Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Middle-East Pen Friends

That's what the BBC News call its new cyber project to build a bridge of understanding between two women. Omneya Al-Naggar is an Egyptian school teacher living in Alexandria, Egypt. Orly Noy is an Israeli journalist of Iranian origin, living and working in Jerusalem, Israel.

BBC has asked both women to exchange their views about politics, peace and life via e-mail.

In her first e-mail to Orly, Omneya wrote the following:

I see that we have a lot of things in common, being both working women, mothers, Middle Eastern and neighbours. Yet, there is a gap that divides our two worlds. It might be a similar gap to your two worlds of Iran and Israel.

Can we reconcile our divided worlds? It is a big job, and it needs an insightful spirit able to survive the pains of unwanted memories. We have to face the fact that yes we have a peace treaty, but we lack peace.

This is why we will always look at each other with a big question mark. Believe me I do not like this truth, but I have to acknowledge it.

After starting this project. Many comments were left at the BBC Web site. From reading these comments, I realized there are many people, who wish the BBC would come up with more of these projects. Many of the people, who left comments are either Middle-Eastern or Israelis.

I chose three comments, that caught my attention more than the others.

The first comment is from Arrie Devorah living in Washington DC, USA:

I am a DC journalist. I am also the sister of a man murdered January 29, 2004 in the bus bombing outside Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's residence. My brother Yechezkel Goldberg is the first Canadian murdered in these terror bombings. Soon after, I was sent the BBC link to their story on Yousaf Jaraa. His son Ali murdered my brother and ten other commuters that day. I spoke with the author of the BBC piece. Time well spent because for a single person, I am discovering in my brother's memory I am making a difference. Seven children are without a father. The BBC journalist is considering my request to facilitate my meeting Ali's family. No agenda. Just meet. Whatever is meant to be, will happen. It will be the first time family members of a bomb murder come together. Maybe with all your support, we can make it the last.

The second comment is from Samer living in London, UK:

I always believed that the silent majority in the Arab world and in Israel wants peace. I feel, as an Arab, that we are divided by misconceptions and by media coverage of the extreme. Initiatives like this one by the BBC definitely help bridge the gap. The tragedy of the occupation in Palestine, until resolved, will always be a barrier to peace in the Middle East, but peace can never be achieved without the active participation and faith of peace-loving Israelis.

The third comment is from Samia Adnan living in London, UK:

I am not surprised that the two young women 'clicked' from the first e-mail. I myself am an Arab and I wish that the BBC could apply this experience to a large number of Arabs and Israelis, no matter what their degree of extremism or moderation is, and it will prove far better than a million peace treaties brokered by politicians. This is giving the chance, for the first time, to humans to talk, not politicians. After all, it is people whose lives are affected, and I am certain that people in Israel and also in Arab countries want to get along with their lives in peace. Down with politicians!

I add my voice to the silent majority in the Arab world and in Israel, who wants peace between Arabs and Israelis.

We could achieve peace by starting dialogues like this one. It works.
After starting this blog, I started an e-mail exchange with an Israeli woman, whose married to an Iraqi-Jew and lives in Israel. We 'clicked' from the first e-mail. It's enjoyable how much I'm learning about her world. It was worth starting a dialogue with her.

Peace in the Middle-East will start with reconciling each other. It will start with listening to each other. Until then, I hope for less violence in the Middle East.

The project continues here. You can leave your thoughts in their comments section.

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