A Palestinian, an Israeli and a retired American couple met in Beit Jala… It may sound like the beginning of a joke, but to us, it was the beginning of a partnership filled with hope for a peaceful future because, despite the many tensions and history of conflict, we are still Two Neighbors who need to be able to coexist in peace.
Two Neighbors is a company 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. The company is actually achieving this through fashion! How?
Two Neighbors strives to bring “peace through the eye of a needle” with the dedicated goal of 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. Oh and did I mention the incredible workmanship and designs? Check out one of their new handbags!
1. How did you two (founders) meet?
The original founders are cousins and they wanted to do something with the Peace talks between Palestinians and Israeli folks. So they decided to start a small business that would have the two sides working together to create a business. In this case, they wanted it to be focused on the women working together because that appeared to be where the spark of understanding was. When you put women together, they talk about their children, they talk about the future of their children and what they want for them. They noticed the Jewish and the Muslim women bonding over the children, so they decided that a business idea using only or mostly women would be ideal. Women are the peacemakers. It was a natural extension of what they witnessed in the “Center for Emerging Futures” peace talks that were going on.
Once the brand got up and running, one of the Founders, Dr. Whitman Jones and his wife Mrs. Paula Jones, now run the company.
2: How did you come up with this idea?
The founders knew that Palestinian women were famous for their embroidery skills that had passed down from generation to generation, so they came up with the idea that they could create coffee cup sleeves using Palestinian embroidery and have them made in Isreal. Over time, this idea did not really do very well. So the founders hired an Israeli fashion designer and the idea for high-quality women’s apparel was born. This idea has stayed and been successful and the brand has also evolved to include accessories and handbags.
3. What has been the biggest obstacle so far, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest obstacle is getting the pieces back and forth between the villages and the sewing locations, so logistics is an issue due to all the roadblocks and logistical barriers between going from the two sides. There are a lot of checkpoints and paperwork, and sometimes communication is an issue. This is an ongoing challenge (as it would be with any international company) but we use WHATSAPP and it works well. Our Palestinian coordinator speaks good English and Arabic and our Israeli coordinator speaks English and Hebrew. Between our teams, we get things done.
4. Do have a particular success story you’d like to share?
We added handbags last year and we were successful with our first product launch, all the embroidery and the bags made in Israel came out beautiful on the first production run. That is a huge success since this is an entire new category for the brand!
5. Do you have any physical shops in Israel or Palestine, or is it all sold online?
One of our staff members in Tel Aviv has a shop in Tel Aviv called Studio Judy and she carries part of our collection. We do have a small basic shop with a limited selection of the apparel in the Palestinian village. Otherwise, in that region, you have to shop online. In the USA we have our items in 2 or 3 boutiques and the full line available online.