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Three wise women

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Amira Hillal, Roni Hammerman and Sherene Abdulhadi may never have met if they hadn't taken up an offer to visit the United States.

The Palestinian Christian, Israeli Jew and Palestinian Muslim blame 40-foot walls, soldiers, checkpoints, terrorism and fear for keeping them apart, though they live within a 15 minutes' drive from one another in Jerusalem.

"Is it fair? I'm asking you," Hillal says.

The three landed in the nation's capital about two weeks ago, and since have shared a message of peace in a nationwide speaking tour that brought them to Colorado Springs and Denver last week. Partners for Peace, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that focuses on Middle East affairs, organized the expedition scheduled to wrap up this weekend.

The three say Israeli policies and intense national pride are at the core of divisions in Jerusalem. Roughly 8,000 Jewish settlers from the occupied Gaza Strip were evacuated by Israelis in August as part of a disengagement plan, yet the three note that Israelis still are building settlements and walls in the occupied West Bank.

"We don't believe this initiative is in good faith," says Abdulhadi.

They note that over the last five years, Israelis have razed roughly 4,000 Palestinian homes, sometimes using the excuse that homes sit on strategic territory.

Hammerman calls denying Palestinians homes in the occupied territories "the terror of the strong."

The three, who at home work in various ways to monitor Israeli policy, remain optimistic that peace can come -- even to Jerusalem.

"We are all friends," Hillal says. "We are colleagues and are all living together on the same piece of land."

-- Michael de Yoanna

Photo by Collan Fitzpatrick

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