Whether Arab or Jewish, religious or secular, the goal of Friday's Women Build Bridges for Peace event in Beit She'an is to promote unity among women of different lifestyles and outlooks.
By ESTI KELLER
Political and cultural differences are no match for gossip and girl-talk, according to Michal Weinberg of the Beit She'an municipality. In her capacity as organizer of Women Build Bridges for Peace, the region's annual co-existence extravaganza running for the third time on Friday, Weinberg has crossed paths with local Arab women, as well as their contemporaries as far afield as Jordan (a delegation of 30 Jordanian women are scheduled to participate in Friday's event). "As women we have so many more factors in common than those which set us apart," she observes. "Our shared experiences pave the way for connection ... we're able to relax and enjoy each others' company."
Similar reflections, Weinberg continues, motivated the event's founder, former head of Beit She'an municipality, Yael Shaltieli. "Yael's idea was to promote unity and dialogue between women of both races from throughout the country, and particularly in the North," she explains. "Therefore, we focus on our common ground: chiefly our shared wish for peace - politics is irrelevant as far as this event is concerned."
But the goal, Weinberg stresses, stretches beyond attempting to cultivate communication between Arabs and Jews. "Our overriding aim is to promote unity among women of different lifestyles and outlooks, be they Arab or Jewish, religious or secular, urban-dwelling or rural inhabitants," she asserts.
As in previous years, participants can choose between a four-kilometer walk along the Israel-Jordan border and a cycling option encompassing a similar route. Both routes conclude at the Old Gesher site, where a crafts fair offers choices such as salsa and belly-dancing workshops, impromptu conversation groups and team games designed to "facilitate unity," music in Hebrew and Arabic by multi-lingual performers Mira Awad and Miriam Tukan and an exhibition featuring works by Arab and Israeli creators.
The event culminates with addresses from guests of honor: Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle - Israel's first Muslim cabinet minister, as well as Education Minister Yuli Tamir.
For more information visit www.bbshean.org.il http://www.bbshean.org.il/
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