Arab and Jewish midwifes find a common language
The original idea behind Midwives for Peace was that women had a special role to play in grassroots peace initiatives; ‘Pregnancy is the same wherever you are.’
By Judy Maltz , Haaretz, Sept. 12, 2014
BEIT JALA, West Bank – It’s been three months since this group of midwives last met, but considering the 50-day war in between, it seems more like ages.
Some have traveled far to get here, from kibbutzim near the Lebanese border and from the town of Jenin in the northern West Bank. A few are from Jerusalem (both the Jewish and Arab parts of the city), one comes from Tel Aviv and another from Ramallah. Situated just outside Bethlehem and a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem, Beit Jala is a convenient – and also relatively safe – meeting point for them all.
Typically, these gatherings are dedicated to shop talk – the usual debates about epidurals and episiotomies, natural childbirth and C-sections, breast vs. bottle, and home vs. hospital births. This time, they’ve decided to lift their usual ban on political discussions and focus on how they, as Israeli and Palestinian women, experienced the latest war in Gaza and what conclusions they’ve drawn.
Midwives for Peace, a grassroots non-profit that promotes dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian women, has been meeting every three months since it was first launched six years ago. But this week’s gathering had a different tone. “We’ve been through wars before, but none as big as this, and also, we know each other a lot better now – we’re friends already, which makes it even harder,” says Gomer (who asked that her full name not be published), the Israeli co-director of the group.
Suha (not her real name) is among the last to arrive for the meeting here at the Everest Hotel. Although she lives fairly close by, she had to take a few detours on the way to avoid the Israeli checkpoints, and that’s why she was delayed. “What happened to you? You seemed to have lost lots of weight,” remarks one of the Israeli midwives, after giving Suha a warm hug.
“I had a really bad summer,” responds the Palestinian, as she lights up a cigarette and joins the rest of her colleagues at the table. The last to arrive is Aisha, the Palestinian co-director, who’s brought along with her some gifts for the group – hand-made party favors. “My daughter has just gotten engaged,” she explains the occasion.