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A plea from the daughters of Abraham

We both have deep ties to this tragic land, and we have discovered that the way to reclaim our lost humanity is to listen

A picture taken from Rafah shows a rainbow over the southern Gaza Strip on January 11, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Palestinian Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)
A picture taken from Rafah shows a rainbow over the southern Gaza Strip on January 11, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Palestinian Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)

It is 140 days since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel to carry out a killing spree that resulted in the brutal murder, rape, and mutilation of now 1,496 human beings. In the wake of those sophisticated and well-orchestrated attacks, 217,921 Israelis have been internally displaced, 14,047 civilians have been injured, at least 564 soldiers have fallen, and there are still 136 hostages held in captivity in Gaza, dead and alive. More than 11,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from both Gaza and Lebanon. Daily attacks carried out by Hezbollah and the Houthi rebel group, by air and sea, continue to threaten a full, regional escalation of hostilities.

On the Palestinian side, the death toll is currently more than 27,500, which includes 10,000 suspected Hamas-affiliated militants. Thousands of children are among the civilian casualties. Another nearly 67,000 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli airstrikes. Famine level conditions continue to increase, with the WFP reporting 9 out of 10 Palestinians eating less than one meal a day. The 335,000 children in Gaza under 5 years old are currently facing a high risk of severe malnutrition. In this war between Israel and Hamas, Israel has decimated 60% of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip. Eighty-five percent of Gaza’s population – representing 1.9 million people – is internally displaced. The destruction of hospitals, refugee camps, schools, and places of worship make the territory nearly uninhabitable. There is nowhere safe in Gaza.

Over the past four months of living in a state of war outside the war itself, we see our diasporic communities becoming more and more entrenched in separation, hatred, and fear. We are two women, choosing another way, and that is the path of dialogue. We do not know where our dialogue will get us or anyone else, if anywhere, but we understand that not doing so will guarantee more destruction through the othering of each other. We refuse to participate in this hopeless dynamic.

Ultimately, our hope and goal is to speak in one voice.

We have connected and committed to each other as Daughters of Abraham. We acknowledge that we are two members of a dysfunctional extended family whose discord is deadly. Despite this, we opened our hearts and intentionally sought to foster connection. Something greater than us brought us together and we believe it to be good.

The most difficult part of this work is overcoming the feeling that we are betraying our people who need our voices to amplify their cries to the other side.

One of us is a daughter of Palestine, the youngest of eight daughters. Her parents immigrated to America from a small village in the West Bank called Deir Debwan, four miles east of Ramallah. Although her parents were in America, they held tight to their Palestinian culture and Muslim faith. Nada’s identity is deeply rooted in her Palestinian heritage and she dreams of a peaceful, prosperous, free Palestine.

One of us is a daughter of Israel, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and the proud wife of a former IDF captain. She is Jewish, American, and Israeli. For her, every centimeter of Israel is steeped in her history and heritage, and her heart always yearns for Zion.

The two of us are deeply connected to this holy and tragic land.

We are both mothers. We are bringing up another generation of Palestinian and Israeli children in the Diaspora. We feel the obligation, no, the choiceless choice to support our respective peoples who are suffering, dying both physical and spiritual deaths.

To the Daughters of Palestine: Nobody is coming to save us – especially not the men who we allowed to lead and who contributed and continue to perpetuate this violence. Our leadership has failed. So it is our turn. We were born for such a time as this. We owe it to our ancestors and future generations, not despite the fact that we are privileged to be safe in our first-world countries, but because we are safe. Our people in Palestine are in survival mode. We are not. We can move toward reconciliation. We can talk – no, listen – to each other. We can intentionally reach out to the Daughters of Israel just for the purpose of listening. We can hear their cries.

To the Daughters of Israel: Once again we are mostly alone, with very few willing to acknowledge us as human beings, deserving of security and self-determination. The more we try to assert and insist on our right to exist, the more enemies we seem to make. Since October 7, we’ve learned that the most powerful leaders and spokespeople for international human rights and justice, and the most erudite, elite institutions of the world concur, that the brutalization of our sisters’ bodies is reasonable, justified, and deserved. After all, generation after generation, the world has believed that the panacea for all that ails humankind is to clean and rid it of the Jews. We are in survival mode. To come out of this alive, we need the Daughters of Palestine. We can no longer pretend that we can do this alone.

The most difficult part of this work is overcoming the feeling that we are betraying our people who need our voices to amplify their cries to the other side. It feels disloyal to utter our own people’s failures that contributed and continue to contribute to our own suffering, yet it is necessary.

This is not easy. It is easier to stay in our echo chambers, yelling for people to hear our cries and get angry when they don’t. It feels weak to stop our yelling and start listening. It is challenging to rise above emotion and use our intellect to think through historical, spiritual, and political issues. It is emotionally messy – there is always an overwhelming cloud of grief, making every ounce of effort given to anyone or anything utterly exhausting. Opening up is always a risk – you could get hurt. But that hurt is not as agonizing and damaging as the loneliness and anger that naturally result from disconnection and division.

We discovered that we didn’t get hurt when we had a vulnerable conversation with each other. We felt healed, seen, affirmed, valued, and lifted up. We became empowered and, above all else, not hopeless. But just the two of us – it isn’t enough.

Our words are a plea to you: Daughters of Palestine and Daughters of Israel. We share in the loss of our humanity. Let’s try to reclaim it together.

Nada Higuera is a Palestinian-American and constitutional attorney.

Heidi Basch-Harod is an American-Israeli, and a Daytime Emmy-Award Winning producer and women’s rights activist.

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