Celebrating Mother’s Day:
The Power of 2 Mothers Fighting for Peace
John F. Kennedy once said: “There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.”
Noni Darwish and Miri Eisen, two women from different sides of the Middle East, are using the power of education to plant the seeds for peaceful relations in the Middle East. Each with three children, they have joined forces, through the The Israel Project—an international, non-profit organization dedicated to informing the public and press about Israel and promoting freedom and peace—to work towards overcoming the harsh reality in their region. They strive to create a peaceful future for their children and children’s children. Recently a series of conferences were held as part of the “Mothers for Peace” cross-country tour, with Darwish and Eisen speaking out about their mission.
Darwish is the daughter of the leader of the Fedayeen guerilla operations, Lt. Col. Mustafa Hafaz, an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Hafaz who took part in the murder of dozens of Israelis, including women and children, was eventually assassinated by the Israeli Defense Forces. Darwish chose not to heed the words of Gamal Nasser—then president of Egypt—calling for revenge, and got past the culture of hatred she was exposed to throughout her childhood, which included songs with the anti-Semitic: “Arabs are our friends and Jews our dogs.”
Through a series of turning points, Darwish came to the realization that the real solution to the Middle East crisis lies in a severe reform of education as well as re-evaluation by Arabs of their religion. One of her early epiphanies was when Israeli officers were searching for her father in her home and left without harming women or children in the household. Another occasion that left a strong imprint was when her brother was injured and the choice was made by Egyptian authorities to send him to Hadassah hospital rather than to Cairo hospital.
During her time in the US, after earning a degree in sociology/anthropology from the American University in Cairo, Darwish further broadened her horizons with varying viewpoints she was exposed to in the States. The catastrophe of 9/11 was the straw that led her to publicly speak out against terrorism.
Darwish today states that “The true freedom fighters are the brave, moderate voices in Arab media who live in the Arab world, the brave voices of Muslim men and women who speak from inside the Arab world.” She longs for a revival of “the precious culture of exchange between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.” In the words of Golda Meir, Darwish indicated that “peace can be achieved when the Arabs love their children more than they hate the children of Israel.”
Israeli Miri Eisen has roots in both the United States and Israel, having lived with her family in northern California until her family immigrated to Israel in 1970. She served in the Israeli army for twenty years, the last three years of which she served as a spokesperson for the media. On the brink of the elections in Israel, she highlighted them as being about the long term future of Israel, 25-50 years down the road.
Eisen describes life in Israel as a “life of high drama;” the last five years have been charged with danger with the Intifada and terrorist threats and attacks. At one point during her career, when Eisen heard, while at work, of a terrorist attack in her own neighborhood, she had to ask herself: “where is it safer, in the office or in the kindergarten my children attend?”
She indicated how hatred is bred among Palestinian children from early on in their education, with textbooks focusing on anti-Israeli propaganda. Working side by side with Darwish, the hope is not for a utopia, but to create an environment of tolerance and understanding.#