I’m revising my forthcoming memoir, Bosom Buddies: How Breast Cancer fostered an Unexpected Friendship across the Israeli-Palestinian Divide. It’s a narrative that I’ve penned, with humor and self-reflection (or so I hope!), about the improbable and unexpected sisterhood that grew between me, an American-Israeli Orthodox Jewess living in Jerusalem, and Ibtisam Erekat, a devout Muslim Palestinian in Abu Dis. We met through a support group for Israeli and Palestinian breast cancer survivors. It’s a big deal because we live on opposite sides of an eight-foot concrete separation barrier. This is not your typical sort of friendship! The arc of this memoir is illness-friendship-reassessment. I could never have imagined that this would emerge from cancer! The responses I’ve received to essays I’ve published on this topic from people across the globe have swayed me that hopeful stories can indeed open hearts and minds. Accolades came in from Abu Dabi, Tel Aviv, and Arkansas for my Tablet article on my visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of an Israeli-Palestinian delegation of breast cancer survivors to meet other breast cancer survivors who also cross religious, ethnic and cultural lines to support each other.
Equally embraced was an essay I penned for The Atlantic on a particular visit with Ibtisam and our respective families, and the unexpected violence we encountered. In 2014, I also started doing public speaking about my story. It was just around the time of Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli-Gaza military conflict, which was terribly depressing. I felt impelled share our positive example with the world. Since then, I’ve addressed some 60 different groups, audiences and organizations across the US. Ibtisam joined me on a speaking tour in December 2015, and we shared our story at the US State Department. Previous speaking engagements include the American Consulate, Jewish Federations, churches, synagogues, Muslim groups, interfaith groups, high schools, Palestinian and Israeli schools, YaLa Young Leaders, Jewish day schools, medical schools, medical conferences on breast cancer, youth groups, women’s groups, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Hadassah, business breakfast clubs, universities, senior citizens homes and many others across the US. (Here’s the list from my website.)
Cancer taught me that disease is the real enemy, not man-made conflict over arbitrary divides. I try to use my writing and public speaking ability to jimmy some hearts and minds towards bridge-building and peace. Through the telling of my personal experience, I want to encourage people to embrace “other”, whomever or whatever that “other” may be.
I write at home or at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, where I’m a library fellow. I concurrently work on articles and essays about education, parenting, life, stories that send out more hope in the world. I’m inclined to be a night owl, but I’ve been trying to go to bed at a normal time. Some of my best scenes come together while I swim laps. Writing is an incredible tool that helps me make sense of the world. Thank you for taking the time to read!
Ruth Ebenstein is an American-Israeli writer, historian and peace and health activist who loves to laugh a lot and heartily. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Bosom Buddies: How Breast Cancer Fostered an Unexpected Friendship Across the Israeli-Palestinian Divide. Ruth has published her shorter writing on both sides of the Atlantic and won two first-place Simon Rockower awards, sponsored by the American Jewish Press Association. Her essays and articles have appeared in the Atlantic, TriQuarterly, Washington Post, WomansDay.com, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, House Beautiful, Tablet, USA Today, the Forward, Stars and Stripes, Education Week, Entropy, Guideposts, Brain, Child, Times of Israel, Quail Bell Magazine, and other publications. She has also written a children’s book entitled All of this Country is Called Jerusalem.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, adult contemporary fiction about the need for one woman to tell her story without shame.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
Sarton Women’s Book Award Finalist
USA Book News Best Book Finalist
Readers’ Favorite Finalist
Great Midwest Book Festival Honorable Mention
“With tenderness, but without blinking, Linda K. Sienkiewicz turns her eye on the predator-prey savannah of the young and still somehow hopeful.” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller, Deep End of the Ocean