Fridays with Women: Shishi Nashim

by Diana Bletter

As a muezzin called worshippers to prayer from the minaret of the main mosque on Friday morning, November 15 in the old city of Akko, in Israel’s Western Galilee, at a small theatre space within the city’s ancient stone walls psychologist Dr. Fatina Khazen was speaking to a group of about 50 women – Jewish, Muslim, Christians and Druze – about creativity.

Shishi Nashim–“Friday Women”–is the joint initiative of two grassroots organizations in Akko: the Educators Kibbutz and Akko Women’s Vision. The project is also supported by the United Jewish Israel Appeal of the United Kingdom. The two organizations have been working to spark increased community involvement and a new creativity among the city’s 50,000 residents, who are one-third Arab and two-thirds Jewish.

Mirit Sulema, a member of the Educators Kibbutz, an urban kibbutz that is part of the Dror Israel Educational Movement, said the kibbutz members, who live within the city, sponsor events for residents so that they “don’t only exist side by side in a ‘mixed city’ but feel a part of a ‘shared city’ with a sense of community.”

Akko Women’s Vision was founded in 2003 by Dr. Janan Faraj Falah, the first Druze woman to receive her Ph.D. in Israel (if not in the entire Middle East). Faraj Falah is also the 2017 winner of the Jerusalem Unity Prize, its first non-Jewish recipient. She’s a senior lecturer at the Academic College of Education in Haifa and a researcher at the University of Haifa.