The Open House in Ramle - a peace education center in Ramle, Israel
 

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Women’s Business Workshop & Interfaith Course


Women and Business

by Dalia Landau

Open House women at Nes AmmimJewish and Arab women at Nes Ammim

In the past 3 years Open House has been doing major work empowering women as individuals and in the community. In the Spring, between Thursday, 28th Feb. to Saturday, 2nd of March, we had a vibrant weekend at Nes Ammim in the western Galilee with about forty women. The participants, Jewish and Arab , some from the West Bank, came from Open House and from Beyond Words, an organization based in the Galilee. The workshop was led by AWE, an international American organization–Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs. The contact between our organizations was created when the project directors of AWE contacted me and came to visit me in Jerusalem.From the AWE site:

“AWE is a multi-sector effort that brings together a coalition of global
partners to exponentially accelerate the number, scale, and positive impact
of women entrepreneurs around the world.”

I was invited as a keynote speaker to open the workshop on Thursday night and led the Shabbat service on Friday followed by a dance party. (Nothing like dancing to bring people close). Ruth Dayan, the widow of Moshe Dayan, 94 and still driving, was invited as a keynote speaker on Saturday, and she and I had a “private” session together which was recorded by AWE.

The workshop had ample information about psychological, social and cultural factors relating to the status of women and their rapidly changing role in society. It also gave practical tools for creating income through doing the work we love. A significant part of the program was sharing information about our local reality here in Israel/Palestine and our struggles as women.

AWE has organized a follow up through the internet.

For additional programs for the empowerment of woman, click here.


Women’s Interfaith Course 2013

Sitting in Front: Vivian Rabia & Shai Shwartz – Course Leaders

Many Jewish and Arab Israeli women who live in Ramle and the environs do not know one another and have no opportunity for dialogue. This project was a joint initiative of the Open House in Ramle, the Birkat Shalom Community on Kibbutz Gezer, and the Pluralistic Spiritual Center of Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam.

The project created a safe, neutral space for dialogue between Jewish and Arab women using religion and culture as the subject material and springboard for deeper conversation. The dialogue had two main subjects – use of core religious stories and narratives for each religion as an introduction to interfaith conversation; and use of religious narrative to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Twelve women (two Christians, three Moslems and seven Jews) met 15 times during the year. Meetings were held at Neve Shalom, Open House and Kibbutz Gezer. The meetings were facilitated by two women – Vivian Rabia (from Open House) and Shai Schwartz from Neve Shalom. Rabbi Miri Gold from the Birkat Shalom community was the advisor in the teaching of Jewish texts and was a major supporter of the project. The introduction to each religion was presented by explaining a bit about the religion and then the central narratives found in the religion’s primary texts. Dr. Maram Hazazi met the group at Neve Shalom and spoke about Islam and the Koran. She selected stories about the life of Miriam (Mary, Maria), mother of Yeshua (Jesus). In this way she emphasized the commonality between Islam and Christianity. At the Open House, Juliet Gubran discussed Christianity and the New Testament and focused on central female characters in the New Testament. In the synagogue on Kibbutz Gezer Miri Gold introduced the general principles of Judaism and its main texts. She chose the narrative of Miriam, sister of Moshe. Dafna Feldman briefly described progressive Judaism in Israel and provided an overview of the different groups central to Judaism. Dalia Landau met the group at the Open House, shared the story of the house with them and how it became a pillar of Jewish – Arab and interfaith dialogue.

At Birkat Shalom Synagogue in Kibbutz Gezer

Throughout the meetings, the facilitators carefully used textual narratives to discuss issues that all the women struggle with. Beginning with the creation story and Adam and Eve to talk about gender roles, the discussions over the year included the beginning of national conflict and the role of women and men in the story of Sarah and Hagar; the common thread of Mary and Jesus in the Koran and New Testament (a surprise for the Jewish women); Jacob and Esau – sibling rivalry and family relations, and women in religious texts. Near the Passover holiday the Exodus was taught and near Easter a Christian participant described Jesus’ life until the crucifixion. For several Jewish women, hearing this story told by a Christian woman was quite emotional. Throughout the dialogue, discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was present as an outgrowth of the text study and the women’s sharing of their personal stories. It was often hard for the participants to listen to one another and it took time to develop the trust to speak openly and honestly. In their final evaluations all the women said that they would wholeheartedly recommend such a program to other women and appreciated the safe space, empathy, patience and listening that occurred. They plan to continue meeting, on their own, in one another’s homes in 2013/14 and would like to be involved in community projects.

Some of the participants have become initiators of new programs at Open House.