When retired American couple, Dr. Whitman Jones and his wife Paula created The Center for Emerging Futures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing some of the most difficult situations that humans face, they didn’t realize they would also be launching an innovative fashion brand soon thereafter.
After visiting Israel and seeing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians firsthand, Jones began looking for ways to facilitate peaceful connections that could transcend the conflict. Given the skill sets of women in the region, Jones had the idea to bring Israeli seamstresses and designers together with Palestinian embroiderers to create a high-end fashion collection that could create jobs and highlight talents from both sides of the conflict.
By creating unlikely business partnerships, the company is dedicated to bringing today’s opposing cultures in Israeli and Palestine together by providing jobs for women and a pathway to collaboration and peace in a very broken society.
Despite cultural, geographical and political challenges, Two Neighbors is dedicated to making an impact by demonstrating a willingness to take two opposing nations and have them work hand in hand creating products that integrate different cultures, languages, and overall belief systems.
Two Neighbors Sara Saddle bag is made from Italian leather, designed by an Israeli designer with a statement strap made by a Palestinian embroidererTWO NEIGHBORS
Although the Jones’ started the company, they currently only serve as advisors. There are a handful of women who are integral to making Two Neighbors a success. It is this small team of women who run all aspects of the business, from manufacturing to marketing to accounting.
The company’s Marketing Director, Tara, is an American with nearly two decades of experience in design and sales in the fashion industry. The head of production, Judy, has been in the fashion industry for over 25 years and currently lives in Tel Aviv.
A clutch by Two Neighbors boasts Israeli design sensibilities with Palestinian nuances in the embroideryTWO NEIGHBORS
Segal is the Israeli Coordinator. She is a social entrepreneur, interested in art and education. A native Israeli, Segal has always felt that reaching peace is a priority issue for all people in the Middle East. Her hope is that Two Neighbors will encourage productive interaction between the two nations and set an example that it is the responsibility of every individual to seek peace and connections within their community.
The Palestinian Coordinator, Adeem, has an education in English and for her, Two Neighbors is an opportunity for women from both sides to be a part of the peace process and to strengthen the social and economic development of their communities.
When asked what working for Two Neighbors has meant to her, Adeem said it has expanded her vision, dreams and hopes. “I am not open to everyone about my work since unfortunately, not everyone sees the good intentions on the other side. People from both sides should be more open to each other. Small things affect the peace process, but we need to be patient as we try to seek peace. To me, Two Neighbors is one of the small movements that will help us achieve peace.”
Traditional Palestinian embroidery is a hallmark of Two Neighbors productsTWO NEIGHBORS
Many of the women producing the goods, both Palestinian and Israeli, are often under educated, so the Two Neighbors team equips the women with the tools and training needed to make the business run efficiently. The ultimate goal is for the US partners to exit the company, leaving the women in both nations working hand in hand to continue to grow a profitable organization and serve as an example of how women from both sides can work peacefully together.
In addition, Two Neighbors economically empowers these women and provides them with the financial means to have a voice in their families and communities. With this financial support, they’re able to send their children to school and provide them with access to medical care and much more.
“We stopped asking our fathers and brothers for money,” said Kefah, one of the Palestinian embroidery designers. “I used to dream of having a camera and thank God Two Neighbors has helped me to have one. I have another dream to have a driving license and to be the first girl driver in the town. As long I work with Two Neighbors, I will have my own money which will help me get the license.”
At the end of the day, Two Neighbors is about creating peace at the ground level through individuals. Their mission is creating beautiful products through a shared humanity and their most significant achievement is the partnership created among team members in Israel and Palestine.