There’s no question in my mind that women do it best when it comes to relationships.
We’re more giving with each other, more intimate, more talkative, and more forgiving. That’s why hearing and amplifying women’s voices is so important to the process of Middle East peace. After all, the essence of meaningful coexistence is strong, healthy relationships.
If you care about women and the Middle East, it is essential that you listen to the voices of the women in these videos.
This morning I came across TEDx HolyLand– the only TEDx conference in the world devoted to women’s voices and narratives. (Note that the full name of the conference is TEDx HolyLand: It’s Time).
In the conference’s opening video, co-organizer Israeli Liat Aaronson explains:
“We want to have women’s voices heard in an effort to progress toward the end of Occupation and the end of violence in our region. That’s what we’re about.”
Co-organizer, Palestinian Hanan Kattan asserts:
“The Palestinian people and the Israeli people have many individual challenges they have to work on separately. And yet, ultimately, a truly sustainable future relies on both sides understanding that they cannot do it alone. This connection to each other, this working together, is essential to make anything truly worthwhile happen.”
Kattan explains that the HolyLand conference was sponsored by a Palestinian (lesbian) woman who wishes to remain anonymous. As someone who cares about these issues, I can’t think of a better use of funding to forward peace.
Treading on Transboundary Identities
Here I also want to note how many of these women tread the borderlines of mixed identities, as you will hear below. They are Arab, and Israeli; they are Muslim, and sometimes lesbians; they are Middle Eastern, but occasionally educated in Europe or the United States. It is my belief that the power of their voices comes from their experience with transboundary identities and the spiritual beauty that comes from exploring all aspects of the self.
— Keep reading to hear the powerful voices of women in Israel and Palestine as well as extended resources for recommended reading and viewing —
Shamim Sarif: award winning novelist, filmmaker, and above all, storyteller:
“We are all born into a certain country, a certain belief system, a certain family, and that necessarily informs our experiences and our interpretation of our experiences. It is possible, through the power of imagination, for an Israeli to feel horror when a Palestinian, who has become a part of their own heart, suffers an injustice. It is possible for a Palestinian, who may despise the Israeli army, to feel the pain of a family who has lost a child to war.
It is that potential for stories to cut through the specific to the true heart of what makes us all human– and sometimes, what makes us inhuman– that is the true power that we all carry within us.”
Dalia Fadila: Assistant to the President and Dean of Students at Al Qasemi College of Academic Education, newspaper writer and editor, English literature and language teacher who has worked with the Israeli Ministry of Education in creating English writing curricula:
“The clashing variables are: Arab contradicts Israeli. Israeli contradicts Muslim. Muslim contradicts women. Women are being marginalized by Arab. Arab marginalizes Israel. And Israel marginalizes everybody else… and the rest of the world marginalizes all the above… Where does this status quo of clashing variables leave a woman who is Arab, who is Muslim, who is minority, and who is Israeli?”
“As Virginia Wolf said, A Room of Her Own, but I think a room is not enough, ladies. I think an institution, a business– a big one– of her own, would be enough for women who are Arab, Muslim, minority, and try to be Israeli in their spare time.”
Madees Khoury: entrepreneur.
Khoury is a perfect foil to Dalia Fadila’s paradigm of a Business of Her Own. Her family established the first microbrewery in Taybeh, Ramallah in 1995 and Khoury is the first Palestinian woman brewer. At approximately 25 years old, she speaks on the power of the Khory family’s Oktoberfest to bring people together in the vision of a new Palestine.
“We want people to forget about politics, forget about that idea that they have in their mind from watching the news about Palestinians, forget about the backgrounds, and just [spend time] enjoying the company, enjoying the weather, enjoying the beer, enjoying the music…
We had people from all over the world coming… anywhere you can think of just for the Oktoberfest. They want to see the idea of another Palestine.”
“My passion is not just to make beer and follow in my father’s footsteps. My passion is also to bring people together, to celebrate life.”
Now that’s something anyone can relate to.
Note the full speakers list for TEDx Holyland here.
I could not find Holyland videos for Shulamit Almog, Giulia Borghini, Abeer Hazboun, Lucy Nusseibeh, or Ilana Shoshan. If you find any of these, either for HolyLand or from another TEDx event in English, please let me know and I will add them to the post with credit to you.
- Dr. Safa Abu Rabia (Bedouin, Israeli Arab) of Ben-Gurion University and Israel’s Mandel Center for Leadership, speaks on growing up as a Bedouin and Israeli Arab and her education in the Israeli Jewish system. Professionally she has devoted her career to the “herstory” of Bedouin women’s narratives. Learn more about Dr. Abu Rabia here
- Shireen Nazer (Palestinian) speaks on her experience as an urban planner creating Rawabi, the first Palestinian city to have a master plan– as opposed to spreading organically– and what it was like as a woman to work to promote and execute that vision to all parties involved
- Adital Ela (Israeli Jew) speaks about holistic design (a topic interesting, but with a looser connection to the primary themes than discussed in other talks)
- Jamie McCourt (American), former CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, uses a personal example of something that happened to her to emphasize why women must be savvy in using the legal system to protect their businesses
- Bruno Guissani, European Director of TED, speaks to the TEDx model: there have been over 850 TEDx events in 90 countries and 35 languages as of September 2010 (Guissani is the token male at this event)
- Leonie Casanova sings “Broken”- purely a gift for the ears and the heart
- Enlightenment Productions, which produced TEDx HolyLand (see also the Sarif-Kattan Foundation, one of the events sponors)
- Hanan Kattan and Shamim Sarif, who are married, are interviewed by Gay Middle East.com (sourced from Sarif’s blog)
Other TEDx Conferences in Israel and Palestine: