon heat.
Even at the last evening in Jerusalem Ulfat looked as refreshed as she did on the first day. Ulfat radiates a sense of determination, calm and ability through her personality, appearance and body language. As a very talented sportswoman, and a champion in volleyball and extreme sport, Ulfat is used to coping with difficult challenges. She played volleyball from an early age; after playing in the super league, she was a physical education teacher and a member of the Israeli Volleyball team and worked towards promoting women’s sports and sports activities between Arab and Jewish women.
A short search revealed that Ulfat not only excels in sports but also in social action. She works as the activity director of an Arab-Jewish cultural center, Beit HaGefen in Haifa, firmly believing that change will come from actions in the field and not through politics.
Ulfat was born into a Moslem family in the Samir village near the Carmel Coast where she grew up with values of human dignity, freedom and equality. These values are reflected even in her name. The name Ulfat comes from the word “Ulfa” which means friendship, and Haider is a synonym for lion. We can also mention here that Ulfat’s siblings are also tall and active in sports. Ulfat believes that nature is a neutral and equal place for all people and from this equal starting point it is possible to create a meeting place for values that don’t differentiate between religion, race or gender. Ulfat was accepted in both the Arab and the Jewish communities based on her athletic abilities and she is active in opening doors for other women in various areas of sports.
In 2004 Ulfat participated in a peace mission to Antarctica. The 4 Israelis and the 4 Palestinians who participated named the mountain they climbed “Friendship Mountain – Israel/Palestine”. After this journey, Ulfat was certified as a coach in the international organization Outdoor Bound which develops leadership through outdoor activities in order to promote social cooperation, tolerance and co-existence. In 2015 Ulfat represented the Asian continent in a journey to make drinking water accessible to all people. During this 100 day journey 6 women (chosen from all over the world) marched from the source of the Ganges River near the Himalayas to its estuary in the Indian Ocean. Today Ulfat leads journeys for young women and students for the purpose of bringing people together and promoting cooperative values.
Ulfat joined Women Wage Peace when it was founded in 2014 and has been active since then with her fellow members in the Haifa area. In October we had the pleasure of seeing Ulfat leading the March of Hope.
Translated from Hebrew by Sue Levinstein