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Violating Sanctions

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Jewish Conscientious Objector Translates for Palestinian Prisoners

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | September 8th, 2007 | Comments No Comments

The following blog is one of a series of interviews with hopeful, intelligent young adults who grew up in Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam (nswas.org), an Israeli village of 25 Jewish and 25 Arab families who have lived biculturally — and peacefully, if not always harmoniously — for 30 years. The full interview and podcast may be heard at American Friends of Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam (oasisofpeace.org).

“I think that every person in Israel experiences the conflict in his own way,” says Naomi Mark, a poised, articulate 21-year-old who grew up in Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam. “I think what Neve Shalom does is make it natural for people to live together.”
Naomi Mark
Naomi’s Jewish parents are founding members of the Village. “I don’t like to feel like I grew up differently than my friends who grew up in Tel Aviv,” continues the bright young woman. “I just had a different experience. Only now, when I look backwards, it feels different. But, while growing up, I felt like any other kid. I think that’s the significance of the Village. Just making it work from the roots and making it really natural and true and real.”

Naomi feels strongly that children surrounding the Village should have access to the bilingual, bicultural elementary school: “The primary school is our most powerful tool to present our beliefs and to allow this experience for other children in the area. For me, it’s amazing to see [children from the surrounding communities who have studied at the Village express] this point of view that is rare to see in Israeli society.”

Like other children in the primary school, Naomi studied in both Hebrew and Arabic. “That’s what makes it so special. [From the time] you are a baby, you hear Arabic, and not from someone who is building your house or [serving] you at a restaurant, [but from] your neighbors and your colleagues.”

Naomi is a conscientious objector, refusing to serve the mandatory service in the Israeli military. Instead, she performs national service with Physicians for Human Rights, helping Palestinian prisoners and detainees get medical treatment and inform their families of their arrests. “A lot of prisoners are shot during their arrest and their families don’t know anything about them,” she explained.

She also travels regularly to the West Bank with PHR’s mobile medical clinic, translating between the Jewish doctors and the Palestinian patients in rural villages.

“I like to have fun with [my Arabic],” Naomi laughed, “because it surprises every Arab. It sounds like a big shock!”
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