In a nation as fraught with political tensions as Israel, something as basic as a thread tied to a needle can make a difference to a person's life. At least that is theory of Adeem Amro and Segal Kirsch: the co-founders of the Two Neighbors fashion initiative.
Two Neighbors specialises in modern, minimalist clothing embellished with embroidery. The womenswear pieces are stitched by Israeli seamstresses who learned their trade in the former Soviet Union and have been sewing since the age of 13. And each garment features embroidery by the members of a Palestinian women’s collective in the south Hebron Hills. Almost 50 women are currently working with the brand.
Two Neighbors is the brainchild of a suitably eclectic pair. Amro, the Palestinian Manager lives in East Jerusalem and grew up in Jordan and Hebron, while the Israeli Manager, Kirsch, lives in Modiin, was born in Jerusalem and spent her childhood in southern Israel.
“We believe creativity and fashion are an international language," says Kirch. "They can be a bridge between cultures and a means to spread a vision of common human values and peace."
“The women in Two Neighbors have grown to respect and love each other” she adds. “We feel that we have more in common than things that differ. We hope, with selling our products, we can widen the circle of people involved.”
Two Neighbors was established at the Global Village Square. These weekend meetings held by the Centre for Emerging Futures non-profit aim to bring Palestinians and Israelis together and encourage both communities to establish partnerships and joint projects. Two Neighbors was just a kernel of an idea eight years ago, and was established as a fashion brand in 2013 when the two women launched their first Kickstarter-funded collection.
Their tagline - peace through the eye of a needle - is more hard-hitting than your average clothing brand's, and a reflection of the rawness of the conflict.
Yet, the biggest hurdle for the women isn’t animosity between seamstresses and embroiderers, but rather the logistical issues presented by the complex living situation. Meeting in a mutual place where everyone feels comfortable and deciding on patterns that fit each garment - whether a matt blue jacket or a cream clutch bag - are the toughest aspects of the design process. Kirsch and Amro meet fortnightly, while the group of seamstresses and embroiderers meet bi-annually. Those meeting can be harder to set up, as the Palestinian women must secure permits and Israeli women face road closures and delays at checkpoints.
"Commuting between Jerusalem and the west bank is very difficult," says Amro. "Both technically at times with the checkpoints, and closed roads. And emotional. Many times you feel as a second rated human," she says.
However, the women stress that Two Neighbors is not a political movement.
“We might not all share the same solution, and not all know what the solution should be. But we all share the hope for a just agreement that will achieve peace and equality to both sides,” says Kirsch.
“Our main concern, practically is marketing to sell enough dresses. This is crucial in order to provide income to the women working at Two Neighbors and bettering the next generations’ future.”Reuse content