As the sun set over Jerusalem,
about one hundred women milled around tables covered with hand-made crafts.
There were delicate earrings, hand-embroidered shawls, olive wood jewelry boxes
and brightly colored ceramic bowls. There was chatter in Hebrew and Arabic and a
lot of laughter.
It was the third annual pre-holiday craft and jewelry
sale sponsored by Joint Ventures for Peace, a group of Israeli and Palestinian
women who have opened small businesses together. What is unique about this group
is that each craft project is fashioned by a pair of women — one Israeli and one
Palestinian. But each time they need to work together, it requires that a permit
be obtained from Israeli officials: either for the Israeli partner to enter the
Palestinian territories or for the Palestinian woman to enter
“For the past three years, we have been meeting in homes in
Israel and Palestine and learning about each other’s reality,” Vivian Silver,
one of the initiators of the event told The Media Line. “We are trying to
promote peace in our own small way.”
At a table covered with
hand-embroidered shawls, purses and placemats, Laila Nazzal of the Christian
Arab town of Beit Jalla says she has been doing traditional embroidery since she
was 16-years old.
“I’ve had exhibits in Germany, Russia, Tunisia, Tel
Aviv and Ramallah,” she told The Media Line. “We all want peace and want to work
together to achieve it.”
Nazzal’s partner is Israeli clothing designer
Esti Cantoni. Esti sews the items and Laila embroiders them, including special
bags to hold yoga mats. They meet in a hotel in Beit Jalla, which is located
next to Bethlehem.
Silver welcomed all of the women and encouraged them
to buy a unique product made by Cantoni and Nazzal.
“Check out those yoga
bags,” she encouraged the guests, most of whom are Israelis and Americans. “I
know they’re expensive, but there are nothing like them anywhere. You’ll be
proud to carry your yoga mat in them.”
One pair of women cooperated on a
book of poetry and they read several poems in English and Arabic. The new
American Consul General in Jerusalem, Michael Ratnay, also dropped
Silver said the initiative was originally sponsored by the Canadian
government, but the funding was only for one year. She said the women insisted
on continuing the meetings even after the funding ran out.
The women say that as
long as formal Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remain frozen, these meetings
are the only way to bridge the gaps between them. Palestinian women welcomed
Israel’s recent easing of entry restrictions for the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan. An estimated 100,000 Palestinians came into Israel during the holiday,
flooding the country’s beaches and malls.
“This is what normal life
should be,” Fatima, a Palestinian women’s activist who asked not to use her last
name told The Media Line. “Now, I just want all of the Israeli women to come
Fatima said she will run in local Palestinian elections
scheduled for later this year.
“I think women can build peace the same way they
build their families,” she said. “Peace is very important to both Israeli and
The crafts fair was held before the month-long season
of Jewish holidays that begins with Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, later
this month. Many of the women who came to this event were shopping for seasonal
gifts for family members. Others looked for something new for themselves for the
“I am in favor of the initiative and I do want to support them,”
Dina Herz said as she paid $25 for an embroidered black shawl. “It’s a bit
expensive and I don’t really need it, but it is a beautiful scarf.”
she had an idea.
“Maybe I’ll wear it as a head covering in synagogue,” she said,
referring to the Orthodox Jewish practice for women to cover their heads when
praying. “That’s where I’m going right now – to pay my synagogue
Fatima had a special greeting for all of the Israelis in
“Happy New Year to all our friends in Israel,” she said. “We
all now have this model of working together.”
For more stories from The Media Line go to www.themedialine.org