Adee Horn (AdeeH@yahoo.com) teaches
at Lincoln High School and is a devoted participant in Jewish-Palestinian
Dialogue in San Francisco.
Not long ago, an Israeli flag was burned on her campus, and there was high tension. Adee has almost single-handedly changed all that.
How? By allowing her students to move beyond "taking sides" -- to tell their stories and be heard. And the students have changed, by appreciating the different narratives that help us understand and humanize two fine peoples -- Jews and Palestinians -- as seen in this morning's article.
Symbolic for their Lincoln High classmates are Palestinian Samia Hussein and Emily Kaplan, who lost her best friend in the Passover suicide bombing in Israel. Adee has brought them together, and helped the student body understand both people's stories.
One Lincoln High student concluded: "It just really made me realize, hearing their tragic stories, how equal the suffering is on both ends."
One person can make a big difference. Adee Horn did. So can each one of us, wherever we live.
Published in the San Francisco Chronicle -- Friday, April 26, 2002
S.F. class takes Mideast conflict personally
Israeli, Palestinian girls help Lincoln High students connect human faces to suffering
Anastasia Hendrix, Chronicle Staff Writer
Emily Kaplan lost her best friend in a suicide bomber attack during Passover and, through a series of coincidences, ended up making a new and unlikely one.
The 15-year-old freshman at Lincoln High School in San Francisco, during a recent talk to a conflict mediation class, shared her grief and stories about growing up in Israel.
She talked about having been shot in the foot by pro-Palestinian demonstrators near her home in Haifa, of overhearing two girls speaking in Arabic describing her as evil, unaware she could understand them. And she spoke of her heartbreak and shock after hearing her friend had been killed in the escalating conflict in her former homeland.
"At first it was really unreal, I just couldn't believe it, and I wanted to know, 'How could this happen?' " Kaplan said as she clutched a teddy bear that permanently resides in Room 106 to offer comfort in moments of need.
Of the dozen or so students who heard Kaplan speak, 17-year-old senior Samia Hussein -- whose parents fled from Palestine as teenagers -- appeared most affected.
Since their first meeting two weeks ago, the girls have spent hours in the class talking about the politics of the peace process, forging a new bond and personalizing the conflict for their classmates.
They asked pointed questions, compared philosophies and passionately argued their perspectives.
"I understand how she feels, because I know a lot of people who have been close to my family who have lost their lives," said Hussein. "It's just nonsense because everybody's losing on both sides. Hearing her story made a difference because I realized we have more in common about the issue than not."
For example, Kaplan has many relatives who are Palestinian, while Hussein's cousin married an Israeli. They agree that both sides are unlikely to compromise anytime soon, and neither holds out much hope for peace. Both realize the irony that while they share a friendly connection, the most recent Palestinian suicide bomber -- and her victim -- were close to their own age.
"The thing is that over there you grow up twice as fast," Kaplan said, explaining that the complications of the conflict are a fact of life even for the youngest children.
Kaplan was invited to speak to the class by Adee Horn, a peer resource coordinator who teaches the conflict mediation class and runs the school's peer mentoring program. Though she has talked with hundreds of students about sensitive and deeply personal issues, she said she was inspired by witnessing their exchange.
"It was surprising to me, in a way, that it was so easy for the girls to listen to each other so openly, and I only hope that we big people can get together and listen to each other and perhaps that can make things change," said Horn, who has Israeli roots and belongs to a Jewish-Palestinian dialogue group in San Francisco.
Horn also had invited two Palestinian teenagers, Sanabel Al-Faraja and Kayan Al-Saify, to share their accounts of living amid the violence. Al-Faraja, featured in a documentary film nominated for an Academy Award, traveled with Al-Saify to the United States to attend last month's Oscar ceremony. They have been unable to return to their refugee camp outside Bethlehem because it has been sealed off by the Israeli military occupation.
Meanwhile, the teens have met with many Bay Area groups and given dozens of interviews about their plight. Today, they will speak to a group of about 700 Bay Area high school students at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel. They all belong to the Junior State of America, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian national organization with 500 chapters at high schools across the country for students interested in debate, government and politics. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the issues being debated.
Erika Astabie, a 17-year-old senior at Lincoln High, said she would never forget the necklace one of the girls showed her during their talk. It was made with a bullet that had been shot at her, which she wears as a constant reminder of the struggles her family has gone through.
"Just hearing her describe the things she has seen and saying that her friends and family have no future was really heartbreaking," Astabie said.
The Palestinian girls had been gone just 10 minutes when Kaplan came to Horn's classroom to talk about her friend's death during the suicide bombing of a Haifa restaurant last month.
Horn later persuaded Kaplan to share the experience with the other students.
Many say they now feel a close human connection to the faraway conflict.
"It just really made me realize, hearing their tragic stories, how equal the suffering is on both ends," said Ramisi Gomes, 18. "But even though it clarified some things, the whole situation is still kind of confusing to me."
E-mail Anastasia Hendrix at firstname.lastname@example.org