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A Beacon of Hope in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict


The Neil Gunn Trust in partnership with the Highland Library Service has been organising a Writing Competition every two years for some considerable time. To our delight, last year's Competition turned into an International Event with entries not only from the United Kingdom but from Finland, France, Brazil, America and Canada. This was almost beyond our wildest dreams though not quite.
One lady in particular was so surprised and pleased to win one of the top prizes that she decided to fly over to Scotland to receive it in person at the Prize Giving Ceremony in Inverness. Daniela Norris is her name, a young Israeli woman. Her short story was a very moving and challenging account of what can happen on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian Divide. (Read her entry on www.ambaile.org.uk )

Encouraged by winning this prize Daniela and her Palestinian friend, Shireen Anabtawi, went on to compile a book entitled Crossing Qalandiya Exchanges across the Israeli/Palestinian Divide. The book consists of a series of letters between the two women who, although they lived less than 100km apart, were unable to visit each other in their homes. In these letters they discussed many things from family, children, recipes to war and ethnic hatred. Their exchanges are fraught with challenges but also a sincere desire to understand the 'other'. The book is a moving and illuminating account accessible and profound, personal and political: a Beacon of Hope in the wilderness of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is being Launched in London in May.
Daniela is a former Israeli diplomat, turned writer. She has lived and worked in Angola, Peru, France and Switzerland. Shireen is a former Director of International cooperation at the Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency in Ramallah. She grew up in Nablus. The two met in Geneva.
Daniela and Shireen, at the request of the NGT and HC, have agreed to come to Inverness at the very beginning of June. They will talk to senior pupils at two different local schools, giving the pupils the unique opportunity to engage with two people from such very different cultures, each having nonetheless made the effort to try to understand the point of view of the 'other'.

Daniela is a former Israeli Diplomat turned writer, Shireen a former Director of International Cooperation at the Palestinian Investment Agency in Romala. The two met at a party in Geneva. They have accepted the invitation of the NGT and HC to come to Inverness in June. They will talk to senior pupils, giving them the unique opportunity to engage with two people from such very different cultures, each having nonetheless made the effort to try to understand the point of view of the 'other'. At 7pm on 1st June Richard Holloway, writer, broadcaster and Chairman of the SAC will chair an Event in Eden Court. The two women will talk about their lives, their cultures and how they came to be friends. A Question and Answer session will follow. Daniela will round off the evening by Launching the 2011 Neil Gunn Writing Competition.

On the evening of Tuesday 1st June 2010 there will be an Event in the OneTouch Theatre in Eden Court at 7pm. The event will be chaired by Richard Holloway, writer, broadcaster and present Chairman of the Scottish Arts Council. The two women will have the opportunity to talk about their very different lives, their cultures and how they came to be friends. There will be a Question and Answer session at a later stage. The evening will be rounded off with Daniela formally Launching the 2011 Neil Gunn Writing Competition, the 11th Competition since its inception.
The Neil Gunn Trust has been involved in many projects, the most rewarding being the Writing Competition. Could there be a more fitting way of honouring the memory of Neil Gunn.

"For at the end of the day, what's all the bother about? Simply about human relations, about how we are to live one with another on the old earth. That's all, ultimately. To understand one another, and to understand what we can about the earth, and in the process gather some peace of mind and, with luck, a little delight." The Serpent - Neil Gunn.