, an American non-profit group, has brought together
Palestinian and Israeli women to discuss how to achieve peace. The organization
released a book that tells how the 60 women envision peace. Late last year,
before the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, the women visited Washington. They
said they hoped to push for peace which they say has eluded the region's male
In 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat, with a handshake on the White House lawn, gave their people hope that a
peaceful Palestinian state in the occupied territories was on the way.
But since then, there has been renewed fighting, with, most recently, Hamas
firing rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns and Israel launching a
ground offensive in the Strip.
In November, a group of Israeli and Palestinian women gathered in Washington.
They said they hope their vision can advance Middle East peace in ways that men
have been unable to.
"Peace is not about doves, peace is not about words
on a piece of paper. It may be one part of it, but it is about conditions on the
ground that includes honoring and trusting," Patricia Smith Melton said. She is
the founder of Peace By Peace. In her newly released book, Sixty years, Sixty
Voices, Melton gives voice to 60 Palestinian and Israeli women, this group
Two of the Israelis and two of the Palestinians first encountered each other
around this table.
One of them, Nira Lamay is an Iranian-born Jew. She works in Israel's Parliament
and once served as a lieutenant in the nation's army. Because of her appearance,
she says she has been subjected to the same checkpoint searches endured by
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
"People have to meet and put down the barrier of
fear and another very important thing is the education of children because even
if we sign a peace agreement tomorrow, the children or the teenagers will have
to learn to live with it," Lamay stated.
Lamay says women can teach tolerance to both Israeli and Palestinian children. A
school principal in the Israeli occupied city of Hebron agrees, up to a point.
Reem Al Sharif says the tension and occasional violent clashes take a toll on
In Hebron, 150,000 Palestinians live in uneasy coexistence with about 500
"To go to the school, you have to go through
different checkpoints. Some checkpoints are with metal detectors and sometimes
you go through personal check," Al Sharif said. "The other way is the Islamic
cemetery. So you can imagine what are the scenes those children see every
|Reem Al Sharif
In some places on the West Bank, an Israeli-built wall separates Palestinians
from Israelis. Al Sharif says if women from both sides could bypass this wall,
they could make peace sooner than the mostly male politicians
Barbara Sofer is a spokeswoman for
. The group
founded Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, which treats both Arabs and Jews.
In the book, Sofer calls the hospital an island of
peace where people from both sides bring out their better selves, bridging their
She believes women are better qualified to reach a peace agreement. "The vast
majority of unsuccessful peace makers in our region are men, so we need to have
sort of a protesting tent. We need to have a long table of women and we have to
come up with a document."
Peace By Peace hopes its book will create a climate for peace in the Middle