Reem Zreiq, 46, lives in Nazareth; Silvia Marjeyeh, 45, lives in Yafia; and Rula Yamini Bisharat, lives in Yafia; arriving from Corfu
Hello, can I ask why so many women here are kissing the three of you?
Rula: They are parting from friends.
Silvia: New friends.
Was it a group trip?
Rula: Yes, we went on vacation together.
Silvia: We are six girlfriends, one didn’t come. We had a great time. Shopping.
Reem: We drank a lot of coffee.
Rula: We go to a different place every time. We were in Ramle, Jericho and also in Amman a few times. Each place has its own beauty.
Silvia: This is the first time we have gone farther.
But a lot more than three women gave you a parting kiss here.
Rula: I will explain. The flight to Corfu was packed with Israelis. Already during the security check, you notice people looking at you. Some told us to speak quietly. Suddenly we realized how hard it was for them to hear us speaking Arabic. Some of the same people were with us at the hotel, too. It’s obvious that it was hard for them: This is a crazy period; we understand.
Rula: We took it all in stride. But now the trip is over and we are saying goodbye with hugs and kisses to those same people who were on the flight and in the hotel.
Reem: It was terrific. To relax, you have to leave the country, to be in a comfort zone.
What was the best part of the vacation?
Silvia: The beach, the scenery, the friendship.
Tomer (the photographer): Did you dump the kids and husbands at home?
Reem: We don’t dump them, we leave them gently, with much love and attentiveness. You can and should take close friends and go away to have a good time together. We kept talking about how important that is. Friendship isn’t something to take for granted.
Rula: We are like sisters.
Silvia: We mentioned that a lot on the trip. It was a time for good energy, for supporting one another. We talk about everything.
Where do you know each other from?
Rula: I work with Silvia’s sister.
Silvia: We know each other from work and from all kinds of circles that connect us.
Rula: We are social workers and we also have a psychologist and an education department director in the group.
That is emotionally exhausting work.
Rula: We needed a break.
Reem: On vacation, we were in a completely different universe. There isn’t the pressure that you have in Israel. We have a crazy country. You don’t have that in Corfu. People there can look at one another as human beings.
And that’s not the case in Israel?
Reem: It’s easier there to drop conceptions of who is an Arab and who is a Jew.
Silvia: There is no news there. You’re there with that incredible nature and get a perspective on our place in the world.
What happens when you get back?
Silvia: I personally – and in some way we are all like this – do a great deal to change the situation. I have worked for years with Israeli and Palestinian women and young girls to diminish alienation and fear, and create an opportunity for them to meet as human beings and discover one another. For years I worked with young girls privately, and also through all kinds of organizations, mainly through Creativity for Peace; I was the director of the organization.
Reem: The sane people need to wake up and take care of the country. There are many sane people here, and we have a wonderful country, which belongs to all of us. It’s not mine and not yours – it’s ours.
Silvia: I tell my Jewish friends that I come from a place of power, not as a victim with a “You are messing me up” mentality. I also see where I need to let go and where you do, too. To be only a victim or only a victimizer is not real power. Let us travel together, go out together. We have amazing scenery in every part of the country. Desert. Mountains. Enough with all this pressure.
Krine Kalbo, 63, lives in Skien, Norway; flying to Oslo
Hello, can I ask if you are tired?
Yes, I am quite tired. My wife and I have been in the airport for 48 hours.
Was your flight canceled?
Not really. We were here for three weeks, and we spent the last week seeing the country with friends. They brought us to the airport, because they had a car. We thought we could move up our flight but we weren’t able to, and all the hotels we called were terribly expensive.
So you just slept here?
More like we sat on chairs and propped our heads up.
With the help of the one who is greater than us.
It sounds like you are a religious person.
I have always believed, but I do not necessarily feel that I am religious. I don’t necessarily do the right things or put on the right face or eat the right food. It’s not that I agree to all the laws that were set.
Then what makes you a believer?
There was always a place inside me that was empty. I always asked the question: “Why?” And now I can fill that place slowly with the answer: “Because.”
But what exactly was the question?
Why I exist. Why I am alive. What my life is occupied with. Slow, step by step, I understand that life is not only existence. Not only grass that has grown.
It is something you have to experience yourself, I can’t explain it to you. If you make a long speech about a dinner you ate, that doesn’t mean that the people you are talking to can taste the food. There is a greater meaning to my life.
What do you do?
I am retired. I stopped working at a relatively early age. Before than I was a carpenter and did all kinds of other things. I worked in deliveries and in a paper factory. Now I am learning how to make television programs. My wife and I belong to a community of Christian believers, which makes TV programs.
What do you do on the programs?
Everything. I operate a camera, I produce and edit. We interview all kinds of people, and the interviews are sent to a network in Norway that broadcasts three days a week.
Did you have to learn a lot of new skills?
I film and edit, learning as I go. The road is created as you progress. I always liked shooting stills, taking photographs in nature, in the city, pictures of rivers. Working in television is exciting for me – it broadens my experience, because there is an encounter with people.
What do they talk about?
People tell about themselves, offer testimony of what happened to them. What they experience in terms of their relationship with Jesus, how those relations were formed and how a smile crosses your face as a result. And it is not an imitation of a smile; it is life that changes from within to the outside. It is a process that many people undergo and which we deal with in the programs.
Does the experience of this change produce shared experiences?
Many things look more beautiful, the grass looks greener, the sky bluer.
Are you trying to change, too?
I am not trying to change myself, but I know that there is someone there that can change me, only he can do it and only when he gets permission. He does not twist my arm. The change is something that I choose to say yes to. Nothing is forced upon me.
When did you say yes?
In 1977 I was 28, and had reached a point in life when I needed help, so I asked for help. But I am as young now as I was then. It’s not a matter of age – when you accept yourself, numbers are meaningless.
Didn’t you like yourself then?
There was great difficulty. If you live in a house made of cake, you don’t need to ask for a baker. I wish I had a house in Israel. If I had money I would buy one, not because I am so religious or so crazy about Israel, but because I feel an inner connection to this place. It is a very nice place to be.