Sunday, February 12, 2012

The SAVE Team Reports: Mothers' Hopes in Palestine

A view of the wall dividing Israel and the Palestinian Territories

We, the Women without Borders/SAVE team, have spent the last five days speaking to Palestinian women across the Occupied Territories. The vast majority live in villages or refugee camps, many of them in close proximity to settlements where they experience with hostile interactions on a daily basis. Most women are housewives, often with 8-10 children, and their education is basic. What they all have in common: one of their sons is usually in prison, often as young as 14 or 15. Their family members do not know how long they will stay in prison.

All the mothers we have spoken with are highly concerned about the impact of the ongoing conflict and everyday encounters with Israeli soldiers. 

Additionally, everyone we have spoken to says the situation is now much worse than it was a few years ago-movement has been severely restricted, Israelis and Palestinians now almost never meet, and many have no idea whatsoever as to what life is like on the other side of the wall. All Palestinians over the age of 45 speak Hebrew, as there used to be far more exchange between the countries. The young generation is now cut off in terms of language, movement, and economic access.

The decorated Palestinian side of the wall
Today, all mothers insist that education is the only way their children can have a better life. One of the mothers summed it up quite succinctly: "there was a time when it was important to throw a stone so the world knew where Palestine was. But this is behind us. Our children now need to be educated so that the world knows where Palestine is." Another said "education is our resistance, not violence."

It is quite clear that a collective shift in attitude is taking place, sadly in a period of time where the windows of opportunity seem to be shutting again. 

Our direct conversations with the women challenge the international stereotype of Palestinian mothers who proudly send their sons off to become martyrs and cluck to celebrate their "fait accompli." The mothers say that they want to see a better life for their children, and that they shouldn't have to face the same hardships as their parents. There are many examples, such as Nadwa's narrative: she recalls her two and a half-year-old son twirling and singing "the soldiers will get my brother Ali." She was horrified that even her youngest son was aware of what was happening. She asks herself what this will do to his psyche, if such events calibrate his childhood memory.

Bustling daily life for women on the streets of Ramallah

We met several of the women in a refugee camp community center. Our SAVE partner invited them to speak with us, and many walked away from our conversations expressing hope that our trip will lead to workshops that will address their concerns and help them to be better prepared to tackle the most delicate issues of violence and conflict with their children.

Our trip will continue in the coming week with stories from Israeli settlements and the capital city of Tel Aviv. Follow our live tweets at SAVEalerts

A breathtaking view across the desert
Best from Jerusalem,

Edit Schlaffer and the SAVE Team

1 comment:

  1. The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world. Let's work together to achieve this goal.
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Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS