Goodbye Nicole, thanks for all you did for IFLAC and humanity and have a great life!
As an intern for IFLAC: the International Forum For the Literature and Culture of Peace, I was amazed that literature can have such an influence on peace education, peace building and on combating terror. Like in IFLAC’s logo, I learned that the pen is stronger than the sword because it can kill the ideology of terrorists itself which is also made from words.
One of my revealing experiences was being introduced to the history of Jews living in Arabic nations for centuries and then experiencing a tragic banishment and uprooting following the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. The world is very familiar with the Palestinian refugee problem, yet it is unaware of the Jewish refugee problem after expulsion from Arab countries where they lived for centuries. Approximately a million Jews were uprooted from Arab countries, while approximately 650,000 Palestinians fled from Israel under the advice of the Mufti of Jerusalem. The difference between the two cases is that those expelled from Arab lands had a State to go to if they wanted, while those who left in fear from Palestine have yet to establish a Palestinian State of their own.
I found this particularly interesting because I am not Israeli nor Palestinian, so I did not have a biased position on the topic before. Through my internship at IFLAC, I learned a tremendous amount of history and the culture of the Middle East that I was not previously exposed to. The exposure to the sufferings and grievances of both Israelis and Palestinians have opened my eyes to the conflict in a way I did not look at it before. I learned that you really cannot understand the complexity of a conflict simply from the media. Communicating respectfully with Professor Ada Aharoni, lecturers and students has allowed me to understand the tough, yet similar challenges people must overcome all across the globe.
I read and wrote reviews the IFLAC Anti-Terror and Peace Anthology and IFLAC Anti-War and Peace Anthology edited by Prof. Ada Aharoni and Dr. Vijay Kumar Roy, written by peace researchers, poets, authors and artists. My education through literature has introduced me to new concepts and theories of peace education. I now understand more deeply the absurdity of war and terror. It is barbaric to first kill one another and reach a peace treaty after. The peace treaty should come first, rather than kill our children, and husbands. War and terrorism are costly and destructive. We need to abolish the idea that war and terrorism serves as a mechanism to somehow resolve conflicts and fix problems in the world.
I loved starting each day of work with cake and coffee discussing Middle Eastern Politics with Ada. It was the greatest pleasure to learn intimate details of Ada’s life such as her time in the IDF, her time in the Nahshonim Kibbutz and growing up in Cairo. Working for Ada Aharoni has taught me to think better when I communicate or try to express myself. Using twitter and creating and managing IFLAC’s new Facebook community page reinforced how easy it is for my generation to spread ideas of peace. My most important collaborative project with Ada has been drafting the first Israeli Women’s Charter, that calls for all women to vote for women and pass a law: One Man One Woman in every key position in the country like in Scandinavia and in France. It was a special project as it is the first ever Israeli Women’s Charter, and I hope it will be spread by media to influence society to accept women as equal and to give them equal representation. Women usually resolve conflict more peacefully than men, and with more women in power the political climate could be very different and positive. I am grateful that my work at IFLAC was shared on the IFLAC website and with many people. I have enjoyed being an intern at this unique NGO, and I am proud to be a member of IFLAC.
I fully enjoyed reading the book From the Nile to the Jordan which tells the tale of Inbar Etty who grew up as a Jewish girl in Egypt during the mid-twentieth century. Inbar is intellectually curious and thoughtful, delivering fascinating research results on Jewish history in Egypt. The book presents themes of romantic love and tragedy. I learned so much about the Second Exodus, which seems to be forgotten in history. I really enjoyed the end of the book when Inbar traveled to host a class on conflict resolution. It was fascinating to hear the perspectives of Palestinian students and the narrative they have accepted on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as most of the world has. The book is presented in such a great way in that it is incredibly factual, yet told as a story, making it so hard to put the book down. This book should be widely read in schools just like Shakespeare’s plays and Edgar Allan Poe’s novels are. It is imperative that people learn the facts and statistics of this Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I was saddened to learn that I reached the end of the book! I truly wish this piece was longer. A fascinating read.
Ada Aharoni’s The Woman in White: An Extraordinary Life discusses the life of a extraordinary individual who pursues nursing. The book exposes pre- World War II beliefs of what a normal Jewish girls’ life should look like. Expectations of Jewish women were to learn embroidery, how to cook and clean, and to marry a good Jewish man. Thea Woolf denounced this societal expectation. For her, her biggest fear was to live her life in vain, hence the title of the book. Thea takes on the assignment as the head nurse and surgical nurse to a newly opened Jewish Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt.
The book reveals the collaboration between Jews and Arabs to save Jews from the Holocaust. As the Second World War began, an influx of refugees began to move to Cairo to escape Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism in Europe. The hospital, together with Egyptians, police and port authorities extended help to relocate many Jews to Palestine. Some refugees were hidden for months in Egypt, while the secret police hunted for them. Allied soldiers and victims of tragic bombings committed by the German and Italian air force were treated at the hospital. When the Nazi General Rommel was in El Alamein, at the door of Alexandria, Thea invented the first Blood Bank, and she saved many wounded soldiers of the Allied forces under General Montgomery.
Numerous narratives relative moving stories of Jewish fugitives from Nazi Europe, who used Egypt as a stop point on their destination to Palestine, and they were warmly fed and healed to health by staff of the Jewish hospital.
The near penetration of Nazi forces into Alexandria in 1942 caused numerous Jewish refugees and patients to flee to Asmara, Bethlehem, Ethiopia and Sudan with only a small suitcase in hand. Thea was able to remain in Egypt to continue her service at the hospital, and to Jews on their journey to Palestine. When she found out the terrible tragedy that all her family, 72 people, were murdered by Nazis, she felt her place was in Israel. Thea left for Israel in February 1947 and two months later began to work at the Government Schweitzer Hospital in Tiberias. Thea married Dr. Julius Levinsohn, a German-Jewish lawyer, who helped her to overcome her terrible tragedy, and she adopted a boy named Michael whose parents were killed during a raid in Yugoslavia.
Thea’s story reveals that no matter how difficult circumstances can be, people can still heal and is able to rebuild their lives after destruction, disaster and loss. She is a courageous and inspirational heroine who risked so much to save others knowing what the consequences could be. Thea is a courageous model for all times, independent, wise and full of creative energy. This book is important because it shows what a difference one person can make through sharing love and kindness. One the other hand, the book shows the damage to humanity and society one evil individual, like Hitler, can commit through hatred. This is a captivating biography and historical book with a strong anti-war theme, which brings a new aspect of The Second World War, as it appeared in Egypt. Another important aspect is that we never knew that the Muslim Egyptians helped the Jewish community in Egypt to save Jews from the Holocaust. This lifesaving collaboration between Jews and Arabs, should be a model for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians today.
This amazing and moving Children’s Peace Poetry book offers poems and drawings from children of 27 nations from around the world offering their desire to contribute to world peace. Though they are very young, their work astonishingly demonstrates their acknowledgement of the problems in their society, and that they share similar issues with others that live thousands of miles from them. Their artwork is important because their drawings are usually hopeful, positive and optimistic. They are colorful works with figures that portray love and diversity. But we also have poems and drawings that are very sad. The children through their poems and art also show the horror that they face because of war and violence. The drawings are darker and feature blood and x’s drawn over where a person’s eyes should be. The idea of peace is for some something beautiful and happy, while for others it is a nonexistent longing in their lives. These young poets and artists have contributed to an important peace project that should be taught and assigned in schools and colleges.
The contents of the book include drawings and poems from six diverse regions (five continents) 1) Africa: Algeria, Cameroon, Congo, Senegal, Togo. 2) Asia: South Korea, Thailand. 3) Europe: Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Holland 4). Middle East: Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey 5). North America: USA 6)Latin America: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru.
9-year-old Cressence Nfegue of Cameron pleads for war to go away because “peace is the most important thing.” Without peace, he warns that children will be hungry and cannot go to school. A young teenager from Nigeria shared a poem on the rights of children to study in school and live in their nations peacefully. Lyna Meziane (15 years old) is unable to go to school because it costs money that her parents do not have. Lyna shares…
The rights of the child are numerous,
Each one has rights.
It’s not important where he or she is ;
Children have the right
To be nourished, housed,
And to live in their own
All children ought to go to school
And express themselves
With their own words
A child must learn to read and write
And have hobbies he or she loves.
A boy from Congo, 10-year-old Benedicte Iteso, shares the same pain of Lyna from Nigeria. He questions where in the world can a child wake up and go to school without being chased out of class due to the parents being unable to afford the child’s education. Benedicte expresses how sad he comes home because in his country, children cannot go to school every day. He pleads “Here in Kinshasa, one cannot learn. Is there a country where school is not expensive? We don’t know what to do. Please help my country.” As a child, I was also told to never to complain about going to school, because someone in this world there is a child who would do anything to be able to go to school.
One child shares her mother’s experience in war. 9-year-old Lena from Serbia shares:
“War is stupid! Corpses lie on the ground, Children are murdered, Parents, too.
I know about war; My mother told me. How it was for her. Basically terrible; Bombs fall from the sky, houses are destroyed. Peace is great! In Germany there is peace. When we go to the playground, we don’t feel scared. We can afford food and drink. That’s my story, I look forward to hearing yours.”
One boy share’s the loss of his father. Adam, from Haifa Israel he reminisces:
“I was four years old when my father left for the war. I remember like in a dream; He was tall and strong and had a sweet smile. I miss him; I want him to come back home, but he won’t because he was killed in the war, although he was so strong! I hate the war; I miss my father like I miss water when I am very thirsty.”
Amir (12 years old) from the Israeli-Gaza border writes about the loss of his baby brother:
“My three-year-old brother Amir was such a cute little boy with curly blonde hair that glistened in the sun. Deep blue eyes like the sea on a calm day and a gleeful laugh as bells in the sun when I used to swing him up high in our lovely garden.”
But Amir will not laugh again in the sun. He was hit in his back by a deadly rocket shot from the Terror Gaza Border when he was playing with our dog in the garden. My baby brother Amir was ruthlessly killed. And my life has lost its sun.”
Another teen from Senegal, 14-year-old Alassane Ndiay writes a poem titled “Appeal to African Presidents.” He addresses many societal issues in his letter :
“Someone with no clothes will not go naked to school. Whoever is sick cannot study. The hungry have to be fed, dressed and healed. Whoever lacks the basics cannot work. Capitalism in the 21st century is inhuman; The rich are egoistical; They forget the impoverished. Money becomes a demon that destroys life”
Amanda, 9 years old from Serbia/Germany shares her anger against war, even though now she is safe in Germany:
“Here in Germany there is no war. I know I need not fear here; I am safe.
Why is there war? To destroy things, or perhaps others want our food and drink, our money. Why isn’t there peace all over?
Marco More (15 years old) from Peru gives an explanation for violence:
Violence is due to the darkness in the hearts of some human beings. In such situations it is important to use our education to oust violence. Also, it is important to show the love that our parents have taught us since we were very small, Love your neighbor as yourself.
Not only is the writing by these young authors and poets beautiful, but also their drawings. An eleven-year-old, Young-ja of South Korea drew three women. One is Asian, one is White, and one is Black. They are holding hands, and red lovely hearts are drawn around them. They are standing on fresh green grass with colorful flowers all around them. The drawing shares a hope that all races and cultures can be friends and live with support and love for one another.
A painting by a 7-year-old girl named Joyce from the US expresses great diversity. There are five people drawn, men and women, with different haircuts and colors, different colored skins, and different colored clothing. There are linked arm by arm with smiles on their face. For Joyce, peace is bringing all together, regardless of race, sex, looks, etc.
Ji-Min, an 11-year-old from South Korea draws the two flags of North and South Korea with a plus sign between them. Underneath she has the words” Don’t separate! I love unification.” The “love” is drawn as a heart instead of the word. The background of the drawing is pink with red hearts all around. She also has drawings of weapons, explosives, angry soldiers, and a map of North and South Korea drawn in bubbles that have a solid line going through them. She implies, no more to this war, division and hostility between the two nations. Another drawing from South Korea, by 12-year-old Do Youn also expresses a wish for the two Koreas to be united. The two nations’ maps are drawn by pink flowers surrounding them.
While some of the drawings are very colorful with sunshines, rainbows, flowers and waterfalls, some drawings are quite painful to see. 11-year-old of South Korea, Kang-Been draws an image of an injured person in the middle of a field. There are splatters of blood coming from his stomach the entire floor around him is red. Far in the distance there is a small patch of green grass with the sun shining above it. Around the presumably diseased person, there is a nuclear bomb drawn, weapons, and swords. When you look closely at the picture, you can see there is a one big red X drawn across all the weapons. The drawing suggests the boy’s opposition to guns and violence and the tragedy it brings to human beings. The drawing makes you question how was this person killed? If he took a different turn a few seconds before, could he have survived the horrible attack that killed him? War is so deadly and destructive, and it has the ability to end a life in the matter of seconds!
A drawing by 11-year-old Do Yun of South Korea titled “Face of War with A Mouth Full of Blood” shows a boy symbolizing WAR, with black teeth and a bloody mouth. No body, just the face of WAR. The picture is tantalizing and amazingly powerful!
Grownups sometimes do not think of children’s right to play, right to the freedom of expression, the right to education. Society usually focuses on issues of the adult, while the children’s interests come second. War causes the cessation of children to live in love and peace, and often not to live at all. The works of these children reveals how wise they are in recognizing the horror of warfare. The revelations about their hope to live in unity and peace and the encouragement for us to love and respect one another, should be contemplated on a greater scale by governments, parents, educators, and peace researchers. This wonderful book should be in every home, library, school and college, it is highly recommended.
Review of Ada Aharoni’s The Pomegranate of Reconciliation by Nicole Wyszynski
The Pomegranate of Reconciliation through an exciting and moving film, tells the untold history of the discrimination and exile of Jews from Arab states, with a focus on Egypt in the mid twentieth century. This film is important because it highlights the tragedy that came with the expulsion of Jews and the confiscation of their assets and property. The two-thousand-year-old Jewish community in Egypt, hardly exists except for six widows. Those who left Egypt, could only take one small suitcase with their personal belongings. Many were sent to immigrant camps in Israel, while others moved to France, the US, Canada, etc.
Ada’s film is a testimonial to her belief in peace between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors, because more than half the population of Israel- the Jews from Arab countries – went through the same tragic experience of uprooting that the Palestinians went through when they fled from Israel. The number of Palestinians who were uprooted totals 700,000 thousand, while the exiled Jews from Arab countries were a million. In addition, the property which the Jews from Arab countries were forced to leave behind was much more than what the Palestinians left behind when they fled.
The title of the movie is meaningful! The pomegranate is a symbol for the mind – we have to be intelligent and knowledgeable to be able to reach reconciliation. The word Honor has a double meaning: the film gives back their honor to the Palestinians as it recognizes their tragic uprooting, and it also gives back honor to the refugee Jews exiled from Arab countries.
The most moving part of the film is Ada recalling her family’s situation during the Second Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The Egyptian government confiscated all Jewish accounts, including her father’s assets that were in a Swiss bank. Following the fact that he became a pauper overnight, her father suffered a heart attack and was never able to make it to the promised land. Ada went to an agricultural training camp and left for Israel at 16. She came to realize that most of the world is familiar with the Nakbah – the Palestinian refugees, but not the refugees of “The Second Exodus.” Both Palestinians and Arabs have suffered a tremendous uprooting, yet while the Palestinian uprooting is known by the whole world, the Jewish exile from the Arab countries is largely unknown. Ada published a historical novel titled From the Nile to the Jordan, in order to bring awareness to this largely unknown history and show how similar the Jews uprooting was to that of the Palestinians.
Ada reveals the surprise of Arab and Palestinian students to her revelation that half of the Israeli population came from Arab nations, not Europe or America. They questioned “Why doesn’t Israel publish this?” She quotes a former Arab student “and we, the Arabs, have thrown them [Jews] out and taken all they had! So, you already paid for the Sulha between us.” Sulha is deep reconciliation for wrongdoing in the Islamic belief. The side that has committed the fault must pay something concrete to reach peace.
Sulha is described by Ada as more than peace, it is “the deepest peace, that eliminates all hatred between people.” The revelation and the spreading of this unknown part of history through the world media, Arabs could see that Sulha has already been met and that the Jews from Arab countries in Israel have experienced the same uprooting as they themselves have.
In the film’s introduction Ada states “I know your story my Palestinian brother, but you don’t know mine.” She hopes that by the end of the film, in which she tells her story and that of the banished Jewish community in Egypt, as a model for all the other exiled communities in Arab countries – her Palestinian neighbors would spread their Sulha hands in peace.
She tells us that in every conflict there are two stories: both the Israelis and Palestinian people have claims to this land, and both sides have to make concessions to reach real peace. Ada supports the creation of a Palestinian State, in peace with her Israeli neighbors. The two nations, Israel and Palestine, would flourish if they succeed to reach a Peace Treaty, agreed to by both sides.
Though it is a serious subject, the film is a joy to watch as it contains beautiful photography, poetry and music by the Israeli singer Shoshia Beeri Dotan. I thoroughly enjoyed this important film, and I recommend it for all ages. I was glad to find out that the Pomegranate of Reconciliation is used in schools in Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank, to teach peace to the young and to university students.
As November 30th is declared a national day for the “Commemoration of the Uprooting of the Jewish Communities in Arab countries,” by a law passed at the Knesset, it is important for leaders and the media to honor this day. Teaching the uprooting of the Jewish communities in the Arab countries – called “The Second Exodus”, and making it known to the world, as widely as the Palestinian uprooting, would be an essential step towards peace. Thus, remembering the forgotten Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were more than the uprooted Palestinians and had much more – is essential to promote the establishing of peace between Israel and Palestine.
Link to the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ABi2mPQnXI&t=1157s
Today in the age of universal “Me Too,” women in Israel have a third chance to be equally represented in every key position in Israel. We have only 28 women in the Knesset out of 120 members! This is not permissible for a democratic country. For the next elections in March 2020, we call on all women in Israel to vote for women so we can be equally represented on all leadership positions in the country.
Our demand is of the Knesset to pass a law like in Scandinavia and in France: “One Man – One Woman, on every key position in the country.” We can easily attain that if all women vote for women, and men who are democratic too.
The aim of voting for women is to remove existing barriers and achieve progress towards equal opportunity in all areas. Women today have attained equal education as the men in: humanities, education, law, science, engineering, mathematics and all other subjects. Worldwide research has proved that women believe in peace and work for peacebuilding much more than men. Women have the ability to bring change and peace, and if you want change, vote women!
Women’s suffrage has to be guarded and protected by women giving power to women. Political rights can be achieved only by a unified political struggle by all women and all women’s organizations together. The following ministries in Israel have never been held by women: finance, defense, interior, police, transportation, infrastructure, etc.
We call on all women’s organizations in Israel: WIZO, Naamat, Mizrahi Women, Women Wage for Peace, and all other organizations, to call on all their members to vote for women at the next election. By educating and encouraging all women to vote for women during the March 2020 elections, gender equality can be achieved, and women will be empowered in all areas that need change.
The slogans that brought success to the Scandinavian and French women can easily be widely used by us on all media in Israel too:
FOR A CHANGE: WOMEN VOTE WOMEN, AND MEN VOTE WOMEN TOO,
AND IF YOU WANT A CHANGE – VOTE WOMEN!
Professor Ada Aharoni,
Oakland University USA