Egypt: We must listen

Two years ago while attending a peace conference in Sarajevo I met a wonderful Israeli peace activist named Ruth. She is now a friend whom I respect and see eye-to-eye with. I was lucky to have recently met with her and her family in Berlin.
I believe that the most important thing we can do to solve the Middle East conflict is to listen to one another. No matter how hard it is to accept what the other is saying, we must all listen to understand what the other thinks.
My friend Ruth - with whom I completely agree with regarding her defense of Ina Edelkraut and the Canaan Conference - wrote a very beautiful and interesting piece about her experience of the conference, which she allowed me to print here:
‘What makes the "Canaan Conference" different in the big ocean of Israeli-Palestinian encounters and events for Arabs and Jews are two significant aspects: it hosts only female participants under the umbrella of the UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and gives a space not for the usual two but three nationalities: Israelis, Palestinians and Germans. Our group facilitator was very tall, with wide shoulders and long arms. She easily could raise her athletic body up to the top of the board while sitting. Her strong fingers were pressing the pins to stick the bullet points of our vision for peace on the white board. One would imagine that the German delegation was supposed to take the role of mediators and by the way the German facilitators who were hired for the group assignments showed real professionalism in how to politely cut off the long Israeli and Palestinian speeches and sum up them afterwards. But so it wasn't even yet the end of the conference, when every second strong German lady in the circle did not handle the tempted, passionate and emotional manner of speaking of the Middle-Eastern louder women, and so they burst into tears. The foreign tears then took their course of facilitating the already passionate dialogue by making the Israeli and Palestinian women turn the German tears into some positive conclusions and very promising vision statements. As if the Middle-Eastern women felt guilty of making their hosts crying and started making up for it with beautiful, heartbreaking speeches. "We are here to stand up for women's values, rights, peace. We are Israeli and Palestinian mothers who do not want to send their sons to fight and die." Dear men, you would say that would not happen if this was men-only conference but perhaps the lack of those emotions and motherly thinking is what so far made all the official peace negotiations so unsuccessful. As the hero woman of this conference Ina who got of of her skin for organizing those busy women in the middle of German winter, shared in her emotional confession: "No one wants to touch this subject in Germany because it brings problems. People divide us in "we" or "they". Throughout my seven years in Berlin, it always seemed that you can choose only one of the two options: you either stay together with the Christian nuns in support of Israel and scream that Palestinians never existed, or on the other side of Ku'Damm with the Turkish and Moroccan Neukoelners, waving anti-semitic caricatures with replaced word "Zionists" instead of "Jews". This conference is therefore so crucial for the German society to bring it up, it is not all as we see it in "Bild" or any other biased newspaper. "Bild" is the German leading press for the masses, which get along easier with big pictures and capital letters. Having a cheap tabloid newspaper advocating for Israel, does not make Israel a favour. In fact, it evokes the opposite reaction towards Israeli criticism, by the formula if BILD wrote it, then it must be wrong. And so "BILD" presented the conference which so many women were looking forward with ugly introduction claiming that one of the participants belongs to anti-Israeli NGO. Even though, there was not a clear proof for that, the woman did not take part at the conference. Despite that most Israeli women spoke up for freedom of speech, and open-mindedness to listen to every opinion. That's how they do back home. The conference went on with full speed: respect, attention, appreciation to women's work, sacrifice and all that what only a woman can do. The role models who left their homes, children, work and activism came to exchange their unique experience, to share their sorrow on the uneasy way, to present their success and look for partners. A certain clash between generations, when some experienced women told us: "You live in your imaginary world. We need to be more realistic in our project ideas." That inter-generational exchange was important as well, just as Churchill put it: “Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains.” Any conference depends on what the participants make out of it. And sabotaging the conference that stands there for promoting women as leaders for positive change, is just unfair. Especially, since we live in times when feminism and penicillin were long discovered. To remind you the humble quote of our favorite Israeli woman: "Whether women are better than men I cannot say - but I can say they are certainly no worse." Golda Meir was not only feminist but also envisioning peace when she said: "Of course the path to peace may be a little bit difficult but not as difficult as the path to war." Perhaps that difficulty and challenge can be handled only by the strong characters of women like those who came for four days to Berlin...’