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reader, the Dutch
to Israel defend of the rights Palestinians in the West Bank. 'I guess most w Israelisould view me as traitor,' she says, 'but don't intend to
off the bedroom of her apartment in downtown Tel Aviv. "I met for half an hour with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife in room that looked It the day belike palace. was August, fore tour conducted of Bil'in for from The Elders, an organizadelegation tion of global leaders whose aim is to get involved in world crises. Carter couldn't on the tour because of the security come was asked to speak arrangements, so with him at the hotel. But the next day, Tutu, the Peace Nobelist and Desmond leader of the blacks' struggle against d It was apartheid,id come. amazing to escort him to Bil'in. Those were definitemoments of my life." lythe happiest She says she couldn't have asked for more than meeting with Tutu and Carter, elder statesmen who came here to support the cause that she, too, is passionate about: the need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Schaefer, 31 -year-old is lawyer, one of the most prominentIsraeli activists in the Palestinian village Bil'in,whose of the separation ongoingstruggle against fence that divides itslands has become symbol of the nonviolent struggle against the occupation.s an employee of the A firm of attorney Michael Sfard, she was
princess Mabel van as director-general
of The Elders. She was also the one who recommended that Schaefer be included on the prestigious list, which was published in February. "I have met many remarkable people who astound me with their courage and commitment to causes
to that seem impossible too idealistic or achieve," she wrote. "One of the most im-
young Israelilawyer, Emily Schaefer. met Emily in the Palestinian vUlage of Bil'in [in] the West Bank, where she works with local leaders admire Emily deeply.er work is smart H and creative, and it embodies equality, and the right allpeople live of to passion in peace and dignity."
Schaefer says she still feels overwhelmed at all the praise. slight American accent is detectable when she she speaks; was born in Boston, the only child of Jewish parents, second-generation immigrants from Europe.Her mother worked for an insurance company, her father is radiologist. parents Her divorced when she was four. "I grew is up with my mother," she says. "Mom learned from her that strong person. women can do whatever they want. She came to our class to convince the girls that theydidn't have to be either teachers or dancers. She told us we could aspire to anything,and that stayed with me. She wasn't radical, but critical. learned from her that you needn't accept what you'retold as self-evident, that one can resistthe authorities."
just keep quiet
because from afar
the Bil'incouncil in petition the against route of the fence, which ended with for victory the residents. In September ,7002High Court made the precedentrulingthat there was no secusetting for rity justificationthe fence's selected route, and ordered that itbe moved. i But Schaefer's legalactivitys only one aspect of her efforts on behalf of the people of Bil'in.Every Friday, she takes part in the demonstrations against the fence, and she comes to the village often on other days.Recently, as part of Canadian construelawsuit against tion companiesinvolved in buildinghe t in MatityahuEast neighborhood Modi'in
publicschool, but when she took part in activities of the Reform movement. was "My parents sent me there when five. went once week after school, and later twice week. In the movement we had lessons about Judaism and about Israel, in way. Once very lighthearted we made map of Israelout of ice cream and marked the cities with colorfulM&M candies. It was Zionism-lite. that time At
always felt at
Hit,which isbeingbuiltin part on village lands, she traveled with several of the three-week speaking tour residents on in Canada. It was because of such activity that the Dutch magazine Ode selected Emily Schaefer for itslist the of 52" Intelligent of ".9002 which defines Ode, Optimists itselfas of journal the "intelligent opand on-line timist community," is print leftistbent that deals magazine with with "good news" and "people and ideas that improve our lives."It was founded in 1995 in Rotterdam by two journalists and since 2004 has also published an Englishedition. 000,001 of the magOne of the copies azine is delivered reeularlv to loval
involved North American Federation of Temple Youth in (NFTY), and duringher last summer school she was appointedgroup president. "I plannedactivitiesfor 200 members and also organized prayers," says Schaefer. "I think that at the time was for for searching an identity, sense of a belonging,nd the movement gave me that."The Reform movement altered the course of her life. "After it didn't work out for me to go on summer vacation to France, decided to go with some friends from the movement to Israel," she says. "I was 15 and convinced my worth it for them to parents that it was
also went to synagogue." In high school she got more in the Reform youth movement
Emily Schaefer: "When to try
between the two sides, I'm working for Israel's good ."
told them: 'I feel like to Israel.' came up with that." all She spent six weeks traveling over "It was an intensive encoun• the country. "We drove allnight and ter,"she recalls. We went to got up earlyin the mornings. Jerusalem, to Tel Aviv. We didn't go to of We didn'ttalk about the Bil'in, course. Israeli-Palestinianconflict and weren't even conscious of it. the end of that visAt it promised myselfthat would return to Israel the firstchance got. feltlike I'd so been through bigchange, bigthat it wrote in my diary worried me. then: 'I'm afraid to go back home, I'm afraid that peoplewon't understand the change that in has happened to me. fell love.'"
there's magnet don't know where
wears blue T-shirt with illustrationof Israel within the 1967 borders drawn in black. "Today I'm comat pletely home in Bil'in,kids there run after me in the street," she says with rolls cigarette and smile ^3, he adroitly s up. lights "It does me good, need this can't justtake part in demcloseness. and otherwise sit onstrationson Fridays, an
have to talkwith people feel them, visitthem at home. We have strong connection. They invite me to dinner and come." Itwasn't alwaysthisway. Schaefer has come longway in becoming an Israeli sentiment and full devoid of nationalistic
in an office or to BiTin
cafe in Tel Aviv.When
She began studycompassion. ingin Baltimore for bachelor's degree
she ,8991 had
summer. every the chance to do
of study abroad. She chose the Hebrew
Jerusalem. "It was very back," she recalls. "I wanted to get into Israeliculture as much as possible and understand the Israeli lot of Israelifriends at situation. had and the university, also an adoptive famfrom Ramie. I'm hardly touch with in ily
them anymore, though. They're total Likudniks and aren't pleased with what do now. But at the time we were really close ."
In Jerusalem she discovered the hidden world, for her at least,of the IsraeliIn Palestinian conflict. those days, before she found the second intifada, common language with Meretz activists on the Mount Scopus campus. "I met my first Palestinian friend then, Sari Abu-Ziad, the oldest son of Ziad Abu-Ziad, who was minister in the Palestinian government then. He told me about his childhood, what was, what it meant to checkpoint in feel like you'reliving what prison, it's like to be an Arabic-speaker Israel, in how frightened was. He studied at the he Hebrew University.This was before
the 1999 election.We gave out stickthat said 'With Barak There's Hope.' We believed that thingscould change. That year plungeddeep into the conflict,nd itbroke my heart." a She really wanted to love Israel, but it wasn't easy for her. "I grew up with the belief that Jews are moral people, that our job is to helpthe weak. It might sound naive now, but the contradiction between the essence of the Jewish state and what saw really upset me. It was hard for my mother to accept the questionsand doubts felt. She said:'We were we refugees, suffered, we finallyot g state, and Israel has to be good country.' told her it was hard for me to see that my people were capableof doing such terrible things, that the country dreamed about was occupying another T people.hat's still somethingthat'svery hard for me to deal with." In the summer of 2000 Schaefer returned to Jerusalem. She was working odd jobsas bartender,clerk and singer in band when the second intifada erupted. "The intifada caused me profound crisis. was very disappointed with both sides. lived on Mahaneh Yehuda street then. Within day,allthe Arab workers, Palestinians from the territories,some of whom was with, disreally friendly
in internship Jerusalem, for the Israeli
Committee AgainstHouse Demolitions. "I thought that returningto Israel
would be longand difficultrocess, but p within two days feltat home," she says. "Just because to the Committee came felt that AgainstHouse Demolitions. suddenlythere was place for all my This was in ,4002 there were thoughts. activistsaround, Anarchists Againstthe Wall, and the Ta'ayushrganization. o got involved with Ta'ayush.went with them often to southern Mount Hebron. These became my new friends." people
Before returning America, Schaefer to called attorney Michael Sfard, whose work on behalf of Palestiniansand leftistorganizations attracted her atten had
One of the happiest moments of her life: chaefer with former president S Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, Jerusalem, August 2009 in
It T appeared. hey justdisappeared. was the firsttime experienced war situ-
ation. knew there had been terror attacks in the market and was tense all the time. was afraid to be outside too long, wanted to listento the news allthe time. was goingcrazy ." amid the Schaefer feltlostand lonely chaos that swirled around her. "I didn't find my community,"she says. "Sari AbuZiad didn't want to talk to me. He told It me: 'Now you're the other side.' was on no longer comfound very hard. And mon language with my leftist friends. Suddenlythey weren't able to talk about how problematic our militaryesponses, r like going into Ramallah, were. They, who used to talk about coexistence and peace and two states for two peoples, turned into Israelisagainst Palestinians. Because war started. couldn't find anyone to talk to. was leftin the middle, and became physically Three weeks ill. after got here, went back to America. It was nightmarecoming home, but on the way had meaningfulexperience. Just sitting there on the plane, feltthe most at home. After that, didn't return to Israel for four and half years. just couldn't." She moved to New York to get out of bar in her personal crisis,but then, at itall came back to her. "I met Brooklyn, t journalisthere from The New York Times who worked on the Middle East desk. told him that I'd lived in Israel, and about the crisis went through. He said he thought had some unfinished business. He told me he was part of dialoguegroup between Jews and Muslims, and invited me to film festival on the saw o There the subjectf human rights. film 'Promises' by B.Z. Goldberg,which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict depicts came out of through children's eyes. the movie in tears. It opened everything and realized couldn't keep up again, runningaway from it." She joined the dialogue group and the
Schaefer that women
child, with her mother ." could do anything
from my mother
b pressedby the speciallend of qualities in Emily," says Sfard. "I found someone who is lawyer, idealist an and an activist
for lawhand, to understand the emotions in the field, and on the other, the limitationsof the activto ists. Her immigration Israelfascinated of me, too. When thought American immigrants, thoughtof the type who go to in f straightrom the airport hilltops the territories. that conversation, feltI'd In all in one.
yers, and itallows her, on the one
across someone extraordinary." Subsequently, those feelings only grew. "She has tremendous knowledge come
Against the Occupationorganization in New York. And she once againimthat mersed herself in the bloody conflict she had abandoned. During law school at brief UC Berkeley she decided to do
of international law and human rights, and so she's very unique addition to my firm, where [we have] Israelis who studied Israelilaw," adds Sfard. "I think that aside from writing and poetry,law is the professionost connected to Ianm So guage and place. the transitionEmily made is quite dramatic. Legallanguage is not the same it's as spoken language, different,much more I complex layer.n this sense, her decision to move to Israel and work in her fieldin order to fulfill her ideals was brave and amazing step. And italso was extremelysuccessful. At the start, Emily concentrated on internationailaw and now she handles the firm's contacts with the Justice Ministry's of departmentfor the investigation police officers, the criminal investigation
and the militaryrosecutor." division, p first assignment Sfard gave The Schaefer after she returned to her studies at Berkeleywas to examine how international law relates to the duty of country in state of war to investigate the wounding or killing foreignivilof c ian.The premise for the research was the American peace activist Brian Avery's .3002 wounding by IDF fire in Jenin in Sfard attached the opinion she wrote to the petition filedwith the High Court, he of the requesting criminal investigation incident.Sfard emerged victorious:The High Court ordered the chief military prosecutor to launch an investigation no (which took place, although decision has yet been made on whether to fileany indictments). "Right after the victory, Michael called me," says Schaefer. "He told me: 'We won. When can you come work for my firm?'" She arrived during her summer vacation in 2005 and the firm already had some serious cases waitingfor her. The first concerned opposition the conto struction of the separationence in the f Alfei Menashe area, in which an exof panded panel nine judgesdecided that the route, around five Palestinian vilharmed the residents and had to lages, The second was to givelegal be changed. assistance to the Yesh Din organization, the dedicated to protecting human rights of Palestinians in the territories
OUR SITUATION IS WORRISOME, BELIEVE IN BUT ISRAEL. BELIEVE THAT WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE WHO AT THE END OF THE DAY WANT THINGS TO BE GOOD FOR US AND ALSO FOR OTHERS .'
It was the earlydays of the organization," Schaefer recounts. "We started working with Palestinians who had been hurt by settlers; helped them lodge we with the police.very two E complaints weeks there was new case. By now we have hundreds. This work changed my life, itredefined everything.started to get to know Palestinian clients, visited Mahaneh Ofer for the firsttime, the prison facility security for prisoners.met with Yesh Din people. started working with Dr. Yousef Jabareen who runs Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and based in Nazareth. feltlike was Policy, meeting my heroes." After passing in the U.S., the bar exam she decided to make aliya. This happened in late ,6002 she came when to Tel Aviv and was theBil'infile. The firm was congiven
cerned with two petitionsthe time: one at t againsthe construction of the Matityahu East neighborhood Modi'in Hit,and anin other against the route of the separation lands, fence that was beingbuilt on Bil'in about 006,1 dunams of village trapping
area, than thirdof itstotal the fence and the Green Line
we Princess Mabel was also present, left Thanks in part tc for tour of the village. the charm of the Bil'inresidents, managed to persuadethem to change their
tc plansand bringthe whole delegation
Bil'in," she says.
Schaefer managed to impress the Tutu, whe members of the delegation. was interviewed by Akiva Eldar in the visit, said he had mei Haaretz during "wonderful Israeliand Palestinian some young people who lifted his spirits most imthat Tutu was Eldar wrote pressed with an Israeli lawyer by the
of Emily Schaefer, "who helps their rights and Palestinians demand takes part in the demonstra■ regularly
fence. He the separation against
likeher bolster his faith says that people that,as in South Africa, here too, the twe peoplecan change the situation and live
in peace, side by side." Half year after that tour, an envelope an was delivered to her firm containing "Before knew it, unfamiliar magazine. letterfrom Princess Mabel," she found "She wrote thai says somewhat bashfully. as Ode Magazine asked her wht as soon should be
in the street ."
Schaefer in Bfl'in last week. "I'm
at completely home
in Bil'in, kids there run after me
We didn't believe we would succeed," she admits. "There were no good precedents. There was the Alfei Menashe which had already ordered that petition, the route of the fence be altered, but there was no enforcement in the field. On the other hand, we knew that Bil'in
crime, and which also address those who
assistin that crime, we realized that we could sue the Canadian companies that built on Bil'inland."
They strugglealongsideIsraelis. But T rare they are not species.here are many Palestinians like them, only unlike the people in Bil'in,they haven't found
the framework and the courage to ereate the same kind of protest." here in The Elders delegation came August for the express purpose of identhis and tifying assisting type of coexisfence between Israelis and Palestinians. Schaefer They They met by chance. but when hadn't plannedto go to Bil'in,
on itslist of 25 intelligent opti was in shock of mists, she thought me. of There was picture me with Cartel there. Michael stood next to me and said lotof strength 'You deserve it.' gave me It Although don't need the credit, which
kind of embarrasses me, itisencouraging It shows me that there is hoDe ."
the construction petition against
becoming symbol of nonviolent We struggle. thought maybe this would help and play into our hands. The work
the Mandate periodthat defined the area of the village. resiTogether with village dents, we thoughtabout suitable straterealities gy, we talked about the practical of our struggle. But we knew that, given the Israeli climate, we couldn't move the fence allthe way to the Green Line and that we wouldn't be able to get rid of the
filed two years ago, and stage of preliminary arguwhethpurpose isto clarify
There's very strong dissonance In this title. the faceofthe bitterand viowhose end is hardlyin sight lent conflict Where crowned an "optimist." you were does your optimismcome from? ev• "For many years I've been telling
to the Canadian court has the authority intervene in the Israeli-Palestinianissue. In order to stimulate public debate on the matter, last June Schaefer embarked on with tour in Canada together speaking some Bil'inresidents.
the idea was Tutu, raised that Desmond who supports nonviolent struggle, would alone, theyasked to meet go to the village with her.
erybody that I'm an incorrigibleptimist o am. But there are That it's part of who It moments of despair. happens wher
meeting at which preliminary
settlement, MatityahuEast." The petition againstthe construction of the MatityahuEast neighborhood was but rejected, in the case of the separation fence route, Sfard's firm won an impressive victorythat had major repercussions. On September ,3 ,7002 High the Court ruled that the route of the fence near Bil'inhad to be changed, and tasked the defense establishment with examiningan alternate route. "The present route raises grave questions also with regardto the security advantages itwas said to provide and the selected route cannot be explained other than by an intention to include the eastern section of "Matityahu East" on the west side of the separation barrier," the said. ruling After this success, Schaefer did not let she was spearheading year later, up. civU suitin Canada againstwo Canadian t Park International companies, Green and Green Mount International, which had built in MatityahuEast. "The Israeli court ruled that the question whether of the settlements are legalis political a question,nd cannot be brought before it. We said we have to find another way to she get justice," said. "When we turned to Canada, we discovered that new law there assimilates the Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute into the legal systern. On the basis of those conventions, which view the settlements as war
"The trip Canada was the idea of peoto piefrom Bil'in. hey wanted to be there T whenthehearingsinthecasewerecoming
half weeks, cities. he trip T gave me the power to speak that about Bil'inas an allegory the between Israelis depicts relationship and Palestinians. The occupation,reef dom of movement, closure, checkpoints, settlements, lands, settler violence all these are given expression Bil'inand in tellthe entire story.It was very powerful and strengtheningxperience for me e when talked about Bil'inat rallies, press conferences and meetings with different needed to find somethingto regroups. m ignitee, to see other peoplewho cared. And ithappenedto me there."
says. "In three and
The Elders was founded in by former South African Nelson Mandela and president British business tycoon Richard Branson, in honor of Mandela's 89th birthday. The two collected number of veterans of world with the aim of trying diplomacy, to solve world crises, support humanitarian aid organizations, and address the injustices and in human suffering crisis regions. Besides Branson and Mandela,
the group includes former U.S. and Peace Nobelist president
It hap losses in legalcases. my friend, Bil'inresident killed by di Bassem Abu Rahma, was tear gas canister in Apr/ rect hit with of lastyear. We were about the same age It still feels weird to me that he's not ai have mo• the demonstrations. But when There you like that, go to Bil'in. ments of don'thave the privilege saying'there's no hope' or 'I'm pessimistic.' In Bil'in, he t because without alwayshave hope, people itthey would simplydie of despair. Hope is matter of life and death for them." Does Israel giveyou hope? be "Our situation is worrisome, but lieve in Israel.In people. believe that we who at the end of the are all good people
to day want things be good for us and alsc think that what happenec for others. in the last war in Gaza woke peopleup Peoplethink of themselves as moral, anc what happenedthere, the number of chil
reactions to her joint activitywith Palestinians in Canada. "I guess most she Israeliswould view me as traitor," remarks dryly. "They would ask what who wasn't born in rightdoes someone Israel and who didn't serve in the army have to criticize the state? But came here out of great love, and don't intend to keep quiet came from justbecause afar. believe that there is no choice, that Israelis and Palestinians will live W together.hen try to build connections between the two sides, I'm working for Israel's good.The Bil'inpeople are very special. They don't believe in violence, and they are proud that no terrorists have come from their village
Jimmy Carter, South African Bishopand Nobel Peace Laureate
Desmond Tutu, former
killed, the strikes on popu• dren that were raised tough questions lation centers, It was hard for Israelis to accept the un necessary death there. On the other hand most of the country shifted in the othei
Kofi Annan, secretary general former Norwegian prime minister
direction and wholeheartedlyupported s a violence against civilians, nd even more have become convinced that there wil be peace, and that the Palestinians never
president Mary Robinson, and Princess Mabel van Oranjeof
Holland, who in Burma,
is organization involved in projects
if they are children, are the enemy draw hope from the shift in the views of many Israelis who've started to be the occupation and foi activists against to understanc democracy, who've come
a Cyprus,among other places,nd in general issues, such as women's around the world rights,
that were done ir that the kinds of things Gaza are what other peopledo, not us. feelthatthere was moment when people here woke up to the fact that Israel needs
to chance ."
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