Israeli, Palestinian Activists Show Off New 'Peace Sneakers' to European Parliamentarians

Shoes bearing the “bird of peace” are the first item to emerge from project that encourages Israeli and Palestinian women to bond through embroidery.

Sneakers with the “bird of peace” emblem, created by women in the “Taking Steps in the Path of Peace” project.
Courtesy of Parents Circle

A grassroots handicraft collaboration formed by a group of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists will have its grand kick-off Tuesday evening at a special event hosted by the European Parliament in Brussels.

Taking Steps in the Path of Peace” is a project that encourages Israeli and Palestinian women who have lost loved ones in the conflict to bond together through embroidery work. It is the latest initiative of the Parents Circle Family Forum, an organization comprised of hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians who have had parents, siblings and children killed in the conflict.

Sneakers bearing the project’s signature “bird of peace” emblem, already selling on a small scale, are the first product to emerge from this collaboration. Among the proud celebrity owners of the $80 footwear are Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Barbara Streisand, Cate Blanchett and Tina Brown. Other products designed and made by the Palestinian-Israeli women’s group are embroidered patches and shoelaces.

Sneakers with the "bird of peace" emblem are the first item to emerge from project that encourages Israeli and Palestinian women to bond through embroidery.
Courtesy of Parents Circle

The European Parliament is the first stop on a worldwide tour for the new initiative, which will include the German Bundestag next week, to be followed by a presentation at the U.S. Congress in September. Not yet confirmed is a possible reception later this summer at the British Parliament.

Attending this evening’s breakout event will be two leading activists in the Parents Circle, Israeli Robi Damelin and Palestinian Bassam Aramin, both of whom have lost children in the conflict.

“The delegates here at the European Parliament are so moved by what we are doing,” said Damelin in a phone call from Brussels. “They see it as a project with universal significance.”

The project got off the ground about two years ago, according to Aisha Khateeb, its Palestinian initiator. “We saw it as a way of providing Palestinian women with an opportunity to work in embroidery, something they know very well, while getting acquainted with Israeli women and teaching them this skill,” she said. “It’s our way of saying to the world that we want peace, and we want to stop all the killing.”

Fifteen Palestinian women are participating in the embroidery project, the purpose of which is also to provide them with some badly needed income.

The Parents Circle representatives were invited to Brussels by the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, but they will also be meeting with members of other political groups in the European Parliament while there, said Damelin.

Parents Circle activist Robi Damelin (R) and actress Cate Blanchett wear the "peace sneakers."
Courtesy of Parents Circle

This evening’s event will also include the opening of a new photographic exhibit sponsored by the Parents Circle. Titled “The Presence of the Void,” it includes works by five Palestinian and five Israeli women who have lost loved ones in the conflict but have become active in peacemaking efforts.