Friends of Beyond Series - The Future is Female

 Palestinian and Syrian refugee students at JCC's Saida Center. The Future. Saida, Lebanon, May, 2017. Photo Credit: Alex Gazley

Palestinian and Syrian refugee students at JCC's Saida Center. The Future. Saida, Lebanon, May, 2017. Photo Credit: Alex Gazley

“Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll make a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.” - William Golding

They say that cynics are just disappointed idealists. So true. When I’m not being the world’s most starry-eyed idealist, I am the most cynical person I know. My cynicism has been fueled recently by so many things: politics, racism, religious hypocrisy, school shootings, the me too movement, Russian social media bots, and all kinds of fake news. I know I’m not alone in this.

It’s hard to know what to do and who to trust.

But I trust Suzann Mollner and Beirut and Beyond. I do. For many reasons.

First, I’ve known Suzann for a long time. I’ve watched her search her soul for the thing she was made to do in the world. I’ve watched her work in difficult places, under less than ideal circumstances. I’ve watched her evacuate Lebanon, running from bombs that were made in America. I’ve watched her build her own NGO because she wanted to keep serving Palestinian refugees, against all odds. I’ve watched it all, up close, from the beginning.

I also trust Suzann because of what I’ve learned from her: the history of Palestine and the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the establishment of what has become permanent refugee status for 5 million Palestinians throughout the Middle East. Without Suzann I’d still think “terrorist,” whenever I heard the word Palestinian. Along with the rest of the world, I would forget that beneath the confusing political machinations of the conflict are millions of innocent people without a country. That’s reason number two.

Reason number three - I trust Suzann because she’s no saint, and she doesn’t pretend do be. She’s merely who she is, the least likely do-gooder I’ve ever known. I can trust someone who doesn’t claim to be better than she is, someone who can stand in her vulnerability and press forward on behalf of actual friends she has made in actual Palestinian refugee camps. In my book, if you do that, you’re either crazy or you’re the real deal. I think she’s the real deal, with a little bit of crazy on the side.

Lastly, I trust Suzann because of the work she chooses to do. Her collaboration with Hopes for Women, sending young Palestinian women to school and building them a library, is exactly the kind of project I can support. I love that Hopes for Women is an indigenous organization, not some grand idea cooked up and imposed from afar. I love that it’s an organization of women, for the benefit of women. I love that it’s about relationships and education, and that it supports individual women who exist at the very bottom of the list of priorities in the Middle East, even the world. I love that Beirut and Beyond comes alongside Hopes for Women and enables them to do what they are already doing on the ground. That gives my cynical heart real hope.

I truly believe that the future is female, for the very reason stated in William Golding’s quote above. If you give women resources, they will use them for the greater good.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) knows this well. Their Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy states, “Empowering women to participate in and lead public and private institu­tions makes these institutions more representative and effective. Increasing girls’ and women’s education and access to resources improves the health and education of the next generation. Women also play critical roles as effective peace advocates, community leaders, and champions of civil and human rights.” This is why USAID has initiated gender-based aid programs in 80 countries worldwide. It’s simply the most effective way to effect long-lasting change.*

Do we want to see improvement in the health and education of the next generation of Palestinians? Do we want to see more effective peace advocates, community leaders, and champions of civil and human rights in the Middle East? Then help the women.

 JCC Center in Beirut, Lebanon. June 2017. Photo Credit: Alex Gazley

JCC Center in Beirut, Lebanon. June 2017. Photo Credit: Alex Gazley

Who knows what will happen if a handful of young Palestinian women get access to higher education? No one knows for sure. What we do know is that there will not be a solution to the Palestinian issue any time soon, either through violence or diplomacy. While militias and politicians are deadlocked, the innocent continue to suffer. Meanwhile, under the political radar, a few women are being empowered to learn something of the world outside the camps, thanks to Beirut and Beyond.

Suzann Mollner, Beirut and Beyond, and Hopes for Women are on the cusp of a future facilitated by women. I can’t wait to hear what these young women make from their shot at a decent education, but I’ll bet that whatever they do will benefit a whole community, maybe more.

This makes me a little less cynical, a little more hopeful, and a little more willing to believe in the future of humanity.



Phyllis Mathis, MA, is a psychotherapist, life coach, and spiritual mentor. She works with artists, writers, leaders, faith shifters, and entrepreneurs. Phyllis is co-creator of The Iconic Self, as well as a teacher and founder of The Phyllis Mathis School of Life. She is a gifted writer, speaker, leadership consultant, and potter.




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