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A Palestinian Flag at Jewish Camps: No Need for Apologies

By Shiri Ourian, Executive Director, American Friends of the Parents Circle

 

We can raise the Palestinian flag and still love Israel. In fact, we must.

Last week, while Camp Solomon Schechter, a Jewish summer camp outside of Seattle, hosted Palestinian and Israeli youth from Kids4Peace to engage in dialogue and shared learning, another summer camp took place in Israel with bereaved and non-bereaved Israeli and Palestinian youth who also engaged in dialogue and narrative exchange.

In Seattle, where I live, in the absence of political violence and war, the visit ended with a deluge of backlash from the community. In Israel, where mounting tensions and violence were the backdrop, the camp ended on a high, with apprehensive parents finding their children at the end of the week with hope and possibility for a better future.

The difference has been attributed to the raising of the Palestinian flag at the Seattle based camp in an attempt by the camp’s leadership to foster mutual respect alongside the American and Israeli flags which caused outrage in the community. The members of the Parents Circle – Families Forum and staff, who have been running the summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian youth for more than 10 years will tell you that the only problem with raising the Palestinian flag is the meaning we assign to it.

We can raise the Palestinian flag and still feel safe as Israelis. In fact, it makes us safer.

We can raise the Palestinian flag and still love Israel. In fact, we must. We can raise the Palestinian flag and still feel safe as Israelis. In fact, it makes us safer. We can raise the Palestinian flag and not feel like traitors. In fact, we are bold leaders.

To the staff and leadership of Camp Solomon Schechter in Seattle, you need not apologize for loving Israel, protecting it, and being bold leaders. Your initial decision to show mutual respect and understanding in an effort to build bridges and work towards a peaceful future was exactly the example we must set for our youth and a glimpse to a future to which we can aspire.

To the Jewish and Israeli community of Seattle who were upset by the raising of the Palestinian flag, if the bereaved members of the Parents Circle, who have lost their loved ones to the conflict and have paid the highest price, can choose reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect, then anyone can.

This Road Will Only Lead To More Graves

By Robi Damelin, bereaved mother and International Relations Spokesperson of The Parents Circle- Families Forum

Translated from op-ed piece in Ha’aretz

Here we go again; how many people have to die before the cycle of violence finally turns for the last time? Revenge being the main tool, we kill, they kill, more force, more troops, and more rhetoric of fear and hatred. Are we on the brink of another war or uprising? How can the sanctity of human life just be political expediency? Decisions made by leaders sitting in rooms in the dead of night and at the last minute. Is there no thought for the consequence of no communication with our neighbors, instead of listening to the army and understanding that the shooting from the hip decision to place metal detectors outside one of the most holy places for the Muslims would lead to a violent reaction and more death? How can the man voted to be in charge of our future take a plane trip to a foreign land when there was a burning need for sanity and negotiation, to create a dialogue with our neighbors, and, perhaps, to calm down a situation just waiting to explode.

Seven people died over this weekend and for what? For an anger festering among both peoples, which can only get worse with time. Can the powers that be not take a breath and imagine what it is like for the families involved– of those innocents attacked by a crazed young man, who imagined that a future life in paradise would surely be better than this one, and the three Palestinians fighting for a cause they believed, also fueled by their religious leaders? Notice it is not the leaders who give up their lives, but rather young men who have no reason to hope for a better life, and who believe that they are protecting their holy site.

We have realized that violence begets violence, and for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must find a way to recognize the humanity of the other.

Let us think of another scenario– say our elected leader would have thought again and realized that more of the same, only more would be a solution, and had picked up the phone to the heads of State of Jordan and Egypt, who have no interest in any further violence. Perhaps if he had done so, and they had all come up with a plan which did not include more force, perhaps we would not have to watch the horrific bloody scenes, each side with its own interpretation on the Television and on the Web.

Imagine what the future will be like for all of the families of the dead: some will have their houses demolished, and others will die together with their children. They may not die physically, but nothing will ever be the same–nothing. Some will never have the joy of parents or grandparents, and others will start to think of revenge. Some will be so angry that it will effect their health, and others will simply wither away and look for solace at the graveside of their loved ones. We at the Parents Circle know the whole gamut of pain and indescribable sadness which never goes away. We have realized that violence begets violence, and for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must find a way to recognize the humanity of the other.

If we can, then surely this is an example to all.

It is not too late for change. Watch a bereaved Palestinian mother embracing an Israeli mother in our group, and understand that we recognize that we share the same pain. Watch us continue to work under the most difficult of circumstances to the extent where we will still run our summer camp this Sunday and will plant the seeds of understanding reconciliation in the next generation. If we can, then surely this is an example to all. Please refrain from spitting at us or throwing bags of urine, and take that energy into trying another way, for the way we are going– with more of the same– can only lead us to share the land with graves.

Amidst Tensions, Our Work Carries On

 

Despite the growing tensions and violence in Jerusalem and the region these past two weeks, our Youth Summer Program has started this week. Our Indiegogo campaign to support the program has reached its goal. Thanks to many of you, 40 Israeli and Palestinian youth are spending the week learning about each other’s narratives, about empathy and reconciliation, rather than about hatred, fear and violence. There are still costs to cover — help us reach our $30,000 stretch goal today to cover the cost of this unique youth peacebuilding opportunity– donate now!

We are excited to announce two new, exclusive perks for your contribution:

Youth Summer Program T-shirt

Donate now to receive this exclusive perk!

Receive an exclusive t-shirt featuring our “Youth summer camp for peace” logo. Only 2 available!

Framed Portrait of the 2017 Youth Summer Program Participants

Receive a 10″ x 14″ framed portrait of the 2017 PCFF Youth Summer Program participants. A beautiful reminder of the impact your contribution will make for the next generation of peace leaders!

Our work to generate trust, opportunities for dialogue, understanding, and relationships that transcend the conflict is needed now more than ever, in the midst of the recent outburst of violence and hatred. Time is running out to support this important program!

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We made our goal!

We made our goal! The Israeli and Palestinian Youth Summer Program is now 127% funded. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the campaign and who helped spread the word, we are now able to send 34 participants to the joint Israeli and Palestinian Youth Summer Program.

Our work doesn’t end here. We can still bring more Israeli and Palestinian youth together for a rare opportunity of narrative exchange, meeting the other side and dialogue for a 5-day program.

Help us raise an additional $3,000 to allow 4 more Israeli and Palestinian youth to attend this year, at no cost to them.

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The Youth Summer Program starts in 3 days! Donate now so as many young people as possible can come together for this rare and unique opportunity to share in each other’s cultures, dialogue, and learn how to be the next generation of peace leaders.

“To me, the PCFF is a place of refuge.”
Palestinian participant, 2013 PCFF Youth Summer Program

Only 13 days left to support our Youth Summer Program!

“They’re people, not just a ‘side.’ I met new people, so I learned new things.”
–2016 Summer Program Participant

Our Israeli and Palestinian Youth Summer Program starts in 13 days! We still need to raise $12,000 to provide support for 8 more Israeli and Palestinian youth to attend. Donate now!

Our program provides a rare and vital opportunity for young people from both societies to meet “the other side,” and to share their cultures and perspectives in a safe, peaceful environment.

We asked program participants and staff a few questions about the summer camp:

What’s your most memorable moment as directors or counselors for the youth camp?

“I had a unique experience, I’m happy every time to do what I do, to bring people together to prove to me and the world that it is possible. I hope to have a continuation of what we started and that peace would be the method of our lives.”
–2016 Program Counselor

“The Sand Mandala workshop at the beach. The beach is always a source of joy for youth and, especially for the Palestinian youth. It was kind of magic in which we were all swept away”
–Dana Wegman, Israeli Program Director

DONATE NOW TO SUPPORT RECONCILIATION FOR YOUTH

Art Circle activity: "Sand Mandala"
Art Circle activity: “Sand Mandala”

“I loved the beach and the activities we did there. I really enjoyed the work and the game Colours of Life”… [I learned] that they are really like us, even if their views are completely different. We are all afraid and we all want peace.”
–Israeli participant

How do you believe youth participants are changed by the program?

“The youth feel closer and are more open to share even hard feelings and ideas. This is especially helped by the physical and arts workshops. The non-verbal communication and the close physical engagement facilitates their emotional growth, one of the main goals of the PCFF Youth Summer Program.”
–2016 Program Staff member

If you had one wish for the summer program, what would it be?

“To promote on-going activities throughout the year, which is why funding these opportunities is so vital. The emotional breakthrough provided by the Summer Program and the ties created between the Palestinian and Israeli youth would be greater if the youth were to come together throughout the year.”
–2016 Program Directors

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Israeli and Palestinian Youth Gearing Up For Summer Program

“In the dialogue meetings there are moments that it feels like everyone is together: there is no Israeli or Palestinian side. Everyone is listening together to the same pain and to both sides.”
-Inbal Harel, 14 year old Israeli participant, 2016 PCFF Youth Summer Program

The Parents Circle is gearing up for its 2017 Youth Summer Program which will bring together 40 Israeli and Palestinian bereaved and non-bereaved youth (ages 14-18) together for a rare opportunity to share their stories, listen to the stories of their peers from the “other side”, see the human in the other and have fun together through nature, arts, games, trips and more.

Please consider making a donation today.  We have already raised 30% of our goal!. You can make your contribution here!

Today’s young people in Israel and Palestine have grown up in societies in which violence and bereavement are a part of daily life. These same young people are the future of Israel and Palestine. It is vital that they are given the opportunity to form and strengthen beliefs in non-violence and dialogue.

Help spread the word about our campaign through emails, social media, and word of mouth. We hope to reach new supporters and audiences through this campaign in addition to reaching our funding goal of $21,000. Share this page with your friends!

For every $1,500 we raise, we can support one pair of Israeli and Palestinian youth to participate in the Summer Program at no cost to them. Our goal is to raise $21,000 to be able to provide 14 teenagers–7 Israeli and 7 Palestinians, ages 14-18– the opportunity to participate in this transformational experience.

“I felt we were entirely connected…”
–Israeli participant, PCFF 2014 Youth Summer Program

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The 12th Annual Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony

“You have to love this land and love people in order to see that between the sea and the Jordan there is space for two nations. The space is in the heart.”

On April 30th, Combatants for Peace– in partnership with the Combatants for PeaceParents Circle– held the 12th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony.

This incredible and unique event, which allows individuals from both sides of the conflict to come together in a common cry for peace and recognition of the pain of the other side, saw a number of successes. Despite violent protests from right-wing groups who threatened attendees as they entered the building, over 4,000 Israelis filled the arena in Tel Aviv. Despite the Israeli government’s refusal to allow 225 Palestinian attendees and speakers into the country to participate, over 600 Israelis and Palestinians attended a sister ceremony organized over the weekend in Beit Jala.

Watch the entire 2017 Ceremony here

“This cause is noble. It’s to stop the streams of blood on both sides and to search for a path to restore freedom, honor, hope and equality for both peoples.”
–Marianne Sa’adeh, bereaved sister and ceremony speaker


American Communities Mark Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day

On Sunday, our friends and partners across the US organized seven events across the country– in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Fort Collins, Oakland, and Seattle– and they joined hundreds of individuals around the globe— in places like Zurich, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, London, and elsewhere— in standing together with those who have paid the highest price in the conflict.

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We quickly mobilize to stand together on Memorial Day

Dear Friends,Combatants for Peace logo

As you know, tonight is the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony, during which Israelis and Palestinians stand together to remember the lost loved ones and speak in one voice to prevent further bereavement.

What you may not know is that the nearly 300 Palestinians who wished to participate in the Tel Aviv event have been denied entry by the Government of Israel to enter Israel. In response, the Parents Circle and Combatants for Peace have quickly organized a “sister” event in Beit Jala, the West Bank where many of the Palestinians will participate in the Ceremony from and watch the livestream of the event in Tel Aviv. Israelis have been invited in mass to join them in Beit Jala and many of our program alumni and friends will be headed to as I write to stand in solidarity and be together, permits or no permits.

Please join us in support of our Israeli and Palestinian members today, more than ever, who continue the struggle and in memory of all their lost loved ones.

If you cannot be at the U.S. based events today in NY, DC, Los Angeles, Boston, Fort Collins, or Oakland, please join us today on the livestream at 2:00 PM EST: http://cfpeace.org/projects/memorial-day/

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In solidarity,

Shiri Ourian
Executive Director
American Friends of the Parents Circle

This is how we build peace in Israel and Palestine

Since January, the Parents Circle-Families Forum has held nearly 15 “Women to Women” Dialogue Meetings. These important meetings are led by bereaved Israeli and Palestinian women who share their stories of loss and offer their extraordinary choice of reconciliation as a message of inspiration and hope. In a safe space, women, perhaps for the first time, have the chance to meet someone from the “other side” and engage in dialogue. We had been unable to conduct these vital meetings in Palestine since the escalation of violence in October, 2015.

"Women to Women" Dialogue meeting in Tel Aviv, January 8th
“Women to Women” Dialogue meeting in Tel Aviv, January 8th

“All mothers have the same pain when they lose one of their own, and it doesn’t matter where they are from”
Palestinian mother at January 5th meeting in Beit Jala

“It is important to continue to conduct such meetings in order for more people to learn about the situation on the other side”
Israeli participant at January 15th meeting in Rishon Letzion


Israelis and Palestinians Launch Joint Projects

Israeli and Palestinian alumni of our Parallel Narrative Experience (PNE) groups have successfully launched several joint projects to fill crucial peacebuilding needs in Israeli and Palestinian communities, including:

  • Peace Conference – In February, over 150 Israelis and Palestinians attended a conference planned and organized by PNE alumni. This event was conducted to strengthen the attendees’ abilities to act as peacebuilders in their own communities.
Parents Circle members Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan address Peace Conference attendees
Parents Circle members Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan address Peace Conference attendees
  • “The Generations Club” – A club in Idna for Palestinian children. Led by volunteering Palestinian youth, this joint project provides positive and safe activities for the children, as well as developing responsible leadership among the youth. The project also includes a series of meetings between the club’s children and youth and Israeli youth and their families in order for them to get to know the other side and educate them for non-violence.
Adults circle from the Families Gathering of the Generations Club
Adults circle from the Families Gathering of the Generations Club

DONATE NOW TO SUPPORT OUR DIALOGUE MEETINGS AND JOINT PROJECTS!