Diverse trio tours for peace

by Jason King

Emphasizing that more effort must be made to revive the Middle East peace process, three women from Jerusalem — one Jew, one Christian and one Muslim — spoke at St. Martin’s Table on the West Bank on Friday night.
The three women are making the tour to enlist public support for American intervention in the shaky Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“It really is rare to have a dialog between different people like this,” said University student John Landgraf, who was among 50 people in the audience.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Israel have been a source of global concern since Israelis were allowed to settle in Jerusalem in 1948, which is considered the holy city by both groups.
Each woman described how her feeling of hope for a lasting peace process has evaporated over the last few years as tensions in the region have escalated.
Michal Shohat, a Jewish woman, said that when Israel won the Six Day War with Jordan, Egypt and Syria in 1967, she thought the peace process would begin. “But I was a young girl, and I learned very quickly that dreams do not come true,” she said.
Shohat, who served in the Israeli military, said she had hoped her children would not have to serve in the military like she did. Her son is currently in the Israeli army, which is compulsory for both men and women.
While they shared the common message of peace with Shohat, the other two women — both Palestinians — spoke of the 1950s and 1960s, when Palestinians’ rights were limited.
Claudette Hadesch, a Christian Palestinian, told of a bomb put in her house by a Jewish radical.
Nahla Asali, a Palestinian Muslim and lecturer at Birzeit University, remembered time she spent as a refugee when she was displaced by Israelis after the settlement of 1948.
“We faced very difficult years in the 1950s,” Asali said. “Bullets entered our house. We went to Syria, and when we came back to Jerusalem, we lost all our property.”
The women’s message was not lost on Landgraf, who had spent 15 years in Israel on an archeological dig.
“Each person in their own way was very honest,” he said. “It was very polemic — especially between the Arabs and the Jews.”
While part of their purpose in coming to the United States is to enlist American help in reviving the peace process, at least one of the women seemed doubtful that American help would materialize.
Asali pointed out that she believes more American effort is necessary for the peace process to succeed. “It takes a miracle to get (President Bill) Clinton on (the Palestinians’) side. I don’t know who is going to help us.”
The Twin Cities was the second stop for the women. They appeared on C-SPAN when they visited Washington D.C. earlier in the week, and will visit 11 cities before returning to Israel. Their trip is sponsored by Partners For Peace, which is headquartered in Washington.
The women urged the audience to contact their elected officials to increase United States involvement in the peace process.