BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS: Women Cleaning the Mess Men Have Made of the Holy City of Hebron

Elana Rozenman and Ibtisam Mahmeed
Elana Rozenman and Ibtisam Mahmeed


February 26th, 2009
TRUST- WIN visit to “Cordoba” school, Hebron

The ongoing conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the aftermath
of the violence in Gaza and southern Israel has put a strain on the ability
and willingness of many Israelis and Palestinians to engage in
peace-building activities. In that context last Thursday morning a group of
Israeli women (Jewish and Christian) set out from Jerusalem with enthusiasm
and some trepidation to meet with Reem Alshareef who is the Muslim director
of the Cordoba school in the H2 area of Hebron which is under Israeli
control. For pictures, press here and search under ‘Women Hebron’.
The Israeli women were from the left, the right, and the center politically.
All of them are in our wonderful book “Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli
and Palestinian Women” ( One was an Armenian Orthodox
woman who is a nurse at Hadassah Hospital. One of the Israeli women lives
in Nokdim, a settlement not far from Hebron. One is the Director of the
Israeli branch of NAAMAT – the largest Israeli women’s organization On the
way there was discussion about how safe it was to travel without an escort
given the continual stress between the Jewish and the Muslim residents
of Hebron. Some of the Israeli women had not been to Hebron for years and
were surprised to learn that other women go there regularly to pray at the
Tomb of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Reem’s school is across from Beit Hadassah on Shuhada Street in an area of
continual confrontation between Jewish and Muslim residents. We passed the
army guard and the barrier to walk with Reem up the hill to her school. We
brought her beautiful flowers and chocolates and were greeted by the
delicious smells of majedra cooking. We met with the teachers who served us
a delicious meal and everyone introduced themselves and shared a few words
in Hebrew or Arabic with much laughter. We spoke with Reem’s 10th grade
students from her English class and they enjoyed speaking to us in English
and answering our questions about their lives and their future plans. Reem
discussed their situation and history between Jews and Muslims in Hebron —
and basically we just enjoyed being together as women of all ages who are
trying to learn about each other’s lives and build a better future for
ourselves and our children, and who are refusing to be stopped by the
political environment, or the conflict. We women often have an easier time
leaving politics behind and building relationships of friendship and trust.
We were invited to hold our next meeting at the Armenian women’s center in
the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.

When we left, Reem accompanied us down to the street and said she could not
as a Palestinian walk on Shuhada Street. And sure enough — as she started
to walk towards the van with us, the soldier on guard came over and warned
her not to walk with us. Some of our women started arguing with him, but he
and Reem agreed this is the law, and we kissed her good-by and she left to
go back up the stairs.

On the drive back, the women were amazed at how easy it was to get there,
how graciously we were received by everyone at the school, the warm and
lovely atmosphere there and how happy the children were. They appreciated
not only the visit to Hebron and the school, but were grateful to have the
opportunity to get to know Reem and her reality — a possibility that is not
normally available.

A few days later, one of our TRUST WIN Coordinators went with a group of
Jewish women to pray in Hebron and reported:
“As we were boarding the bus in Hebron, my eye caught sight of an Arab woman
on her balcony looking at us. We were too far away to see one another’s
faces yet I felt her peacefulness. Spontaneously, I waved to her in a
friendly way and she waved back. I threw her a kiss and she sent one right
back to me. That moment of intimacy was certainly the highlight of my day!

Elana Rozenman
TRUST – Emun
15 Naomi Street
Jerusalem 93552 Israel
972 2 6749698
972 522861779

© Marc Gopin