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Op-eds

Israeli women show the way forward

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Over the past few weeks, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has focused on preparing for the visit of a delegation from Women Wage Peace, an Israeli nongovernmental organisation that has brought tens of thousands of Israeli women from across the faith and political spectrum together to work for peaceful co-existence between people in the region.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Aug 08, 2019

Comprising two Jewish, one Muslim, and one Christian woman, the delegation was brought out by the board in the lead-up to Women’s Day to share the lessons and experiences of this inspiring grassroots movement, while at the same time drawing on South Africa’s own successful experience in conflict resolution.

The SAJBD put together a packed week-long programme involving high-level engagement with government, academia, civil society, the media, other faith communities, nongovernmental organisations, youth and women’s groups, and the business community. It commenced over the weekend, including an event with Jewish students, high-school students, and members of youth movements, followed by one with prominent women business leaders and philanthropists.

Since then, there has been an interfaith dialogue on the role of women in peace-building at the historic Women’s Jail, tours of Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum, and meetings with the department of international relations and co-operation, and speaker in parliament.

The delegation brought the following messages to the fore in their engagements so far: Solutions to conflict can come only from dialogue. Aggressive methods of dealing with conflict might work in the short term, but are never sustainable. Achieving peace is all about respecting others, even – and indeed especially – when you disagree with them. Strive for understanding and empathy, and always look to find common ground.

They are messages that need to be heard, not just in our own country, but in many other parts of our troubled and increasingly polarised world. The delegation has, in turn, gained crucial insight into the South African experience of conflict resolution, which was about involving all parties in a process of dialogue with the aim of arriving at peaceful solutions. While South African solutions might not be appropriate for the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the South African process of bringing all parties together in respectful, honest dialogue most certainly is.

Articulate, passionate, and with an in-depth, hands-on knowledge of the issues involved, our guests have more than met the high expectations we had of them. I also warmly commend our professional staff who are working around the clock to ensure that we take the fullest advantage of the wonderful opportunities this ground-breaking visit provides.

At the time of writing, the group is preparing to travel to Cape Town for the second leg of its visit. In next week’s column, I will report back on these events, which we hope will be just as successful and uplifting.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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