Are you able to forgive and keep no records of wrongs?
Not a week after bombs filled Boston with smoke and tears, a group of 28 Israeli and Palestinian women, mostly Christian with a handful of Muslims, took a pilgrimage together from Bethlehem to Acco in northern Israel, about 113-mile trek. It was a part of an ongoing program sponsored by the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center that seeks to cultivate, among other things, dialogue, “soul-searching and friendship forging.”
In Acco, they spend four days with a facilitator, Dr. Janan Faraj-Falah, a Druze women and professor of gender studies at Haifa College, who encourages the women to be honest but also seek out new ground in building peace initiatives and relationships between their two communities.
In one deeply moving meeting, for instance, a Palestinian women expressed the idea that many of her friends still have their keys to homes that their families once owned before being kicked out of Israel in 1948. She like to help them, she said, get back to their original homes and make their way on their land.
A Jewish woman countered with a similar sympathy, noting that those very homes were the ones that the Jews now cherish since they can’t go back to their original homes in Egypt.
Heaviness hung in the air, and silence filled the room. Obviously, emotions were high, but the two found common ground in the fact that women in the Middle East are largely displaced one way or another. Displacement takes shape in others ways: domestic abuse and the lack of civil rights continue to plague women’s initiatives throughout Middle Eastern culture.
Discussion like this goes on for a few days, and before long, life-long enemies become friends, and people who are used to demonizing one another find things in common that let them deepen their bonds of history and heritage.
There is animosity at times in the meetings, sometimes they need to take a coffee or lunch break from one another, but it’s a start. Forgiveness does not always come quickly, nor does letting go of the score-card of who hurt who fade so easily; yet, if Israel and Palestinian women can help change the idea that two people world’s apart can’t live together in peace (because they can), then so can we.
Love keeps no records of wrongs.