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November 7, 2019

I had the privilege of spending some time last week with some of our civic leader partners in Western Massachusetts. Nicole LaChapelle, the Mayor of Easthampton, and Justin Hurst, the President of the Springfield City Council, were kind enough to host us for a conversation with the co-CEOs of the Abraham Initiatives. We shared best practices and had productive conversations about building co-existence and a shared society among varied populations in Israel and the US.

The Abraham Initiatives runs a variety of programs that promote equality for Israelis and Palestinians. They are actively working to change Israeli policy to address the systemic discrepancies that exist between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. They facilitate shared learning programs that bring together Jewish and Arab children, programs that promote Arab women’s leadership, and community policing programs, among others. One thing that I appreciate about the Abraham Initiatives is their commitment to equality throughout...

October 18, 2019

Taken from from the JCRC Weekly Message by Director of Israel Engagement, Eli Cohn-Postell.

I recently had the privilege of a brief but intimate conversation with Justice Salim Joubran as I transported him to the airport following a Boston Partners for Peace event. Justice Joubran is the first Palestinian to receive a permanent appointment to the Israeli Supreme Court and, in his retirement, he is giving back to Israeli society as the Chairperson of Kav Mashve.

As I was chatting with the Justice on our way to Logan, he told me something that touched me very deeply. He wanted to let me know how appreciative he is that American Jews have taken an interest in the well-being of Israel’s Arab citizens, referring to initiatives like Boston Partners for Peace. I was humbled; it is one thing for us to call ourselves the allies of Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilders, it is something else to be recognized by the communities we aim to support.

Kav Mashve promotes equal opportunities...

October 10, 2019

Last week, we were fortunate to host Israel’s first permanent Arab Supreme Court Justice, Salim Joubran. Justice Joubran retired from the Court in 2017, and he is now the Chairperson of Kav Mashve, one of our Peacebuilding partners. Justice Joubran imparted words of awe and inspiration, and provided the audience with his own reflections on peace, friendship, and the power of Israel’s Arab citizens to realize their political destiny. 

Justice Joubran and I shared a brief conversation on the way to the airport after his talk. During our car ride, he made sure to emphasize a point that he had also raised in his lecture. Friendship, Justice Joubran said, is made between people and not between governments. Friendship is a connection that individuals create when they live together, shop together, and build lives together. Governments may have neighbors and allies, but they do not have friends. And, as we hear from many of our peacebuilders, fr...

October 3, 2019

As the Jewish community enters a new year, we have about as much clarity on the future of the Israeli government as we did last year. In other words, very little. After being tasked by President Rivlin to form a government, Netanyahu has not yet been able to negotiate an agreement with Benny Gantz, and as his pre-indictment hearings have already begun the threat of a third election looms over Israeli society. It can be difficult to not feel a little lost and overwhelmed when it comes to understanding and interpreting everything occurring in Israel. Because of that, I appreciated the chance last Monday to attend an event sponsored by Boston Partners for Peace and the Israel Policy Forum featuring Rachel Fish of the Singer Family Foundation and Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum discuss their points of view on the election results and potential paths forward, as well as the current state of Israeli society, generational divides, American Jewish relations with Israel, along with a host...

September 16, 2019

This week's blog is taken from the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) weekly message by Israel Engagement Director Eli Cohn-Postell.

With local and national campaigns ramping up at home, one could be forgiven for losing sight of Israel’s second election in 2019. Next Tuesday, the 17th, millions of Israelis will cast their ballots and select a new parliament. You may recall that Israelis also went to the polls in April, and this second election is taking place because that Knesset voted to dissolve itself when Prime Minister Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition.

We celebrate the resilience of Israeli democracy—the sacred expression of the will of the citizenry, and all the messiness that the democratic process entails. With that in mind, here are some of the storylines we will be following as we look at next week’s election and its aftermath. We are also happy to continue to provide insight and analysis at our post-election briefing with the Israel Policy Forum on September 23r...

September 12, 2019

This week, the Parents Circle Families Forum hosted a webinar to introduce their new Palestinian co-Director, Bassam Aramin. Like many others involved in the Parents Circle, Bassam was motivated to join the group after his 10-year old daughter was killed by a stray rubber bullet from a clash with Israeli border police. As Bassam recounted his journey to understand the Israeli perspective, I was moved by his story of emerging from time spent in an Israeli prison with a changed mindset. 

Bassam grew up in Hebron, where he witnessed the West Bank occupation by Israel after the 1967 war. As a teenager he became involved in resistance efforts, throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. He was eventually arrested and spent seven years in an Israeli prison. He decided to take the time to learn Hebrew because he wanted to improve his efforts to challenge his Israeli enemies. As part of his class, he watched a Holocaust documentary which fundamentally challenged his beliefs. According to Bassam,...

September 4, 2019

In a recent post, I discussed the role of Israelis’ and Palestinians’ conflicting narratives and the value of people-to-people work. I argued that bringing more Israelis and Palestinians together for dialogue sessions may help them overcome their competition over victimhood through empathy and understanding.

In my most recent trip to Israel-Palestine, I received a deeper understanding of people-to-people work and was able to put the theory to the test for myself. I spoke with several leaders of people-to-people grassroots organizations who told me about the work they do. I also participated in a tour program where I – an American Jewish Zionist – had dialogue with Palestinians living under occupation.

To put it short, my experiences did validate my theory that people-to-people initiatives can help promote peace and reconciliation, but not necessarily in the way I originally thought.

The first lesson I took away came from a discussion with Doubi Schwartz – Regional Program Officer of the A...

August 27, 2019

Where are you from? This is such a common question, and it sounds so straightforward on the surface. But for some, it can be more complicated to answer. On August 14, Lobna Agbaria shared her story at Remnant Brewing in Somerville’s Bow Market. Agbaria is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who grew up in the Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. After studying law, she managed her own law firm in Tel Aviv. She now directs Our Generation Speaks (OGS), a fellowship program and incubator that brings Israelis and Palestinians together on the Brandeis campus each summer to form start-up companies together.

Someone hearing this might have several questions, perhaps the first being what it means to be a Palestinian citizen of Israel. To understand this, it helps to know some Israeli and Palestinian history and Agbaria’s own journey. The Palestinian people originated from the area of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire.  Agbaria’s parents grew up in northern Israel, and like many other Israelis, met while s...

August 7, 2019

On Wednesday, August 14th Boston Partners for Peace will host a bar night for young professionals at Bow Market. We hope you will join us for a fun and inspiring night to learn about Israelis and Palestinians working together to better their societies. We’ll hear from Lobna Agbaria, Program Director at Our Generation Speaks (OGS). Lobna is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and an entrepreneur.  Through a 3-month accelerator program each summer in Boston, OGS empowers Palestinian and Israeli leaders to create start-up ventures that will have significant social and economic impact in each of their societies. The program brings the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders in their 20’s and 30’s together in the hope of building a new, shared generation of leadership based on trust and mutual understanding.

One of the main barriers to Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is the lack of contact between them.  People from the two societies often don’t have the opportunity to meet one another until...

August 1, 2019

Imagine a mother walking through a checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel with her critically ill child in tow. This might be the first time she has ever been allowed to enter Israel proper, and maybe she doesn’t speak Hebrew very well. She isn’t allowed to bring a car across the border and does not know how to travel to the Israeli hospital where her child is supposed to receive treatment. This mother is left on the side of the road, at once scared to be in a foreign place alone and worried for her child’s health.

This is where the organization Road to Recovery fills a vital need. Each day, average Israeli citizens meet Palestinian families at border crossings to drive them to life-saving medical appointments. Over 150 such rides take place daily. These rides give Israelis and Palestinians opportunities to get to one to know one another, and over time building mutual respect, trust, dialogue and friendship.  For many Israelis, they volunteer with Road to Recovery in addition to thei...

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