Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, October 30, 2009


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




Visa Denied for Palestinian Trainer in Nonviolence, Hekmat Bessiso-Naji, Scheduled to be in US Speaking Tour


Visa Denied for Palestinian Trainer in Nonviolence

Partners for Peace Demands Explanation from State Department

Hekmat Bessiso-Naji a Palestinian Muslim woman from Ramallah, scheduled to speak as part of the Partners for Peace Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision, Tour -- “Muslim, Jewish and Christian Women Offer Perspectives on Building Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians” -- has been denied a visa by the U.S. Consular office in Jerusalem. This is the 16th Jerusalem Women Speak tour.

The State Department denied Ms. Bessiso-Naji's visa despite the fact that she has been a visitor to the United States on a number of previous occasions.

Partners for Peace is seeking an explanation of why a Palestinian professional who is currently employed in conflict resolution and nonviolence training, after building a career in the NGO nonproft sector and having been employed on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Save the Children-USA, has been denied a visa to travel on a 3-week (Oct. 3 - 25) speaking tour in the United States.

Jerri Bird, Founder of Partners for Peace, states, “ This action is not in keeping with President Obama’s stated policy of hearing all voices – it undermines his Administration’s efforts to reassure Palestinians their voice will be heard.”
Ms. Besisso-Naji, the mother of six children, is currently employed as a Community Trainer, organizing, administering, training, and evaluating nonviolence training programs and other projects in the Occupied West Bank. She previously worked for AFSC; Save the Children USA; Defense of Children International; and the Jerusalem Media Communications Center

During 2002 - 2005, Ms. Besisso - Naji spoke to audiences in the U.S. and Europe through Peace x Peace, Joining Hands Against Hunger (a Presbyterian Church initiative) and the Faculty for Israeli - Palestinian Peace.

She holds diplomas from Al Azhar University and Kann’an Educational Development Institute in Gaza and is working on a B.A. in Social Work from Al Quds Open University. She has a technical training certificate in Field Research and Project Coordination from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky and currently lives in Ramallah  with her husband and 4 children.

The Partners for Peace Jerusalem Women Speak Tour will continue with two speakers:  Ms. Jala Basil Andoni, a Palestinian Christian  retired teacher from Beit Sahour near Jerusalem and Ms. Ruth El-Raz, an Israeli Jew,  psychotherapist, sculptor/painter, political activist from Jerusalem.

Ms. Bird, founder of Partners for Peace, lived in Jerusalem in 1956 with her husband who was a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps and spent many years in the Middle East. Now retired, she lives in Washington, DC.


Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision
 Oct. 3 - 25, 2009

A just settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian issue is key to peace throughout the Middle East and has far reaching ramifications for the rest of the world.

Israeli settlement activity and,  in the midst of a continuing closure of Gaza, the lack of  a Palestinian coalition are perhaps the biggest stumbling blocks to an eventual peace,

Today, about 300,000 Israelis live among about 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. An additional 180,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem neighborhoods built since Israel captured the area in the 1967 Mideast war.

Partners for Peace is hosting a tour of three women - a Palestinian Christian, an Israeli Jew, and a Palestinian Muslim - who have lived the realities of this conflict their entire lives.
Speakers for the National Jerusalem Women Speak Tour:

Ms. Jala Basil Andoni, a Palestinian Christian retired teacher from Beit Sahour near Jerusalem
Ms. Ruth El-Raz, an Israeli Jewish psychotherapist, sculptor/painter, political activist from Jerusalem
Ms. Hekmat Besisso, a Palestinian Muslim Community Trainer in nonviolence from Ramallah

See Bio material below.

Each has  witnessed decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence and the intermittent attempts to rekindle peace talks. Together they have made a commitment to share with American audiences how this conflict has affected them and their families,  their work for a peaceful future and what must be done to make peace possible.

The October 2009 tour is the Sixteenth National Jerusalem Women Speak Tour organized by Partners for Peace since 1998.

Audiences have been eager to hear the women’s presentations and to learn that even today in the midst of today’s ongoing conflict there are Palestinians and Israelis willing to travel together to discuss the conflict.
If there is to be real and lasting peace, everyday people such as these  will make it happen.

Interviews, radio and TV talk shows appearances, editorial board meetings ... are currently being scheduled and may be arranged by contacting Peter Wirth, Partners for Peace Media Consultant, e-mail; phone 315-476-3396.
Partners for Peace is an NGO based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to help bring about a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The JWS Tours have  visited more than 120 communities in 32 states and the District of Columbia, speaking in educational institutions, faith communities, and civic venues."
Tour Schedule:

Washington, DC - Saturday, Oct. 3
Burke, VA & Baltimore, MD - Sun., Oct. 4
Gaithersburg, MD - Mon., Oct. 5
Winchester, VA - Tues., Oct.  6
Charlottesville, VA - Wed., Oct. 7
Richmond, VA  -  Thurs., Oct. 8
Harrisonburg, VA - Fri., Oct. 9
Winchester, VA - Sat., Oct. 10
Lynchburg, VA - Mon., Oct. 12
Durham, NC - Tues., Oct. 13
Asheville, NC - Wednesday, Oct.  14
Charlotte, NC - Thurs., Oct.  15
Charlotte, NC - Fri., Oct. 16
Atlanta, GA - Sat., Oct. 17
Athens GA - Mon., Oct. 19
Washington, DC - Wed. & Thurs., Oct. 21& 22
Annandale, VA - Thurs., Oct. 22
Solomon’s Island, MD - Fri., Oct.  23
Washington, DC - Sat., October 24
Annapolis, MD - Sun., October 25

For details on speaking engagements in the above cities  go to

Speakers’ Biographies:

Hekmat Besisso
Palestinian Muslim

A Muslim Palestinian originally from Gaza , Ms. Besisso – Naji, 40, now lives in Ramallah.. She works as a Community Trainer.  Her main task is to organize, carry out, train, and evaluate nonviolence training projects. She has also worked for AFSC (Quakers), Save the Children USA, Defense for Children International, the Jerusalem Media Communication Center.

With diplomas from Al Azhar University and Kann’an Educational Development Institute in Gaza, Ms. Besisso is working on a B.A. in Social Work from Alquds Open University. She also has  certficates from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky .

She married first at 17 and raised 5 children.   In 2003 she divorced and in 2005 remarried and moved with her children , to Ramallah. She and her husband, Naji, now also have a son. Since leaving Gaza in 2005, she has been unable to return, even when her sick mother died in 2006, or to see her eldest son, who after returning to Gaza, now remains confined there. 

 In 2005, Ms. Besisso – Naji spoke to audiences in the U.S. and Europe.

Ruth El Raz
Israeli  Jew

Ruth El-Raz, 76, a resident of Jerusalem, was born in England. In 1954 she married and moved to Israel to live on a kibbutz.  Divorced after several years, she left Israel to study in France and England, first sculpture, then social work.

Firmly on Israel’s side during the 1967 6-day war, believing that in 2 years Israel would be out of the Occupied Territories, she returned in 1970 to study social work and fight the developing militarism in Israel.

Ms. El-Raz describes herself as a psychotherapist, a sculptor/painter, and a political activist. From 1972 through 1987 she worked at the Hebrew University. She currently works as a therapist at the Counseling Center for Women in Jerusalem, which she helped found.  She is active in several Israeli organizations working for peace, including ICAHD, Bat Shalom, Women in Black and Checkpoint Watch. She is also the proud mother of a delightful 34 year old daughter, who served in the Israeli army in 1992. 

Ms. El-Raz has been on several speaking tours to the U.S. and Europe, and, with a Palestinian partner, represented Jerusalem Link at the first UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa

Jala Basil Andoni
Palestinian Christian

Jala Basil Andoni, 61, lives in Beit Sahour, a town east of  Bethlehem. She was studying English literature at the University of Jordan when the six-day war broke out in 1967 and was separated from her family for two years.  In 1969, she returned to become the first female teacher with a B. A. teaching English in the Bethlehem District.

Israeli troops imposed curfews on Palestinian cities and villages when the Gulf War started. People were imprisoned in their homes and schools shut down. During that period of time she couldn't continue her studies due to the restrictions of movement placed upon Palestinians by the occupation.

The busy mother of 2 boys and 2 girls, she was appointed supervisor of English Language in Bethlehem District in 1996.  Convinced after the second Uprising that the only way to peace was to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, she retired early from the School  District to spend more time  on peace building activities. She currently works with the Wi'am Center for Reconciliation, the Arab Educational Institute (AEI), and the Alternative Information Center (AIC),†supporting and empowering women.
For additional biographical  material  go to

GW Associates
702 S. Beech
Syracuse, NY 13210
603-590-8273 fax

1250 4th Street, SW, Suite WG-1
Washington, DC 20024
Peter Wirth
Joan Drake, PfP Board member
202-338-2082 H
717-715-7024 Cell
Hekmat K. Bessiso




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