Adults are appearing, to help the
youth become the best they can be.
Courageous, creative Palestinian and Israeli educators have invented a new kind of history textbook for use by students in both Israeli and Palestinian classrooms, in both languages. See it at:
LEARNING EACH OTHER'S HISTORICAL NARRATIVE: Palestinians and Israelis is beyond "my story is the only right story." It helps students to learn both sides' narratives and how the other sees history and life. And to ask questions.
Instead of discrediting and dehumanizing the "other," and fanning the flames of war, this new breed of balanced textbook trains teachers to be emissaries for peace-building.
It prepares students, even in the midst of conflict, to begin to understand and humanize the "other" -- the beginning of the end of war.
Teachers and students are becoming part of a new culture of respect and cooperation that benefits all.
Thanks to Professor Sami Adwan, Bethlehem University ( SAdwan@bethlehem.edu ) and Professor Dan Bar-On, Ben Gurion University ( DanBaron@bgumail.bgu.ac.il ), Co-Directors of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME).
In Kentucky, Jews and Palestinians
across the ocean are also building relationships and mentoring youth.
From Knoxville, Adrienne Dessel ( AdrienneBD@knology.net ) wrote Monday: "I want you to know that today. . .,we had 17 participants of Arab and Jewish descent come to a two hour dialogue session. This was the first time we have had such expanded and involved participation, and people addressed some difficult and challenging issues. I am grateful (to the Dialogue movement and local Palestinian Jim Harb) for providing such inspiration."
In Louisville, three years ago a handful of mainstream Palestinian and Jewish Americans found one another.
A year ago -- December 8, 2003 -- their Courier-Journal's banner said: "Louisville dialogue seeks seeds of a Mideast peace: Jewish, Palestinian residents open up their homes, hearts for gatherings."
Architect and Jewish co-founder, Mark Isaacs ( email@example.com ), talked then about "the importance of why we come together. . .to dream big dreams that are beyond a handful of folks sitting in Louisville, Kentucky."
big they did, and brought out of a conflict region 23 young Palestinian and
Israeli musicians -- "Making Harmony" -- to to perform 11 Louisville
concerts before 5,000 inspired women, men, and youth.
Today on the phone, Debbie Masri ( DebMasri@aol.com ) was effusive.
"It was a big deal. The kids found out they were equals. It's all about people!!"
Mark Isaacs recalled today how the Palestinian and Israeli youth wept when they saw him and Dialogue co-founder Basha Masri ( BBMasri@aol.com ) arm in arm, in tears, responding to the music and the youth "making harmony."
Isaacs remembered the parting words of Amir, the young Palestinian drummer from Nablus: "Joy is the weapon."
The Louisville Dialogue -- http://togetherfor2states.org/ -- can imagine a North American "Marking Harmony Tour" of these show-stopping Israeli and Palestinian music makers and relationship-builders. If it interests you, write to them.
Jewish and Palestinian educators; a book; some classrooms of students; 17 Arabs
and Jews in Knoxville; a handful more in Louisville; 23 young, inspired
Palestinian and Israeli travelling musicians.
The numbers are small.
They always are in the beginning.
Heather Mack, an American University student of International Peace and Conflict Resolution earlier today reminded us what Einstein knew:
In this Season of LIght and possibility, let not one of us withhold our gifts, our ideas, our power.
Everyone is needed.
Published in The Jordan Times -- Thursday, December 9, 2004
Palestinian, Israeli children 'imagine' peace
By Omar Attum
I love children. They have no agenda just raw emotion happiness, love and hope. I was reminded of this when I spent ten days with Israeli and Palestinian children from the Shani Choir of Jezreel Valley Music School and the National Palestine Centre for Music in Nablus as they visited Louisville, KY, in mid-November.
The enthusiasm of the 23 teens, 13 Israeli singers and 10 Palestinian instrumentalists, for beautiful music peacefully held concerts together in churches, schools and a synagogue. Their performance of John Lennon's Imagine in Arabic, English and Hebrew always brought audiences to tears and standing ovations.
Why was music so successful in overcoming barriers?
According to Harry Pickens, a composer who conducted a music workshop for the children, singing and performing together in itself creates a sense of community. Solving problems is easier if everyone sees themselves as belonging to the same community.
This sense of community was missing from the children's lives. Despite living less than two hours away from one another, it was not possible for them to meet until they left the region. This would be the first time for them to know someone from the other side. As a 13-year-old Palestinian boy said in astonishment after meeting for the first time Israelis who are not soldiers, they are actually nice. Israelis lost their fear, as they realised we are not that different from Palestinians.
Honest and emotional group discussions revealed that these children are not naive or an eccentric group. Diana Salah, a 23-year-old chaperone from Nablus, has paid the ultimate price. She watched her civilian brother and father be killed as the Israeli army sprayed bullets into her home, mistakenly thinking militants lived there. A rocket would later destroy what was left of the house. Diana has a right to hate the world. Amazingly, her revenge is not to shed Israeli blood but to bring an end to violence and have peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Diana, who wears a pendant with pictures of her father and brother, doesn't want civilians to become a statistic, classified as collateral damage or hear the empty and cold apology: We regret the loss of innocent life.
The children tearfully spoke of their dreams for a peaceful homeland and the pain of not having it. Palestinians recognised that using violence to resist the occupation has killed innocent Israelis, who suffer the same grief as Diana. Israelis are afraid of being blown up while riding the bus, just as Palestinians are afraid of being killed by the tanks that roam their streets. Israelis recognised that the Palestinians are suffering under the occupation and want the same security as Israelis.
These children are victims caught in a cycle of violence, as Israeli children will likely be conscripted by the army and the Palestinian youths will be pressured to join the resistance when they get older.
Both sides wanted an end to the violence that has failed to make the Israelis safer or end the occupation. They spoke of the need to establish a peaceful future instead of focusing on the past.
Watching these brave children tearfully say good-bye to their new friends at the airport was heartbreaking. As a US citizen, it is easier for me to visit either group than it is for them to see one another when they return home. An Israeli girl cried: I won't be able to sing `Imagine' with my Palestinian friends when I go home. An Israeli-Arab girl wept in my arms: This is the first time I have been accepted by both Jews and Palestinians. The Palestinian boys dreaded going back to the checkpoints and living in an area considered by the United State's State Department as too dangerous to visit.
Despite the psychological trauma, peace is possible. Just as these children practised to become great musicians, they have practised making peace during their ten days together.
Bashar Masri, a Palestinian-American who has not forgotten he grew up in Nablus, and Mark Isaacs, who is Jewish and loves Israel, have been practising peace together through dialogue for the last three years through the organisation they co-founded: Together for 2 States ( http://www.togetherfor2states.org ). They brought and financed the children's visit, with the support of the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, to practise peace and perform the Making Harmony Tour.
The Jezreel Valley Music School is currently trying to make arrangements to hold a Making Harmony concert in Israel, and Isaacs and Masri are working on getting the children back to the US for a multi-city tour.
No one should wait for their leaders to bring peace. Anyone can be a peace-maker if they practise.
The writer is a freelance photographer and author. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.