Three Jerusalem Women Speak on Sharing a Peace

Posted: November 11, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Fran Rensbarger

Three women of Jerusalem offer three different voices–one Jewish Israeli, one Christian Palestinian, and one Muslim Palestinian–in telling personal experiences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how it has affected individuals and their families. The women speak and answer questions today from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall.

The World Affairs Council (WAC), in association with George Mason’s Office of the Provost, is sponsoring the exclusive Northern Virginia presentation of these women on a national WAC tour.

The only commonality among the women is their conviction that Jerusalem can and must be shared. Jean Zaru, Adi Dagan, and Muna Shikaki discuss their lives in Jerusalem, and their mutual vision for an end to the violence and a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Christian is Jean Zaru, 62, from Ramallah, Palestine. A Quaker by birth, she taught ethics and Christianity at the Friends’ schools in Ramallah, and is the presiding clerk of the Ramallah Friends Meeting in Palestine.

During the 1948 war, Zaru was eight years old. During the 1967 war, her oldest son was eight years old. She has raised three children and seven grandchildren under military occupation. In 1967, her husband was almost killed when the Israeli military bombed Ramallah. Her brother disappeared in Lebanon in 1976, and she still does not know what happened to him.

Zaru, a founding member and director of the Palestinian Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, has been the keynote speaker at many world conferences and has had numerous papers published. She has also participated in many dialogue groups through the Working Group on Interfaith Dialogue of the World Council of Churches, and the Council of the International World Conference for Religion and Peace. She is committed to nonviolent struggle to end the occupation of her country.

The Jewish woman is Adi Dagan, 31, who lives in Herzeliya, Israel, and works at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem. Her father, born in Romania, immigrated to Israel in 1962 after being held for nine months in prison for being an active Zionist. Her mother was born in 1936 in pre-state Israel, and worked as a social worker before retiring.

Over the past eight years, Dagan worked for social justice and human rights organizations. She also served two years in the Israeli military helping to bring cultural activities to the soldiers.

In the past two years Dagan has become more deeply engaged in both political and human rights activities. She joined Machsom Watch, an organization of women who visit checkpoints around Jerusalem to document–and try to influence–the attitude of the army toward Palestinians. “It is very important for me not only to try and help the people in the checkpoints, but also to hear from them and to witness with my own eyes what is going on under the Israeli occupation. I want to live in a safe and secure Israel, and that is why I am working for a just peace,” she says.

Muna Shikaki, the Muslim woman, is 22, lives in Ramallah, and is the program assistant at Defense for Children International/Palestine Section.

She was born in Kuwait, but as a child, Shikaki shuttled between the United States and the West Bank. Her father, a refugee from a Palestinian village that was destroyed in the 1948 war, studied in Jerusalem, Lebanon, and the United States, but was not permitted by Israeli authorities to live permanently in the West Bank because of his refugee status. Her mother and mother’s parents are Bosnian Muslims who moved to Palestine, then fled during the 1948 war to the West Bank.

As a college student at Birzeit University, Shikaki wrote about controversial Palestinian issues, including the Palestinian Authority and women’s rights. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and will study in the United States next year. Shikaki currently organizes activities for a cultural center and works for a child’s rights organization.

Shikaki was profoundly influenced by participation in the Denver, Colorado, Building Bridges for Peace, which brings together young women from the United States, Israel, and Palestine as individuals rather than political adversaries to discuss political and social issues. She continues to harbor hope for neighborly relations with Israel and reconciliation with the Israeli people–but as equals, not subject to curfews and checkpoints.

To register for this free event, call (703) 993-2088. For more information, contact WAC at (202) 293-1051 or info@worldaffairsdc.org.

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