"Never doubt that a
small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has," said Margaret Mead.
Palestinians and Jews were seen changing in two parts of America during recent September weekends.
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Duluth, Minnesota hosted The First Midwest Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue Weekend -- September 18-19, 2004.
It's described at http://traubman.igc.org/duluth.htm , as is "The Children of Abraham Project," a stunning, inspired stage performance by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth from Detroit.
You can see photos from this historic Duluth weekend at http://share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeAN2zNk1aNGTM-g .
from five states attended the Dialogue Weekend.
Safaa, a doubtful but determined Palestinian woman drove after work eight hours all through the night from South Milwaukee to Duluth, out of desire to be at the first 9:00 a.m. meeting.
Along the way she nervously picked up Yoav, a graduate economics student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a former Israeli IDF soldier.
A Jewish professor of music flew all the way from Houston, Texas, and a Palestinian school superintendent drove from Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Others -- women and men, equally -- said being face-to-face changed them.
"I had a most amazing experience this weekend."
"Thank you for facilitating such an eye-opening weekend. We came away with insights un-thought-of up to this point. I'm sure you will be hearing more from the Twin Cities contingent."
"After one of the most invigorating, inspiring week-ends I have ever spent, I am still trying to 'digest' the unbelievable impact it had on me. Although I have been involved for many years in the 'Israel-Palestinian problem,' I must confess that I have never experienced the 'one-on-one' kind of input that went on in our dialogue. It was truly sensational. Just to witness the inner distress that (a Palestinian) and others were openly 'getting out of their hearts,' was amazing to me---and then to see them ultimately lift their arms to hug us was truly a tribute to what (the) dialogue ventures have and can continue to achieve."
"thank you again for such an inspiring weekend ...........minneapolis is definitely ignited.........we just need to figure out what to do with the fire!!!!!!!!!!!!"
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In California, Camp Tawonga near Yosemite National Park hosted The Second Oseh Shalom~Sanea al-Salam Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Weekend -- Friday to Sunday, September 10-12, 2004.
The camp experience is described at http://traubman.igc.org/camp.htm .
You can see the 100-plus photos at http://share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeAN2zNk1aNGTNJg .
Living together for three days and two nights, intimate with nature and one another, the emphasis was on "story," compassionate listening, and relationship building, as you will see in the photographs.
We cannot continue to live in the darkest of illusions: "wanting" peace and not pursuing sustained relationships with the "other" -- independent of governments.
It is in these face-to-face heart connections that we can finally realize that "any enemy is one whose story we have not heard."
This is where equality begins and people are re-born -- becoming more human, wanting the best for one another -- in ever-increasing numbers.
We encourage you to take these steps of the public peace process where you live.
Published in j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern
California -- Friday September 17, 2004
Jews, Palestinians converge
at Tawonga Peacemakers weekend
by Alexandra J. Wall
Over the weekend at Camp Tawonga, a 16-year-old navigated a pedal boat on the lake and then scaled a tree in the ropes course.
What was out of the ordinary was that the boy, Ameen Mukhaimer, had never before been in a boat.
His waterborne experienced was fine, he said, but being so high up in the trees? Dont try it, he advised, its scary!
Even more remarkable Mukhaimer is Palestinian, and he arrived from the West Bank village of Sabastia, near Nablus, only a month ago. He is an exchange student at a San Jose high school.
Mukhaimer was one of about 60 participants at Camp Tawongas second Oseh Shalom-Sanea al-Salam, or Peacemakers, weekend, timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11.
It was a time for participants in the dozen or so Jewish-Palestinian dialogue groups from around the Bay Area to come together with their families not only to talk as they do at their monthly meetings but to relax and have fun together in the mountains near Yosemite. And for those who are regulars at Tawongas family weekends, it was a time to learn about the dialogue groups and what they do.
But in comparison to last years session, which drew about 20 Palestinian participants, this years contingent dwindled to seven. This not only disappointed the organizers but Tawongas Israeli staff, most of whom had never before met a Palestinian.
Israeli counselor Eldad Argov said that before working at last years Peacemakers weekend, his only contact with Palestinians had been as a soldier, even though he is from Haifa, the most integrated city in Israel.
Argov had a transformative experience last year, hearing a Palestinian describe what it was like to stand for hours at the very same checkpoints Argov had to man during his army service. He stayed especially to work at this years weekend, and while he was disappointed with the Palestinian turnout, he said that when he returns to Israel, he would have no such opportunities at all.
Speaking of Israels security barrier, he said, The fence is not only physical, it separates people mentally and makes it impossible for dialogue. The fact that were here despite the fence gives me hope.
During a closing discussion, the Palestinian participants were asked to reflect on how it felt to be such a minority. Raeda Ashkar ( Raeda_Ashkar@hotmail.com ), who has been living in Cupertino for the last few years, said that as an Arab citizen of Israel, she was used to being a minority.
Ashkar, who is from Nazareth, was not totally pessimistic, however. She told the group how a Jewish student had reached out to her, years ago when Ashkar was a university student in Israel; this had a tremendous impact on her, she said.
You young Israelis have that chance. Most Arabs feel that the Jews are [given] superior [treatment], and if you reach out to them, you will change that one person, she said. The young will start the peace.
While several camps in the United States bring Israelis and Palestinians together, Tawonga is the first Jewish summer camp to host Palestinians.
Ken Kramarz ( Ken@Tawonga.org ), Tawongas executive director, joined a dialogue group almost four years ago, and soon after, dreamed about holding such a weekend. Now he proudly showed off a T-shirt, with the Tawonga logo rendered both in Hebrew and Arabic, and wondered aloud what camp founders would think.
Although Tawongas board was mostly supportive, there were some concerns about security last year, so much so that its leadership did not want j. to report on the weekend.
But this year, the board was ready to publicize an event they considered groundbreaking.
The best thing we can do for our children is to provide models for their actions, said Michael Katten ( MKatten@yahoo.com ), a Tawonga board member. Talking about peace is a camp tradition, and by having a camp that promotes peace, were making sure theyll become active in making peace.