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[BTvS - Western Mass] October 18th Jerusalem Women: Three Faiths, One Shared Vision

Two upcoming events to put on your calendars: October 18 and
October 24th

1) Wednesday October 18, 2006 7:30 p.m.
Israeli and Palestinian Women Tour the United States: Jerusalem
Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision
West Lecture Hall, Franklin Patterson Hall, Hampshire College,
Amherst, co-sponsored by Western MA Brit Tzedek

2) Tuesday October 24 7 p.m. Follow-up discussion meeting with
the Brit Tzedek chapter to discuss OUR vision (Community Room of
Florence Savings Bank, Whole Foods Mall, Hadley MA)

Israeli and Palestinian Women Tour the United States: Jerusalem
Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision The
three women, a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim, who will discuss
the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, come to the
United States to call for an end to war and suffering in the
Middle East and share their experiences and hopes for a just
peace with American audiences.

The three speakers are on the Twelfth National "Jerusalem Women
Speak" Tour sponsored by Partners for Peace
www.partnersforpeace.org based in Washington, DC.

SPEAKERS' BIOGRAPHIES:

RELA MAZALI , 58, of Herzlia, Israel, born in 1948, the year the
state of Israel was founded, on Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch in the
Galilee, at the intersection of the Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli
borders.
A writer and translator by profession, Ms. Mazali is a major
figure in the peace and feminist movement in Israel. She is one
of the founders of New Profile, a grassroots organization
started in 1998 which focuses on challenging militarism in
Israeli society and raising consciousness to the militarization
embedded in Israeli culture while providing support for Israeli
youth who resist military service.

She was one of eight Israeli women nominated for the Nobel Peace
Prize in 2005 by the One-thousand Peacewomen project and served
on the Jury of Conscience at the 2005 Istanbul session of the
World Tribunal on Iraq along with author Arundhati Roy, American
playwright Eve Ensler, and others. Ms. Mazali has also worked
for the Association of Israeli Palestinian Physicians for Human
Rights and held consultant positions with the International
Committee of the Red Cross and the Ford Foundation.

Ms. Mazali is an accomplished writer of prose in both Hebrew
and English. Her most recent book is Maps of Women's Goings &
Stayings (Stanford University Press, 2001). She has published
numerous short stories, academic articles, polemic and essays,
as well as two children's books (one co-authored with her
daughter) and educational curricula on topics including gender
equality, children's rights and peace education.

In the early nineties, Ms. Mazali initiated and assisted
direction of the documentary "Testimonies" (1993), co-produced
with British Channel 4, about the experiences of Israeli
soldiers in suppressing the first Intifada. In 2001, she created
the widely used slogan: "We Refuse to Be Enemies," which the
Coalition of Women for a Just Peace in Israel included in their
public campaigns. Later that year, she was a keynote speaker at
the Jewish Unity for a Just Peace Conference (JUNITY) held in
Chicago, which encouraged Jewish-Americans to speak against the
occupation.

Ms. Mazali finds inspiration in the growing movement of
young Israelis who are refusing military service: "In Israel
today, many thousands of eighteen year olds . . . are resisting
conscription into a military which they do not see as simply or
mainly a defense force, by governments which they do not believe
are prioritizing the needs, rights and human security of their
citizens. As successive Israeli governments continue to opt for
conflict rather than negotiating a fair and viable peace through
the true redistribution of land, water and other resources,
rising numbers of young Israelis are telling them, 'No, I won't
go.' This, for me, is a central source of hope."

GHADA AGEEL , 35, of Khan Younis, Gaza. Palestine. A Muslim
Palestinian, was born and raised in the Khan Younis Refugee Camp
in the southern Gaza Strip. Her family was expelled from their
village of Beit Daras in 1948.
Ms. Ageel currently lives with her family in Gaza and works
as an academic counselor for the Academy for Educational
Development (a USAID organization) while pursuing her Doctorate
in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter in the
United Kingdom.
While born into a Muslim family, Ms. Ageel was raised in a
secular household. She graduated High School in 1988, during the
first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) but did not have the
chance to pursue her studies further for Israel had forced all
the Palestinian universities to shut down during the uprising.

At the outset of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, Ms. Ageel
went to study Hebrew in Israel, an experience that exposed her
to the vast inequalities between Israeli living standards and
those she had grown up with in the Refugee Camp. She also taught
Arabic courses at the Palestinian Abraham Center for Language
and Dialogue in Gaza. The Abraham Center promotes education for
dialogue and Ms. Ageel's pupils included both international and
Israeli students. Ms. Ageel also participated in forums held in
Israel to raise public awareness concerning the life of
Palestinians living in the occupied territories and worked as a
translator and fixer for journalists from around the world. In
1994 Ms. Ageel enrolled at the Islamic University in Gaza where
she earned her BA in Education while raising her daughter,
Ghaida. In 1999, she received a scholarship from the University
of Exeter to pursue a Masters Degree in Politics. When she
returned from the UK and she resumed her previous work and also
began to write weekly web diaries about her life under Israeli
occupation.

Ms. Ageel's focus turned to the events of 1948 and the
Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe). Fearing that the story of
Palestinian dispossession would be lost along with the
generation that experienced the Nakba she started an oral
history project with an Australian colleague to document the
history of more than 750,000 Palestinians forced from their
homes and lands in what is now Israel.. The project asked
Palestinian refugees to remember the events that drove their
families to refugee camps, and collected the life histories of
seven Palestinian women from Gaza who lived through 1948 and the
period before. This project resulted in a book (not yet
published) covering these women's narratives of everyday life
and experience through successive wars and dislocations.
Ms. Ageel lives on the front lines of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many friends and family members
have been illegally detained by Israel or injured in Israeli
attacks. In 2003, her cousin was paralyzed when he was hit by
shrapnel from a missile fired by an Israeli Apache helicopter in
Gaza. Despite such painful events, Ms. Ageel clearly expresses a
hope that Palestinians will experience a brighter future:
"My hope is to have a just peace, to be able to offer my
children safety and a hopeful future. I hope for freedom for the
future of my community and my people and I hope for a commitment
from the international community to make these hopes a reality.
We have suffered long enough. It is time for injustice to stop
and the occupation to end."

SHIREEN KHAMIS, 23, of Beit Jala, Palestine, is a Project
Coordinator with TAM- Women Media and Development, an
organization seeking to empower Palestinian women through media
training and education. TAM is based in Bethlehem but focuses
its efforts on women in villages and parts of the West Bank that
are often neglected. Ms. Khamis' work also focuses on developing
and improving the Palestinian media by holding workshops and
training sessions for the staff of local television stations.
Ms. Khamis graduated in 2005 from Bethlehem University with a BA
in Business Administration and a minor in Marketing.

Ms. Khamis' efforts are not restricted to her professional work.
She is also active with a number of local organizations working
on promoting democracy, non-violence, human rights, gender
equality and conflict resolution. She has also participated in a
number of workshops on these topics. Her work has taken her
around Palestine and as far abroad as Europe.
A Christian Palestinian, Ms. Khamis has seen the course of
her life shaped by occupation and two Palestinian Intifadas. Ms.
Khamis was born in Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem. She grew up
during the first Intifada and is now living as a Palestinian
youth during the second uprising. During this time she has
witnessed the siege and shelling of her city and its ancient
neighborhoods.
Ms. Khamis' family has lived in Beit Jala for centuries. The
Khamis family has suffered recently as Israel confiscated many
of their lands in order to build illegal settlements or for
undefined "security reasons." In 2004, Ms. Khamis watched as
Israeli bulldozers uprooted her family's olive groves in order
to build the Separation Wall on their land. The 25 foot high
wall now surrounds Beit Jala along with Bethlehem and the
adjacent villages and lands, cutting residents off from
Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
Many members of Ms. Khamis' extended family lost their jobs
in Israel as a result of Israeli policies in the Bethlehem
region. The majority of Ms. Khamis' relatives are now living in
Jordan or Latin America. In this way, her family history
parallels that of many Christian Palestinians who have been
forced to leave their homes in search of better opportunities
for their families.
Ms. Khamis currently lives with her family and 4 brothers
and sisters in her parents' home in Beit Jala. She is often
frustrated by the complete control Israeli soldiers hold over
Palestinian citizens. At any moment the Israeli soldiers can
enter Beit Jala and impose curfew, imprisoning the population in
their homes. Many Palestinian civilians have been killed and
injured in these incursions. Israeli soldiers have often
targeted the area around Ms. Khamis' home and many neighbors
have been injured, including a six year old boy who lost his
hand in an Israeli bomb attack.
Ms. Khamis explains that these Israeli invasions destroy
every attempt for the people of the area to revive their
economic and social life. The tourist industry, which residents
of the Bethlehem area have long depended on for income, has also
suffered greatly.
In the face of this desperate situation Ms. Khamis focuses
on the experience of her own generation and the youth of
Palestine: "The young generation is the one who suffers most.
They are growing up without hope in the future and are denied
all the activities of knowledge, experience and entertainment.
Despite the daily attacks and crimes by the Israeli military,
however, I believe that my people will reach out for their
freedom someday. I believe that we can live peacefully and
equally like any other nation in the world."
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