Womens Week Report – March 2009

March 23, 2009

in News,Programs

Bent Al-Reef Empowerment Project

The Third Annual Women’s Week Report

23-28 March 2009

Environmental Wellness


Monday, 23 March 2009

First Session: What is Environmental Wellness…?

Lecturer:         Jihan Nassar, Coordinator, Bent Alreef Women Center

Participants:  30 women from the village

3 EAPPI women (Norway, Sweden)

Dr. Rick Martin (USA)

Mr. & Mrs. Elana Bell (USA)

Lydia Funck (Germany)

Margorie Gourlay (Scotland)

Ilse Brugger (Switzerland)


What is Environmental Wellness and how it affects the other aspects of Wellness?

How to obtain a more balanced life?

In this session Jihan introduce the seven aspects of Wellness, which are seven major life areas that work together to create fulfillment and satisfaction. The seven aspect of wellness are:- Emotional Wellness, Physical Wellness, Social Wellness, Occupational Wellness, Intellectual Wellness , Environmental Wellness , and Spiritual Wellness. Each of the 7 Aspects directly affects the other. Physical Wellness, for example, has an effect on Emotional Wellness, and Occupational Wellness can affect Social Wellness. Without a Spiritual Wellness plan, many people might feel a lack of purpose or meaning in their lives. Intellectual Wellness keeps our minds moving, curious and interested in learning new things, and of course, Environmental Wellness—the world around us—has an immense impact on all of us, whether that’s our personal environment or the global environment. It is important to focus on these 7 Aspects regularly for a more balanced life; a balance between body, soul and spirit.


At the end of this session the international participants were asked to express and share with us what is necessary and important for their general wellness.


Second Session: Intellectual Wellness

Creative Writing “Poem Writing”

Lecturer:             Elana Bell, Poet, USA

Participants:      30 women from the village

3 EAPPI Women (Norway, Sweden)

Jihan Nassar (Palestine)

Dr. Rick Martin (USA)

Mr. Bell (USA)

Lydia Funck (Germany)

Margorie Gourlay (Scotland)

Ilse Brugger (Switzerland)


“Poems would be easy if our heads weren’t so full of the days clatter. The task is to get through to the other side, where we can hear the deep rhythms that connect us with the stars and tides…”                                                              Stanley Kunitz, from ‘Reflection”


With this in mind, Elana Bell spoke about Intellectual Wellness as a focusing tool on learning. She explained that any activity that helps to explore the world around us, learn more about ourselves or expand our mind in any way supports healthy intellectual wellness. Reading, learning new skills, taking part in hobbies, being creative or appreciating art are all ways to support our intellectual wellness.


The participants were asked to tell “one thing I hope for”. In response to their living situations the women’s wishes were peace, justice, being treated as human beings, having freedom to move, learning languages, and securing good future for their families and especially their children.


Elana read the poem “Where I’m from…” an English poem that was written by one of her students in the USA. The poem was also read in Arabic after it got translated by Jihan.


After reading the poem the group discussed it in terms of sensory details. Then the women were asked to reflect their past and think of their own childhood, family, personal experience, food, sights, sounds, smells, holidays, etc. and to write some lines in the style of the poem that was presented before.


Many women read their impressive moving poems and continued writing them at home. Those poems were translated into English and German and hopefully into other languages. What we are looking for now is a sponsor to sponsor those poems to be printed in a book for many women of this world to read.


The women of the village were working and following the workshop in a very enthusiastic way. At the end they confirmed that this was a very interesting day and that they learnt a lot.


Tuesday 24 March 2009


First Session:    Environmental Wellness”Pollution”

“What’s being done on a global level, and what you                      can do in your community?”

Lecturer:            Majdi Tmezi, Agricultural Engineer / PARC Bethlehem

Participants:     25 women from the village

Jihan Nassar, (Palestine)

Mr. & Mrs. Elana Bell (USA)

Lydia Funck (Germany)

Dr. Date (Holland)

Ilse Brugger (Switzerland)


Pollution can take many forms. The air we breath, the water we drink, the ground where we grow our food, and even the increasing noise we hear every day – all contribute to health problems and a lower quality of life for people as well as for animals, plants and trees. Water, earth, and air are the most important elements to be protected in order to have a healthy life for people and nature. Majdi Tmezi explained the different reasons that cause air pollution (Co2 emission, microwaves, etc.), water pollution, soil pollution, global warming, and acid rain.


The educator said that it is very important to feel responsible towards the environment we are living in. He also talked about organic farming and agriculture. The educator explained how to make organic compost using the leftovers from the kitchen. Moreover the people are asked not to use as much plastic bags and not to throw garbage everywhere in order to keep their surroundings clean.

The women took great interest also in this subject and participated with comments and questions.



Second Session:  Intellectual (Creative / Expressive) Wellness

Creative Writing “Story Writing”

Lecturer:              Elana Bell, Poet, USA

Participants:       33 women from the village

Jihan Nassar (Palestine)

Mr. Jai Bell (India)

Lydia Funck (Germany)

Ilse Brugger (Switzerland)



Each of us is full of stories and poems that is what Elana said to the women. We have all seen and experienced much in our lives–as mothers, as daughters, as human beings–all of which provides a rich wellspring to write from. In this workshop Elana taught the women how to read and discuss their poems and their stories. She also taught them how to respond to those stories and feelings by writing poems and stories from their own unique perspective.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009-03-28


Workshop:       Health Wellness

Children’s Health / When there is no Doctor…

Lecturer:          Dr. Date, General Doctor, (Holland)

Participants:     25 women from the village

Jihan Nassar, (Palestine)

Lydia Funck, (Germany)

Ilse Brugger, (Switzerland)

Pat Westwater-Jong (USA)


Dr. Date began his workshop by asking the women how many children each of them have, what sort of sickness they suffer or suffered in the past. Then he went into explaining the reasons for those children sickness and how they may arise and how we may prevent them. Dr. Date also talked about some of the children born diseases that may happen through close marriages.


Dr. Date also explained to the women how to achieve a good balanced dietary for all members of the family and how to maintain healthy eating habits.


Another part of Dr. Date workshop was about first aid and some medical advices for the women in emergences. The women benefited a lot from this workshop and left home with many new and valuable ideas and information.


Thursday, 26 March 2009


First Session:   Health Wellness

Women’s Health / Pregnancy

Lecturer:           Dr. Date, General Doctor, (Holland)

Participants:    23 women from the village

Jihan Nassar, (Palestine)

Lydia Funck, (Germany)

Ilse Brugger , (Switzerland)

Pat Westwater-Jong (USA)

Helen and Keith Clark (UK)


In this workshop Dr. Date talked about different topics that are essential for women’s health and especially for pregnant women. He spoke about the women reproductive system, menstruation, womb problems, fertilization, infertility and pregnancy diets.  This workshop was very enlightening and so educational for all the women who attended.


Second Session:    Emotional Wellness

Relieve Anxiety, Depression, Improve Mood,                                                 Confidence, Hopefulness

Lecturer:                Dr. Rick Martin, Family Counsellor, (USA)

Participants:         27 women from the village

Jihan Nassar (Palestine)

Pat Westwater-Jong (USA)

Helen and Keith Clark (UK)

Lydia Funck (Germany)

Ilse Brugger (Switzerland)


Dr. Rick explained the importance of emotional wellness in our lives and how to be connected with our emotions, and being able to name and understand them, and knowing how to handle them, whatever they may be. He also talked about our negative and positive emotions and how we can learn new behaviors for challenging our emotional situations. The women were enthusiastic to learn more about emotional wellness so another workshop was scheduled for Dr. Rick to meet with the women and talk more about this topic. The second workshop was also a success.


Saturday, 27 March 2009

First Session:    Social and Health Wellness

Caring for our Elderly

Diet and Hygiene, Social Relations, Psychological Conditions

Lecturer:            Mrs. Itemad Fanoun, Health Educator, Medical Relief                                Society, (Palestine)

Participants:     15 women from the village

Jihan Nassar, (Palestine)

Lydia Funck, (Germany)

Ilse Brugger , (Switzerland)


Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing and supportive intimate relationships as well as fostering a general connection with everyone around us. It’s also about learning how to balance our social life with our personal life.

Mrs Fanoun talked about elderly care and more specific about health care, social care and emotional care for our senior citizens. She also gave advices to the women about common elderly diseases and their special diets.


As for the elderly personal hygiene, Mrs Fanoun introduced ways to encourage our seniors to maintain their personal hygiene and administer their own personal care. A good personal hygiene for the elderly will not only promote mental well-being, it will also promote physical health.


Each of the women had some experience to tell and appreciated all kind of information.


Second Session:     Nutrition Wellness

Food Processing and Manufacturing

Lecturer:                  Mrs. Adla Taha Ali, Agricultural Relief Center,                                           Bethlehem (Palestine)

Participants:           15 women from the village

Jihan Nassar, (Palestine)

Lydia Funck, (Germany)

Ilse Brugger , (Switzerland)


Home food preservation remains an important and popular cultural activity. Mrs Adla Taha talked about the importance of home food preservation in the Palestinian culture and explained many ways and methods for food preservation. She also spoke about food safety concerns when processing and preserving home food.

She advised the women to maintain a small garden or even a pottery and plant it with different kinds of herbs, fruits and vegetables thus the family become self supportive. Since this subject is very important for most Palestinian women, I think it will be a good idea to have it as a regular class in our yearly educational program.



A Word to be said:

Throughout this week, around 30-35 new women from the village got the advantage to participate in our yearly women’s week. All workshops and lectures were in Arabic and English and took place in Bent Al-reef Center.

Although the weather was cold and wintry, the women attendance was reasonable and encouraging. Every year we try to focus on issues that matter to the village women. This year our center of attention was on Wellness and its seven aspects. In all workshops the women learned new information and were introduced to many new methods and ideas that can help maintain a better life.  Furthermore the participation of internationals in the women’s week, Center’s activities and classes is very important for the continuation of this project and the mutual exchange of thoughts and ideas.


At the end, I would like to thank all locals, international participants, lecturers and project supporters for there time and effort in realizing this project.


A special thanks goes to my husband for his endless help and encouragement.


Special thanks also go to Mrs. Ilse Brugger (Switzerland), Mrs. Helen and Mr. Keith Clark (UK), Dr. Rick Martin (USA), Dr. Date (Holland), Mrs. Mr Elana Bell (USA), Mrs. Pat Westwater-Jong (USA), Mss. Lydia Funck (Germany), Mss. Margorie Gourlay (Scotland), Mrs. Adla Taha (Palestine), Mrs. Itemad Fanoun (Palestine), and Mr. Majdi Tmezi (Palestine) for their help and support.


Project Coordinator


International Participants Remarks


Ilse Brugger, Switzerland

The activities for this week were planned well in advance. Transportation for the educators and the internationals were guaranteed. A good organisation for that is absolutely necessary as the situation being rather difficult because of checkpoints and detours caused by the construction of the wall. Furthermore enough chairs for the room as well as pencils and paper for the participants had to be bought. Daoud and his wife Jihan, who was also responsible for the first introduction and the translation, did a great job indeed by organizing everything before and during the week.


The different subjects for this week were chosen well dealing with our human feelings but also our relation to the environment. As to see from the reactions of the women they were showing great interest in all those lectures. I had the impression that many things were new for the women and enriched them in different concern. It’s obvious that many of the advices will be followed in future.


It was very important to spend some time at the end of the week with the women to know about their opinion, in which subject they were interested most, about what they would like to have more information and if they learnt new things.

This time the women’s week took place in those rooms where they used to have their computer and English course instead of in the community hall.  I think it was a good idea as the women talked more open as no employees of that office in the community hall disturbing them by passing through the room.


I’m of the opinion that it is a very good idea to invite internationals to participate. First they will see what kind of possibilities of education and further training is offered to the women in the village and secondly such meetings will connect different people and cultures thus meaning mutual learning.

Those workshops trying to motivate the women to take self initiative we will hope that by the time they will do so and be active. Jihan is trying hard to convey this to them.


This project is path breaking being of great value and highly appreciated.


It’s already the third time that I attended the workshop week and I feel related to the women in a friendship way learning step by step more about their way of life, their mentality, their problems but also being there happy.

With all my heart I’m wishing to Jihan, the leader of the project, much courage and strength to continue, to improve and the realization of all the different plans and visions.


Marjorie Gourlay, Scotland

My name is Marjorie Gourlay from Scotland, and I am an English teacher, currently in Palestine.

I am always surprised by the Palestinian people’s warmth and hospitality to visitors who come and go, and even more I am surprised by the village women’s openness to foreigners who visit briefly, bringing with them strange ideas from abroad.  Those women are welcoming and warm, neither judgmental nor suspicious, and they eagerly throw themselves into any activity they are presented with.  On Monday at the Women’s Week, they were presented with a talk about Environmental Wellness, which suggested that taking care of the environment is fundamental for the sake of our wellbeing and that of our country, and is one of several aspects of our wellbeing that we ought to take care of.  The poetry workshop which followed and was based on the idea of “where I’m from” stirred up images, sounds and smells of Palestine and brought a tear to the eye of many present.  These women astonished me with their creativity, artistic minds, and illustrative words which so beautifully described their homeland.  Their words are a powerful witness to the struggle that they are contending with and, I think, say much more about the reality of the hardship of life under occupation than many reports.  I would like to have their poetry translated and use it in Britain when I am home.



Elana Bell, USA

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of facilitating a writing workshop with the village women. On the outside you could say we had little in common. I am a Jew from California who grew up in the very liberal, hippie community of Venice Beach. Most of the women from the village are observant Arab Muslims, who wear the hijab and observe traditional religious customs. But after 15 minutes together (with the men out of the room) you would not have believed that we had just met. The women were laughing and gesturing, each one more eager to share the rich images and incredible stories from their lives.

The first day was spent developing our awareness of sensory detail as a tool for creative expression. We read a poem by Angelica Flores, entitled “Where I’m from,” which details her rich Puerto Rican heritage and homeland. The women discussed the poem and then wrote their own poems, detailing their painful and beautiful images of home. The second day was spent writing memoir, building on the skills from the first day, but focusing on narrative, rather than poetry, about significant memories from their lives. It was an incredible experience. Each story that was read had us all laughing or weeping from the powerful emotion contained within it. Clearly these women had a wellspring of material just waiting to be released. I am honored to have shared in the experience.

Pat Westwater-jong, USA

Dear Jihan, I am so grateful for the opportunity you gave me to observe and photograph some of the Women’s Week which you so professionally organized and facilitated. I enjoyed meeting the women and their young children who came with them.  And it was wonderful to see so many women excited to gather together to learn about public health issues and, I heard, about writing poetry, the day before I arrived.  It was also great fun to share an experience with Palestinian Christian and Muslim women and with men (teachers) and women from Europe and the US.

Dr. Rick Martin, USA

I went to Israel/Palestine five years ago to teach peaceful conflict-resolution to both parties and to mediate between them.  So, amid political and construction projects, it was a thrill to be invited by Jihan Nassar to take a swing at that by presenting workshops to the women of Bent al-Reef (a Tent of Nations women’s program in Nahalin) during their “Women’s Empowerment Week.”  During the second and third week of my stay, I presented “Emotional Health––the science of authentic happiness,” and “Fair Fighting––peaceful conflict-resolution for couples.”

I had attended opening day of the workshop-week to get a feel for the audience––some 30 women of the village, clothed from head to toe in Muslim dress, with children running in and out of the room.

Jihan was to be my translator, and pausing for translation and questions slowed my presentation of Martin Seligman’s “Positive Psychology” (the science of authentic happiness, from his book by the same name), but I took the time to learn the names of those attending, before defining “emotion” and “happiness.”

A week later, I plunged into a far more emotional topic: peaceful conflict-resolution for couples.  The women were even more invested in this. We did a role-play, and the women were full of questions and challenges––such as, “In this society, nobody listens.”  But that is what made these workshops “heaven.”  In spite of their confined way of life, the women were spunky, talkative, and willing to explore new approaches.  I love that. Peace between nations, cultures, and religions begins at home.


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