SWO Articles and Documents
Brief History of the Arab / Jewish Women's Peace Coalition
EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA -- The Arab/Jewish Women’s Peace Coalition, in Edmonton Alberta Canada was born out of the tragedy of the Gulf war of the early 1990’s.
Over the course of a year the coalition met at least weekly in one another’s homes. This was significant. We chose not to meet in offices or meeting rooms but to open our homes to one another in the hope that eventually our minds and hearts would follow. It was a slow and often painful unfolding. Each member brought her own personal experience to the circle. For some it was easy to be with the other as this was in their life experience, for some it was the first time they had sat with the other, and it was uncomfortable, even frightening.
In the beginning we explored our common ground, what we shared as women through our faith and cultural traditions. As we listened, deeply, we came to understand that our common ground was our humanity, and this is the place that we moved forward from in exploring the difficult questions, pains and fears.
Very quickly we came to know the value of women’s ways of knowing and healing. The value of co-operation. The need and value of risk taking and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in the company of “others”. The importance of a participatory and inclusive process that provided time and space for all voices to be heard and the gift of being able to think outside the box, to call upon our imaginations to support conflict resolution.
Through the sharing of personal stories and those of our grandmothers we came to understand that we had not always been enemies, it is not a biological imperative that Arabs and Jews can not live and prosper side by side. We began to shift paradigms of thought and belief held by several members of the coalition – Arabs and Jews. Slowly we were able to release old patterns of thought, ideas, experiences that no longer served us and replace them with new experiences and ideas that inspired trust, and a recognition that we were 2 sides of the same coin.
We denied power to anything or anyone that attempted to block our path toward reconciliation. In wanting for the other what we wanted for ourselves we could begin to move beyond the safety of our sacred circle and venture out into our own faith and cultural communities to share our new identity as sisters for Peace and Justice between our people, as women who had transformed fear and anger into trust and compassion through the process of dialogue.
Collective work between Muslims, Christians and Jews is not new in the Middle East, nor is it unheard of at this point in time. There are several organizations working for social justice, peace and reconciliation in the region. Our experience no doubt drew on the vast ocean of wisdom from our ancestors and our sisters mirroring our work in the Middle East. The Arab/Jewish Women’s Peace Coalition continues to speak out against the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and call for just and lasting peace for all citizens in the region. Regardless of how the political winds may blow, we refuse to be enemies.
By Karen Hamdon. Printed by permission.
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