Mira K. from Palestine attended the Women*s Seminar in 2019. Shortly before, she quit her job and following the seminar she went to Belfast to do a postgraduate program in Counselling and Health Communication. Upon her return, she spoke with Laura Kotzur.

L.K.: What was it like coming back not only after the seminar but also after Belfast?

M.K.: It was very intense, especially after learning so much about counseling and psychology. So, in the end it was not only a degree that I did. It was sort of a self-exploration for me and I think it changed me a lot. The past year really shifted my perceptions. Coming back was a bit of a shock, a cultural shock for me with my new self and my new realization.

L.K.: During the seminar, we talked about inner conflicts that you already had at the seminar and before. How has that developed over the last year?

M.K.: I think the seminar was special not only for me, but for all of us. I have participated in the Allgenders seminar before and I can definitely say that it really made a difference, that atmosphere that is created when only women are part of the process: It allowed a safe space for everyone, not only to discover their own political views, but also to hear what is going on in the others (…). I was really affected by this experience. It showed me how important it is to be surrounded by women and how that empowers me in so many contexts. I was brought up by a single mother, so I’m already connected to the feeling of being supported by women. (…) But it couldn’t be applied to contexts of friends and with my outer environment. But only after the seminar I could confidently say that the experience in the seminar was really a turning point for me. And the interesting thing is that even afterwards in Belfast I made very close friendships only with women. (…) Especially during Corona that was very present for me and I was very grateful for that. The seminar was not only of political value, but also important for my social and personal growth.

L.K.: I also remember that you were very skeptical about the seminar at the beginning. Do you think it takes a personal relationship to talk about the conflict in a non-normalizing way?

M.K.: I don’t think normalization necessarily means getting to know other people personally and interacting with them as people. For me, normalization is more about familiarizing so much with the other side that you forget who you are, where you’re from, and why you’re participating in these activities. And I think especially at the seminar in Germany, these things were always present. I don’t think any of us, forgot what we were doing or what we came to do. The seminar was also very well structured, which allowed us to go on this „journey“ gradually, but in a very natural way. (…) I never doubted, I never stopped for a second, wondering if what I was doing was right or wrong; if it reflected my values or not. The structure of the seminar really helped not to dive too much into those activities that are not strictly political. I was always aware of who I am and what I’m doing. (…)

L.K.: In the last part of the seminar you talked a lot about Transitional Justice[1]. What did you take away from that?

M.K.: Since the term was new to me, I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel at first. But the concept became very powerful for me when I then really understood what it meant for an entire country and its people. When I went to Belfast and saw it being applied in Northern Ireland, it really made sense. It is possible! Sure, they still live in conflict. Sure, they still carry stories, but they live peacefully. That gave me a bit of optimism. If you develop an awareness of reality, you can really create change. That’s very important to me because a lot of people on the Israeli side – and also on the Palestinian side – don’t know what’s really going on. They are not taught these things. In my opinion, they are brainwashed. It is not included in their education. They are only told certain things and that is the only narrative they know. I think such dialogue seminars are especially important at a young age, ideally before people do their army service. The army does not only serve its own country. There is a receiving end of this army – Palestinians* are directly affected by its actions. That’s why dialogues at this age or even earlier are so important, so that individuals know what the consequences of their actions are. (…)

L.K.: So peace does not mean to be peaceful or unarmed, but includes justice?

M.K.: Surely, provided one understands what justice means for both sides. The Israelis often think that justice for us Palestinians would mean taking back all the land and expelling all the Jews. But the past is already the past and justice does not necessarily mean huge radical changes. It’s not like that. It just means justice in terms of equality, human rights and a good life for all. That’s what justice means to me, and that’s what I’m working for.

L.K.: At the beginning, you said you didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Has that changed after this year?

M.K.: This changed because I believe more in the people and not in the leaders. And now I’m seeing that people are realizing more and more what harm the leaders are often doing to the communities and beyond. And yes, that gives me a little hope. People are more aware now and they are doing things to change. I want to emphasize that it was more than just a seminar. I think for each one of us it was a personal journey that changed us for the better. And that’s what makes this seminar different from others (…). I would definitely recommend it and do it again, because of how much it affected me.

*name changed

[1]Transitional justice encompasses processes that deal with and accompany the transition from a state of war to a post-conflict society after a social upheaval. With the help of political, legal and sociopolitical instruments, the focus is particularly on dealing with human rights violations.