Middle East: Time for a Paradigm ShiftEN-GB"">

Yvette Nahmia-Messinas

"The only way for us Israelis and Palestinians to succeed as a whole is by seeing ourselves as one. . . . Unless we both succeed
we have failed."
mso-ansi-language:EN-US""> mso-ansi-language:EN-GB"">

Being Greek, Jewish, Israeli, and a woman, I see the world through a very particular lens. From my woman’s point of view, I see what happened in the open sea
outside the coast of Gaza
between civilians and Israeli soldiers as a patriarchal manifestation of power
and way of doing things, the motto behind both groups being “the stronger
wins.” “Might” was exhibited when the Israeli verbal request not to proceed to Gaza went unheard. “Might” came in return by soldiers
landing on board a ship in international waters. Civilians responded with yet another
wave of “might,” building up on “the stronger wins” energy by stabbing with
knives and hitting with metal bars. Further “might” was exhibited when
soldiers, mentally saying “we are stronger,” used their guns. An escalation of
destructive force was created in this scenario. The exact same scenario could
be a great boys’ game but when played out by adults with real guns, knives, and
metal bars, the game resulted in human casualties and damage. The game played
by the principle of “the stronger wins” only adds trouble, negativity, and pain
to the world.

At the same time however, in the same region, women and men from the Palestinian Authority and Israel
are playing a different game. Ordinary citizens from both sides meet on a
regular basis to talk, communicate, and cooperate towards understanding and
co-existence. We proactively move away from the old patriarchal way of “the
stronger wins” and co-create a new win-win paradigm of communication,
connection, and cooperation. We pray together, each with our own names for God,
talk, discuss, hold workshops on how to change the stereotypes that we
hold of each other. We heal our pain of past atrocities and conflict and
move on in cooperation for the sake of all. At the retreats, we spend time
meeting the other through discussions, healing sessions, arts, dance and
poetry. We discover that “they” are not our enemies as we were made to believe.
We realize that we share values that allow us to listen to each other’s
narrative. We seek first to understand the “other” and in the process grasp
that there is no paradox because both narratives are true.

Since May 2009, I participate in one such initiative, the Joint Venture for Peace, co-organized by an Israeli and a Palestinian NGO, which brings women together to meet and co-create business
ventures. Through this program, supported by the Canadian government, Israeli
and Palestinian women have created a beautiful space, filled with love, respect
and honor for each other: a circle of cooperation and sisterhood, a circle where
our religious and ethnic affiliations vary and yet we have so much in common.
Being in our midst, in the midst of our space of peaceful co-existence, is a
healing experience in itself. We are also Israelis and Palestinians playing a
game. Our game however, is one that adds light, love, and healing to the world.
It adds mutual growth and goodness. And more importantly, it shows that the old
paradigm of “the stronger wins” can be replaced by a new and better one of “let
us cooperate so that we all win.”

In our small world, our global village, we cannot afford to be separated in camps of strong and weak, winners and losers. For a public victory we need to think
win-win, and synergize knowing that we are interdependent (Stephen Covey). The
only way for us Israelis and Palestinians to succeed as a whole is by seeing
ourselves as one. Rather than separate, build walls, impose closures and
embargos, we need to meet, communicate, and cooperate towards our mutual
success. Unless we both succeed we have failed. The new paradigm of cooperation
is already here. Our shift to it, as a multi-cultural society in the Middle East, is what remains for civilians on both sides
to lead, in steady proactive steps. We, women, can show the way.

Yvette Nahmia-Messinas, co-founder of the environmental NGO ECOWEEK, is the author of the collection of poemsmso-ansi-language:EN-GB""> They All Sound Like Love Songs,
Women Healing Israeli-Palestinian Relations (Ktav
publishing house). Yvette holds a Masters in Jewish Civilization from the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
and is a Reiki Master. Since her experience at the Joint Venture for
Peace, Yvette lectures on ”Women,
Healing, Coexistence” in Israel,
Greece and the US.

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Comment by Yvette Nahmia-Messinas on June 6, 2010 at 11:43am
you are pushing me. Not meeting sexually the person you love, your mate, is a form of aggression in my mind. So no, it's not something I would advocate.
Comment by Yvette Nahmia-Messinas on June 6, 2010 at 11:40am
I totally agree with you and I am not claiming that women are in some way better or higher, but I am saying that women have been trained to cooperate rather than compete. When we raise our children we need the help of other mothers, grandmothers, husbands, mates, around us, and necessity has rendered us cooperation experts. It takes a village to raise a child. A village being a place where the social web of mutual cooperation works. In that sense, I say in the end that women have to show the way. I also say it intentionally. I want to empower women to respond, and take the responsibility by being political players as well. If we managed to have more women elected in the parliament would be a first positive step. In my mind there is still a lack of balance of power between men and women and I would like that the balance is restored for the benefit of all.
Comment by Yvette Nahmia-Messinas on June 6, 2010 at 10:08am
Robert, thanks for your comment. Being Greek, I am aware of the Aristophanes play, and his solution. I believe, like him, that a universal women's sisterhood is necessary before a human brotherhood is possible. (a statement by Bertha von Stutner if I remember the name correctly).I am actually meeting with the women in Jerusalem today. We will be showing our mutual products to prospective clients from the US and will be sharing poems out of my collection of poems to convey the feelings, interactions and process we are going through together. If you are based in Israel or the Palestinian Authority you could join one of the many groups that do co-existance work open to men and women alike. The upcoming IPCRI conference in Beit Jala would be a good place to start.

Here is one poem out of the collection They All Sound Like Love Songs, Women Healing Israeli-Palestinian Relations published in January by Ktav publishing house.

They All Sound Like Love Songs

They all sound like love songs
from the yearing to meet you,
know you, connect to you, love you.
They have tried to keep us away for so long.
all aiming to stop
the flow of love and friendship,
peace and understanding,
humanness and common sense of us women.


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