“As an Israeli midwife, I always wanted to talk to Palestinian midwives, to see their experience and exchange stories — that’s how we learn. We are neighbors, and with neighbors, you should talk. It’s unnatural that we don’t talk. So I came to the first meeting of this group. That was five years ago. Now we are more than neighbors. We are friends.”Gomer, the Israeli coordinator of our sister organization Midwives for Peace, told me this on my recent visit to the West Bank. I was there to celebrate the group’s five year anniversary, a truly remarkable milestone.Israel and Palestine are at a political standstill. The level of despondency in the region is as strong as I’ve ever seen it. And the lack of confidence in progress is widespread. As you can imagine, under these difficult circumstances, collaboration can seem impossible. Yet the commitment of our sister organization of Israeli and Palestinian midwives remains strong. Through it all, they continue to work together to learn from each other and to safely deliver babies in the West Bank, despite the conflict that surrounds them. What an inspiration!The anniversary meeting gave the midwives a chance to celebrate, reflect and share their plans for the future. In 2014, the group hopes to send representatives to the International Conference of Midwives in Prague.And this August, they are planning a group trip to the beach. You might be wondering what a day at the beach has to do with breaking down barriers between Palestinians and Israelis, but consider this: some of the Palestinian midwives are refugees whose families came from coastal villages, yet they themselves have never seen the ocean. As Aisha, the group’s Palestinian coordinator, said to me, “the friendships we are building as midwives, as women, are opening doors in our lives and in our hearts that the conflict had tried to nail shut.”I’m always so moved to see the collaboration and friendship between our Israeli and Palestinian sisters. Our partnership with Midwives for Peace is something I am proud of every day. I was so grateful to be able to attend their anniversary event, and I look forward to celebrating their next five years.
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