Jewish-Palestinian bonds overcome fear, model life beyond war

Thursday, 15 January 2009


"Either war is finished or we are."

from War and Remembrance

by Herman Wouk

"While it might be tempting to "take sides" between Israel and the Palestinians,

spiritually there are no sides to be taken.

God does not give us victory in battle but rather lifts us above the battlefield.

As a generation, our moral imperative is to end war period,

to somehow move beyond the idea that war is an acceptable means of solving problems.

Anything less than that makes us attitudinal

conspirators with a line of probability leading to nuclear catastrophe."

Marianne Williamson, Jaunary 2009

     Williamson continued: "As the poet Rumi wrote so eloquently, 'Out beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I'll meet you there.'
     " So go there now.
     "Such thoughts are not just poetry, or even symbol, any longer.
     "In the world that's being born, they're the stuff of a new politics."

     Here are five examples of how citizens lead the way, giving consent for governments to follow. 
     See how people bring principles to life in this Citizens' Century.

                - L&L

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     Maha Mehanna lives in Gaza, and her friend Deb Reich lives in Israel.
     Despite war, the two friends are determined to stay in touch, and even support one another. 
     Like most Gazans, Maha is staying inside with her family, huddling around candles while the bombardment continues.
     Deb and Maha talk about how they met, and how both women worry about the fate of Mohammed who is sick, needs outside medical attention, but cannot leave Gaza under siege.
     Deb says she calls Maha nearly every day, as much as she can, to check in on the family and distract Maha from her fears.

Friendship Without Borders

WUNC-FM - North Carolina Public Radio - 13 January 2009

The Story by Dick Gordon  - Distributed by American Public Media

LISTEN at bottom of page

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     Despite the current war with Gaza, a new science workshop connects Israelis to their Palestinian neighbors, with a bigger purpose - providing everyone with water.
     Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Jews, and American researchers meet face to face to address the shared problem of water scarcity and new science that could address the growing lack of water in their shared land and Middle East in general.
     "These are not supposed to be conventional workshops where people talk about advances in science in their specialty," says the executive director.  "We designed them around a topic of regional importance."
     "It's not just for science in general. We are aiming that the people will sit together and start to talk..."
     The crisis with Gaza has not affected progress. "These are the first ever workshops of this kind," he says. "It's part of the general tendency to get people closer together to work in science."

Palestinian and Israeli scientists unite to help the region

By Karin Kloosterman  

January 06, 2009



= =  3  = =

    Even during war, Israeli and Palestinian teen youth sustain relationships born at BUILDING BRIDGES FOR PEACE,  their 15-year-old annual summer program in the Colorado mountains.
     More about this exemplary Denver-based program of Seeking Common Ground is at

Peace through understanding, cooperation

ABC-TV News - Denver, Colorado - 05 January 2009

To WATCH, In the lower left corner, search for the "Peace through understanding"

= =  4  = =
     As war fails again, news journalists increasingly seek citizen-examples of life beyond war.
     In past days, the 16-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue in California is seeing that it's public peace process activities are reported not simply as "human interest" but hard news.

KGO Radio News (3 min) -

NPR's Weekend America -

More is at the bottom of

Or simply Google "Jewish Palestinian Progress"


= =  5 = =
     Daniel Noah Moses is the director of the Delegation Leaders Program at SEEDS OF PEACE.
     Aaron Shneyer ( ) is the director of HEARTBEAT JERUSALEM, the Israeli-Palestinian youth music project.
     They are the new breed of young adults who refuse to be enemies, reject violence, and insist on engaging then help others do the same.
     They conclude: "With war raging, with people dying, with pain, anger, and hatred intensifying, world citizens of conscience must take responsibility and realize our power to help transform this conflict.
     "A well-coordinated people-to-people initiative would do more than perhaps anything to ease the tensions in the greater Middle East and on the world scene."

Gaza needs a peace stimulus
History shows the power of people-to-people contact.
By Daniel Noah Moses and Aaron Shneyer
Published by The Christian Science Monitor - 14 January 2009

     Jerusalem - "We have failed, haven't we?" our colleague from Gaza said over the phone, amid the sound of explosions.
     For those of us engaged in "people to people" peace building, the latest violent chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is both tragic and surreal. All around us, people remain convinced that the solution to the conflict depends on military fatigues, armored tanks, Qassam rockets, suicide bombers, stones, and F-16s. But violence will only prolong the conflict and inflict deeper wounds.
     Israelis and Palestinians have a choice. They can continue business as usual: violence, separation, hatred, and fear. Or they can recognize that they must look for mutually beneficial ways to share their small corner of the world.
     People-to-people diplomacy works on the assumption that if Israelis and Palestinians connect at a human level, they will build compassion and trust. They will change public opinion. Painfully, slowly, they will create cross-border movements to transform the cultural and political reality on the ground.
     Many question the impact of people-to-people diplomacy. But it has hardly been tried. Researchers estimate that perhaps 5 percent of the Palestinian and Israeli populations have engaged in an organized "dialogue" or "encounter" program of any kind.
     Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, an estimated 1 percent or less of Palestinian and Israeli youth have had such an opportunity. It's unreasonable to dismiss people-to-people programs based on such a meager attempt.
     When the conflict between Israel and Hamas took its latest ugly turn, Israeli and Palestinian graduates of the Seeds of Peace summer camp in Maine were at a citywide interfaith celebration in Haifa. While Hamas and the Israeli government communicated through violence, the "Seeds" communicated with words and affirmed their commitment to finding nonviolent ways to build a better future.
     Participants of all ages in reconciliation programs such as Seeds of Peace go through profound personal transformations. They do not melt into soft consensus and sing "Kumbaya." They struggle intensely. They disagree radically about fundamental issues.
     At the same time, they come to terms with the existence and the perspectives of the "other side." They form deep, life-long relationships. They build trust.
     But it is difficult for seeds to flourish when the ground is toxic. To cultivate a culture of peace, we need a critical mass.
     Leading up to the Good Friday agreements in Northern Ireland in 1998, at least $650 million in mostly government funds was spent over five years to bring Catholics and Protestants together. This people-to-people diplomacy touched at least one-sixth of the population (250,000 people).
     There are nearly 12 million people within the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. To reach roughly the same proportion of people there as in Northern Ireland, let's assume we need to spend at least the same amount per capita. This would be about $5 billion over the course of five years $1 billion a year.
     This is pocket change. The war in Iraq has cost the American government almost $600 billion so far. The United States gives more than $2 billion annually to Israel for military aid.
     Why not invest close to that amount in peace $2 billion a year over the course of five years, just $10 billion for the first phase of a peace-building initiative worth its salt.
     For such a "peace stimulus" to succeed:

1. The United States must lead an international campaign to bring together millions of Israelis and Palestinians for sustained people-to-people diplomacy.

2. The Israeli and Palestinian governments must make people-to-people diplomacy a public and vocal priority.

3. Programs need to be flexible. They must provide space for local initiative and local needs.

4. Resources must be devoted to programs that focus on community building, on dialogue within communities on getting one's own house in order.

5. Programs must be coordinated and sustained: Follow-up is essential. Individual organizations need to work together, to share resources, to have maximum impact. The Alliance For Middle East Peace is taking critical steps in this direction.

     First, we have to navigate the geography of conflict: the enforced separation, through military and legal means; the emotional and psychological barriers, just as strong. We urge the international community to construct a chain of secure centers, safe havens, at the separation barriers, where Israelis, Palestinians and internationals can meet safely and interact as equals.
     With war raging, with people dying, with pain, anger, and hatred intensifying, world citizens of conscience must take responsibility and realize our power to help transform this conflict.
     A well-coordinated people-to-people initiative would do more than perhaps anything to ease the tensions in the greater Middle East and on the world scene.