06 July 2006

it's a small world after all.

Wine and cheese prevails. As much as I love Italy as a country, their football team beat my beloved Germany, has a player who wears a white scrunchie, and players who cry like babies when they fall down. Go red, white, and blue! The pub we watched the match in, Beer House (conveniently located at the exit to the zoo, for those stressful days with the kids), featured over one hundred beers from around the world...including a Palestinian beer. Brewed in Gaza according to our waitress, but in Ramallah according to the label. Either way, Palestinian beer. Not very tasty, but at least we tried it. In the lobby of the hotel when we came back, a kindly (creepy?) French gentlemen attempted to invite us for drinks, presumably in celebration of his team's victory, and when we pantomimed that we were going to sleep, he asked if he could join us. Tempting, but since we had to be at work today, we decided to go with our gut and run away. Quickly.

Today's Jerusalem Post said that Israel is stepping up its campaign in Gaza in response to a second qassam rocket into Ashkelon. Eight residents were treated for shock. In the words of Erin, "what about the Gazans?" I'm not sure how many rockets have landed in Gaza thus far, but it's been at least five - a university, a power plant, and three bridges. I'm sure there are quite a few residents there also suffering from shock, among other things. On the topic of rockets, North Korea tested at least seven missiles yesterday. They all landed in the Sea of Japan, except for the single long-range missile, which failed shortly after launch. Always look on the sunny side of life, I suppose.

It was a slow day at the office since the weekend starts tomorrow. I tracked down a copy of a film about trafficking for Rita so she can subtitle it, and composed a few english emails for various people. Last semester, I always came up short because my Arabic and Spanish skills weren't quite good enough, so it feels nice to be useful, at least linguistically speaking. Visaka revised her speech, and we're all much more excited about the conference now. I get to pick Visaka up from her hotel on Sunday and bring her to the coalition meeting at Isha, which is rather exciting. The main reason is that her hotel is next to mine, but I like to think that it's also because I'm working well here. It's a ten minute bus ride, so if they didn't trust me, somone could have easily picked her up. It'll be amazing to have the opportunity to talk to her about her work in Sri Lanka, and what she thinks about the future of peace both there and in Israel/Palestine. In more amusing news, Tamla graced us with an entertaining tirade about the influx of "enhancement" drug emails she receives.

After lunch, Tamla introduced me ("this is Jessica. She is here 40 hours a week for one month!") to yet another volunteer, Hannah Safran, so I could find out more about Isha's history. Katalina, a German volunteer, is sick and won't be able to accompany Visaka on the trip to Ramallah and Jerusalem, leaving me as the sole representative of Isha. Hannah asked about how I ended up working at Isha, and in my explanation of GMU's program, I mentioned the University of Florida. "In Gainesville?" she asked. Turns out, Patricia Woods, a UF professor, did research at Isha several years ago and specializes in the modern Middle East and gender studies. Unfortunately, she teaches in Political Science, which explains why I didn't find her in my search for a thesis advisor. Even if she's not my official advisor, it's exciting to have someone else at Florida who knows what I'm doing here. The Gator Nation really is everywhere.

Hannah will also be a great resource - she's done a lot of feminist activism as well as academic research on women in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also recruited me to help catalog the Coalition's library, which, while a tedious job, is practically forced (and much needed) thesis research. In a fascinating (seriously, go read it!) interview with an American feminist publication, Hannah talks about being a gay rights activist with other political agendas. She makes a point about the gay movement - there's a hesitation to take on other issues and risk losing sight of the equal rights struggle. But it's the same idea as feminists for peace, working against the occupation. There's strength in numbers, and if groups can unite over one larger issue, they open the door for their smaller agendas. Saying she hasn't agreed with an Israeli policy since 1967, she talks about the issue of the Israeli settlements in a two state, Green line solution: "They can stay there. They can be Palestinian citizens. Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian, so I don't mind if 20 percent of Palestine is composed of Israelis or Jews. If they choose to be Palestinian citizens, I'm sure they will be treated as well as Israeli Arabs are here - second-class citizens. [laughter]" I agree whole heartedly - if they want to live on that particular land so badly, they shouldn't care what country it's in.

I'm not always in line with the tactics of the feminist movement, but I respect Israeli peace-feminists for the way they've framed their struggle in the greater cause for peace. Isha may be staffed by Israeli women, but they're fighting for all women. While there's a cultural imperialism argument to be made there - is "feminism" a western notion? - I think they're on the right track by setting aside religion and ethnicity. I feel like so much more can be done by large groups working on the same issue, rather than having dozens of small groups representing Arab-Israeli, Jewish, Christian, secular Israeli, Palestinian, etc. women. I just wish there were more (any?) men in the movement - I think it lends credibility to your cause to have supporters who aren't part of the "oppressed" group. Anyone can stand up and demand their rights, but it's much more powerful to have someone stand beside you. That's what traditionally has hindered the feminist movement, I think - women are fighting for rights, but don't have (or are unwilling to accept, in many cases) allies. It's easier to blame men and say they don't understand than to work alongside them. This is where I lose touch with the movement and hesitate to label myself a "feminist" - I support women's empowerment, but not at anyone else's expense. No quotas, no forcing women into men's fields, no blaming anyone for where we are today - I'd rather change the mindset that "men's" fields exist, and create a culture where the most qualified individuals succeed.

I'm off to Nazareth for the night, then the Dead Sea (hooray for mudbaths!) and the Negev for the weekend, so I'll be incommunicado until I can post pictures on Sunday. Until then, pictures from Haifa and Jerusalem have been captioned, so in case you were profoundly curious about the sights, now you know.

1 comment:

Joey said...

Go cure cancer! Go Gators! ;) [Sorry -- had to do it.]