The devastating headlines coming out of Israel-Gaza these past few weeks have evoked many feelings of hopelessness in, and for, the region. Yet here at Euphrates our aim is to call attention to hope that IS happening amidst this frontline fire. And so we’d like to share with you the examples of our first two “Visionary of the Year” recipients, a Palestinian and Israeli, who are refusing to despair, to give up, or to resort to violence even as they live day to day in the midst of this conflict. They are holding to the everpresent power of hope, and showing a way out of the never-ending cycle of hatred and conflict.
Sami Awad, a Palestinian from Bethlehem, is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust. Earlier this week, Sami issued a five-point call to action entitled, “Entrapped in a cycle of hatred and the way out,” in which he called for “all acts of violence and aggression” to cease, as well as “the language of incitement and hatred.” He also states that it is time for a nonviolent movement to emerge which includes Palestinians and Israelis working together to address injustice and to “work together in building a new vision and model for peace, justice and equality” along with “a strategy that breaks down all the physical and psychological barriers that perpetuate hatred, anger and thus separation and violence–even if the removal of such barriers challenges the core political assumptions and ideological beliefs we carry and whose existence we think we need for our own survival.” Sami points out that this will require creating the “space for healing and transformation” within each community, and his organization is actively working on this component, in addition to bridge-building between the Israeli and Palestinian communities at the grassroots level.
Ronny Edry is an Israeli graphic designer who started the Facebook phenomenon Israel Loves Iran, which in turn inspired others to create social media groups, such as Palestine Loves Israel, Iran Loves Israel, and more. These pages provide an outlet for communication, humanization, and empathy for the other side in the midst of a climate that emphasizes dehumanization and isolation. Ronny is also spearheading the call for a ceasefire of the Israel-Gaza conflict.
A post on the page last week from a man in Gaza, named Eslam, shows the importance of maintaining these channels for communication and understanding:
“I’m from Gaza, I don’t want to die, I have a dream, I want to finish my university, bombs are everywhere, No place that I can be safe, Where I can be safe? In Israel there is a shelter under the ground in each home that can keep them safe, but here there is no shelter, and even if there is a shelter, f16 rocket can destroy anything. I wish my people could understand the idea of peace, we, the new generation in Gaza knows nothing about the Israeli people, most of us have never seen an Israeli, we just see your planes, bombs and other killing tools, and that’s the hatred language. I just see u in TV and internet and just the pictures of ur soldiers, I don’t know if u r humans have children and have feelings, Do u love and hate? Do u think?, Do u believe? I don’t know even u r human just like us or what?”
And here’s an example of one of the many comments in response to his post, this from Tania from Israel:
“Shalom, Salaam Eslam, I hope for your sake and your family that you are safe and this craziness will end and we can all find peace, we Israelis are told the same thing about palestinians- we are only shown pictures of your children with guns saying ‘kill Israel’ and your soldiers swearing they will die in order to kill us all. That is all we are told. But some of us know the truth that we are all human and most of us no matter where we live want peace and safety for our loved ones and for all people everywhere. We believe in peace. Thank you for sharing on this page.”
For information on other groups working on grassroots peace efforts:
The Parents Circle Families Forum – bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families working together for peace. Watch our interview in Bethlehem with members Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, (also profiled in the documentary, Encounter Point.)
Combatants for Peace – an organization started jointly by former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants who have laid down their guns to “fight for peace.”
Interfaith Encounter Association – dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study. Watch founder Dr. Yehuda Stolov’s Euphrates Summit talk, “Holy Land Peace: Easier than You Think”.
Open House Ramle – a peace education center in Ramle, Israel, founded by Dalia Landau, protagonist in the bestselling book, The Lemon Tree.
Jerusalem Peacemakers - a network of independent interfaith peace-builders dedicated to encouraging understanding and reconciliation in the Holy Land, co-founded by Ibrahim Abu al Hawa, who maintains a peace guest house in Jerusalem open to all and run entirely on donations.
One Voice is an international grassroots movement in support of a two-state solution.
MePeace.org - a network for peace with thousands of peacemakers.
Breaking the Silence - an organization of Israeli veteran combatants who publish testimonies of their service in the Palestinian Territories in order to stimulate debate and expose Israeli citizens to the occupation.
Just Vision uses media to highlight the power and potential of Palestinians and Israelis in the nonviolent action movement.
Join us on our trip to Israel, West Bank, and Jordan this September (15th-28th) to meet some of these groups in person and to support the voices of reason. We have two spots still available!
- “The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin... http://t.co/vJbMKzkuP7
- J Street is a consistent voice of reason...see their statement issued today. http://t.co/tpLx7ExCJ5
- Illuminating article from the Palestinian perspective on Gaza and the Is-Pal situation. http://t.co/EHaH1OAHmz