By Isa Covo

Here is what happened when women took matters into their own hands.

Recently I read an article about some Palestinian women and children from Jubbet ad-Dib, a Bedouin village, who one day, and without warning, stormed the offices of their district council and demanded clean water and electricity for their village. They tricked the council head into visiting their village by offering to pay for a taxi, which in a patriarchal society is considered an insult. But it worked, and the governor, bringing along a delegation, went to visit Jubbet al-Dib at his own expense. He even brought some catered food, which the women found inferior, so they contributed some money and prepared a better meal.

Since they had no electricity, they had to use wood fires to cook and heat their homes. The houses were full of smoke, which took a toll on their health. They had to ask people in neighboring villages to let them use their refrigerators to keep their food, and for clean water. They also needed help to charge their phones.

The children suffered as well, for they had to walk on muddy roads to go to school, and the staff would not allow them to enter the school because they were dirty. They had no access to television, so when others discussed cartoons or children’s programs, they didn’t know what they were talking about.

Through their determination to change their situation, the women managed to get help from Palestinian-Israeli NGOs to build the village’s infrastructure; install solar panels; and get a source of clean water, a paved road, and bus service to take their children to school. Now the children of Jubbet ad-Dib are the ones who are envied.

The improvements went beyond clean water and electricity, as the village now has a brand new clinic and some small businesses, including a grocery store selling ice cream.

All this work was done by women, and they decided to register as a nonprofit, the Association of Jubbet ad-Dib Women. As such they interact with both Palestinian and Israeli authorities as a professional body independent from the district council. Word of their work spread, and they now host visiting foreign delegations and representatives of the district government.

In a patriarchal society, such accomplishments coming from women without the participation of men seem not only surprising, but also improbable. However, the women appreciate the fact that men work hard outside the village, and they felt they had to step in in order to bring about the necessary improvements. Now, they explain, men recognize their efforts and are proud that their wives have become famous and have created a village that is different from and better than surrounding ones. They also respect them more, and that has curbed domestic violence, and families are closer.

The women feel self-confident working as a group and discussing projects and ideas. They started by concentrating on their own needs—what they knew intimately; and from there they managed to change their environment and their lives. Now they can help others do it as well.

By tending to our own garden first—to paraphrase Voltaire—we can, perhaps, tend to the world. It only takes courage, cooperation, being considerate and persistent, and displaying no resentments.


Salmon Rillettes By Isa Covo

Ingredients (makes about 2 1/2 cups):

  • 1/2 lb. salmon fillet, skinned and boned
  • 1/2 lb. smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed peppercorns, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, preferably cognac; or gin
  • 7 oz. (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons salmon caviar
  • Dill fronds for decoration (optional)


  1. Cut the fresh salmon into half-inch cubes.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the wine and spices to a boil, lower the heat, and add the salmon cubes. Stir and simmer gently, about 4 to 5 minutes, until the salmon loses its deep pink color and becomes opaque. With a slotted spoon, remove the salmon from the pan and transfer it to a bowl. Boil down the liquid for a few minutes until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Transfer to a small container and reserve.
  3. In the same pan, heat the olive oil gently and return the salmon cubes to it. Simmer for 1 minute, add the brandy, continue simmering for 2 to 3 minutes, and flake the fish, being careful not to mash it or let it brown. Drain the liquid and add it to the wine broth. Set the salmon and the broth aside to cool.
  4. In the same pan, over very low heat, melt half the butter, but do not let it brown. Cut the smoked salmon into medium-sized pieces and add them to the melted butter. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes until the salmon turns pale pink.
  5. Transfer the cooked smoked salmon, with the butter and the reserved broth from the fresh salmon, to a food processor and let it cool completely. Meanwhile cut the rest of the butter into small cubes.
  6. Process the smoked-salmon-and-butter mixture to a smooth and homogenous paste. With the motor still running, gradually drop the butter cubes through the feeding tube and pulse until all the butter has been absorbed, but do not over-process, for the mixture can become oily and separate. Transfer to a bowl large enough to contain all the ingredients and fold in the flaked, fresh salmon; the dill; and the salmon caviar. The texture should be a little rough.
  7. Transfer to one or more containers from which the rillettes will be served, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  8. Remove the rillettes from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving in order for them to reach a spreadable consistency, but they should still be served cold. Decorate with dill fronds.

Serve with toasted baguette slices or, even better, with toasted brioche.

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