Possible peace: Faten Zenati. Is it possible to build peace? Yes, and Faten Zenati’s life proves it. “To make peace, you have to take buckets of paint and paint the facades of the neighbourhood, Arabs and Jews together. We need to take the broom and clean our streets together. Then everything will be easier. That’s how Faten was: straightforward, concrete, determined, courageous. She built peace every day, as a proud Muslim, Palestinian, Arab woman, a sister to us all.
Women of Faith for Peace
13 years ago, the journey of the Women of Faith for Peace movement began. Hedva Goldschmidt had contacted 5 women leaders from different religions, and they met at her home in Jerusalem. We were starting an incredible experience. Faten arrived with her husband and did not hide her initial embarrassment. After ten minutes it was gone, giving way to the desire to walk together. From that day on, we met many times in Italy, in Ireland, around the world to live peace concretely. Faten didn’t like conferences and speeches about peace, she took it seriously in a context of constant conflict.
Possible peace: Faten Zenati, “from enemies to sisters”.
In the first Women of Faith for Peace, from 2010 to 2012 in Trento, Faten had put herself on the line by meeting ultra-Orthodox Jewish women, including Adina Bar Shalom. Tehila Bar Shalom was also with us, an Orthodox Jew from Lod, the same city as Faten. At the final conference of the cohabitation workshop, Faten said: “Tehila was my enemy: Jewish, also Orthodox, a settler… On the last night we chose to share a room, to be closer, Jewish and Muslim, to become sisters”.
Back home, they immediately made the meeting a reality and set up the Intercultural Social Centre in Lod, from then on Faten’s second home. Words must be followed up with concrete facts! And the project to beautify the neighbourhood began, providing paint and brushes to Arabs and Jews to repaint the facades together.
Faten, the courageous mother who did not give in
Faten lived her life as a wife and mother to the full. She always said that it was essential to pass on the longing for peace to our daughters, she dreamed of passing on our journey to the next generation. She was always supported by her family, which is not taken for granted in conflict situations. There were many threats, but together they overcame every obstacle. And then she would come and tell us about it always with an immense smile.
The embrace and the vision of peace
Faten conveyed her love in hugs. Her embrace with Adina Bar Shalom, during one of the most politically difficult periods, had made the rounds of the web.
Faten’s vision of peace can be heard in Gilad Goldschmidt’s documentary, “Let’s Make a Difference”. As well as in Jerusalem Dreams and Reality.“LEt’s Make a Difference”
Faten did not want to be recognised by the world of images, she wanted to convey the love of peace to the youngest. She was an extraordinary educator. She had been one of the teachers at Neve Shalom with Bruno Hussar. And she had never stopped.
With Women of Faith for Peace together with other women she had received the Golden Lion for Peace in Venice in 2017 and the Forgiveness Ambassador Award in 2020 from Daniel Lumera.
We leave it to Hedva’s words to say goodbye to Faten Zenati on 8 May 2022, Mother’s Day:
“Faten my love, On the International Women’s Day and just before you became a grandmother you left us here and you ascended to Allah. Thank you for allowing us to say goodbye, thank you for letting me come when the time was already so tight, thank you for blessing me. Thank you for allowing me to come say goodbye again at the hospice and touch your light a little more. And I hank you for letting me visit you again without permission because I forgot you to thank you. Thank you for the long and special and intimate friendship full of laughter and dimples.
Together in pyjamas in the room, you pluck my “moustache” and Adina feeds us almonds and raisins from her tiny bag as we carry suitcases throughout endless deep conversations at airports, on trips, in lectures, in black and identical evening gowns wearing terrible flip-flops we bought together for an event with Dublin Mayor. The unforgettable moments in the boat taxi in Venice, loose hair, screaming to the wind, with Lia and Anita and Adina and Nuha and Basima and Tehila, exchanging head-covers, exchanging opinions, exchanging secrets.
The family. Possible peace: Faten Zenati.
Thank you for sitting next to me at my son Yosefi’s religious reading, even though it’s not really your style – Israeli soldiers in uniform. Thank you for celebrating your recovery with me exactly on the day of my daughter Ayala’s hospitalization. You came smiling, holding this huge basket of chocolates that you were told were kosher but of course they were not…
Thank you for dancing together at your daughter Nur’s wedding, dancing in hotels in Italy, on Saturday dinners, on shopping trips with Adina, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, cafes, restaurants, fancy meals where you hated the upscale food, choking on laughter as you get stuck with the gold leaves in your mouth. And in the first round of the disease I came to hug you in the new beautiful house and I thanked my God and your Allah that Nur did not let you paint the walls dark brown. Thank you for agreeing to go on that first trip with me years ago, even though you did not know who I was, and you were a little suspicious, so you brought Ashraf with you on our first date.
Thank you for painting houses, thank you for restoring neighbourhoods, thank you for connecting hearts, thank you for connecting your heart to my heart. I thank you for being my sister. Thank you for teaching me that we do not have to agree, but we must find the common interest to allow our children a better future. And thank you for planning with me how we will travel next time with our little ones, your Hallah and my Yaara and let them meet for the first time.
I will forever miss your bastard smile with the dimples, your gorgeous body, the crazy hair, your wisdom, your wonderful joy of life, your “Yallah” (come ‘on) and your Allah that took you too fast, before we had more time.
My Solemate. My heart goes out to you out of love and longing. Thank you! May your memory be blessed.