Women who know conflict

By former EA Carole, Northern West Bank

Jomana from Palestine; Noy from Israel

“I was ten when there was violence in Tulkarem during the second intifada. Soldiers came to my street and made two boys stand on a roof in their underpants for hours. It was really cold. We were too frightened to do anything.” Jomana

“When I heard about a settler family being murdered as they ate together I thought: ‘That could have been me and my family.’” Noy

While some of the details of Jomana’s and Noy’s lives might challenge our preconceptions about Palestinian and Israeli lifestyle, both these young women are concerned about the conflict. Both seek a peaceful, positive means to end it. And, like many young people, neither subscribes one hundred per cent to the views of their parents.

Educational background and travel

Jomana, recently graduated from Nablus University. Credit EAPPI/Carole

Jomana, a Palestinian, is 22. She has just completed a degree in English at Nablus University. She had been hoping to speak to EAs, she said, to improve her English and to find work, translating or teaching. Her dream is to leave Palestine and broaden her horizons by studying for a further degree somewhere in Europe. Scholarships are available there, although competition is intense. “I would love to go to back to Jerusalem,” she says, having been just once to worship at Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. Palestinians can travel abroad more easily than they can visit their holy sites in Jerusalem.

Noy is about to turn 18. She is finishing at the Leo Baeck High School in Haifa and will be going into the Israeli army next year. She is challenged and excited by the prospect, encouraged by the experience of her parents, both of whom spent longer than the necessary minimum (24 months for women and 32 months for men) in the army. She is able to travel widely, and has just returned from a course for young students in Las Vegas. She loved the experience. She will, she says, go into army intelligence, and is likely to have a leadership role. After this she looks forward to a course in higher education.

Noy with EAs in Haifa, Israel. Credit EAPPI/Carole

Religion and politics

Both Jomana and Noy have a strong religious faith. Jomana believes deeply in a God of justice, which enables her to say, with conviction, “I am sure we will get back our land.” Her faith dictates an inclusive attitude to those of other faiths. “When I was in Jerusalem I loved seeing Jewish children,” she says. “I respect all religions because it’s all from God. The situation here is not the fault of the children.”

Noy is committed to her local Reform synagogue. “I’ve learned a lot about taking responsibility and sometimes taking the blame.” She likes the way Israeli society encourages children to grow up quickly and to have a mature attitude to their lives. And she believes that the ultimate goal of Israel and Palestine should be to build peace in the region.

Building freedom and security

Both Jomana and Noy believe that most people in the region simply want to get on with their lives. Jomana says that in order to build a context where this can happen, there must be justice and freedom to travel, to inherit, and to work on the land. Her own options are limited by lack of freedom to travel, memories of violence and injustice, and a sense of powerlessness.

Noy celebrates the opportunities she has, but is no more optimistic than Jomana about the immediate future in the region. “I would like to have peace but it’s probably not the reality. If not, I would like to have more security and to feel that things were more calm and not like this. People should sit down and start talking. Nobody will come out without losing something.”

Take action box 2

Keep UK MPs and Irish TDs informed about the situation in Israel and Palestine. Follow new developments in the British and Irish Press, and in media organisations in the region (like Haaretz).

Support organisations that are involved in conflict resolution and human rights campaigning: