Palestinian activist, social worker and community organizer, Khaldi is helping lead the nonviolent grassroots resistance to the Separation Wall in the West Bank.
Fatima Khaldi was born in Gaza, but her parents are refugees from pre-1948 Palestine. She is an activist and social worker who began her work in the women's movement against Israeli occupation during the first intifada. Along with the Union of Palestinian Women, she set up four kindergartens which functioned as a school for children during the day, and a meeting place for the Palestinian women in the afternoon.
The women used these centers to learn Palestinian history and to plan demonstrations. Eventually, all the kindergartens were shut down by the Israeli military.
Khaldi moved to the Shufat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem to work on rehabilitating drug addicts. She found that women were at the heart of the political movements there. Khaldi explains, "Palestinian women are deeply rooted in their land, and work hard to support our families. Women suffer greatly when families lose their land, often the primary source of income. We raise olive trees as if they are our children. When we lose them, we grieve deeply, and this grief affects everyone in the household."
Khaldi also worked as a journalist for a newspaper that was shut down by the Israeli civil administration in the occupied Palestinian territories. For a time, she worked with the blind, and then branched out, working with villages in the West Bank to build kindergartens, establish democratic women’s committees, and create agricultural and sewing projects. She also worked as an organizer for the Working Women’s Union, and with the mothers of children with psychological problems.
Currently, Khaldi works with the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS), and is the driving force behind Women for Life in Salfit, a region of the West Bank near the large Israeli settlement of Ariel. The latter group has mobilized against the Separation Wall since 2002. The protesters in the Salfit along with thousands of others from across the West Bank have nonviolently demonstrated against the Separation Wall. It is dividing Palestinian lands and natural resources, and having a heavy impact on Palestinian families. In addition to their protests, the women have traveled from village to village providing educational workshops on the effects of the wall. They have built relationships with Palestinian women citizens of Israel, who have joined the women of the West Bank during their demonstrations.
After a two week summer camp in July 2004, the group Flowers Against the Occupation was formed. Flowers Against the Occupation is a group for young girls who live in the occupied West Bank. This group meets once a week for workshops on topics including English, art, dance, music, girls' health issues, building girls’ confidence and violence against girls.
With passion, Khaldi says, "We carry out demonstrations to show the whole world that we reject Israeli violence and racism. We believe that the justice of our cause, and our determination, are stronger than any Israeli weapon, and that Palestinian women are capable of accomplishing what seems impossible for a better life."
To learn more about Flowers Against the Occupation please see http://www.needleinthegroove.org/flowers.htm.
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Kathleen McQuillen on the Federal Budget and Palestine-Israel