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April 2, 2020

In February, Boston Partners for Peace began a book club series where several young Jewish professionals throughout Boston gathered to discuss Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbors” and the letters written in response to him by Palestinian readers. The program consisted of three meetings between February and March among three different groups in Somerville, South Boston and Brookline. I participated in the Brookline group and, after reflecting on our discussions, there were three noteworthy themes we came away with: the importance of empathy, how dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians might be structured, and what the role of American Jews in Israeli-Palestinian peace activism may be.

Yossi often talked about how Israelis’ and Palestinians’ different Israeli and Palestinian narratives are at the core of the conflict, and it is therefore important to understand and empathize with each other in order to prepare for a peace agreement. When we discussed about the rol...

March 25, 2020

Over the past several weeks, we witnessed the outbreak of COVID-19 and its devastating effects on communities around the world. Most of us have connected with our neighbors and friends over shared feelings of uncertainty, fear, and sympathy for those affected. During this time of isolation, Boston Partners for Peace is offering ways to interact across oceans and take action. This week, we launched the Pathways to Peace Learning Series, an ongoing series of opportunities to connect and access stories from Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilders that unite and inspire us.

In Israel, NGO’s are struggling to stay connected with the communities they serve, to bring divided societies together, and to sustain themselves while prevented from international travel, which is essential for their awareness building and fundraising. We aim to build bridges between the struggles in Israeli and Palestinian societies and residents of Greater Boston looking for ways to help. We started our series this past...

March 20, 2020

This blog post was originally published by Hanan Schlesinger, founder of Roots and West Bank peace activist, on March 5, 2020. 

The joyous, sometimes boisterous, holiday of Purim is approaching. Twice during the holiday, Jews will publicly read the Book of Esther, in which Hebrew Scripture recounts the events of over 2,500 years ago that the celebration comes to commemorate. Haman the Agagite, a very high ranking official in the court of the Persian king, hatches a diabolical plot to exterminate all the Jews of the immense empire and then bribes the king to adopt the genocidal plan. All would have been lost if not for the ingenuity and courage of Queen Esther, who risks her life by simultaneously revealing herself as a Jew and confronting the evil Haman, thereby convincing the king to save the Jewish People from the evil decree.  Haman and his ten sons are hung, and the Jewish subjects of the Persian Empire are given free rein to wreak vengeance against their enemies, ultimately ki...

March 2, 2020

In his new book, Apeirogon, Colum McCann weaves together stories of Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin. Rami and Bassam are both members of the Parents Circle, an organization that brings together Israelis and Palestinians who have lost an immediate family member to the conflict. In Apeirogon, McCann builds a fictional universe that incorporates Rami and Bassam’s real-life stories and experiences. I was deeply moved by two aspects of the book: one that connects us all as human beings and one that shows the power of small groups of people who claim victories against seemingly impossible odds.

I have had the pleasure of meeting both Rami and Bassam and hearing their stories. You may also have met Rami when he was in Boston in 2018 with Mazen Faraj, another member of the Parents Circle. Rami and Bassam both lost their daughters to the conflict. Rami’s daughter, Smadar, was murdered by suicide bombers in downtown Jerusalem, and Bassam’s daughter Abir was shot in the back of the head by a rubber...

February 27, 2020

Over the past several months, we have watched an exhilarating and exhausting election season unfold in Israel and the United States. This coming Monday, March 2nd, Israelis will go to the polls to cast their votes in the third election within 12 months. We hope that this time the party leaders will be able to form a successful government and bring stability to the Israeli political theater.

In the last two elections, the right wing and left wing blocs did not receive enough votes to form a government on their own and each side’s parties were not willing to form a unity government. You may remember that Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, pledged that he would not form a coalition with the Likud party while Prime Minister Netanyahu is under indictment. Despite his legal issues, the Likud party had an internal primary in December and overwhelmingly chose Netanyahu to remain as party leader. Based on the polls, the results of this election should be very similar to the las...

February 12, 2020

This week, Jews around the world celebrated Tu’bishvat, also known as the “Jewish Arbor/Earth Day.” The holiday is meant to remind us of our connection to the earth and to our role as caretakers of the environment. Traditionally, Jews observe Tu’bishvat with a festive meal, and some modern practices include donating money to plant trees. Zionists who planted trees after the founding of Israel are said to have “made the desert bloom,” and the practice continues to today. Nature is miraculous, as recently shown through the work of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.  Researchers at the Institute planted a date palm from an ancient seed which has grown into a healthy tree they have aptly named “Methuselah.” Methuselah is a male tree that won’t bear fruit, but they are also beginning female trees and we might soon know what dates tasted like in ancient times.

Reviving ancient trees is only a small part of the work of the Arava Institute. At the Institute, Palestinians, Jordanians...

February 6, 2020

In the opening of his book, Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor, author Yossi Klein Halevi writes that “one of the main obstacles to peace is the inability to hear the other side’s story.” Over the course of 10 letters, Yossi attempts to convey the Israeli-Jewish narrative about Israel to an imagined Palestinian audience, in the hopes that they will listen and respond to his story. Many did, and the newest version of the book contains a selection of those Palestinian responses. When woven together, these letters start to reveal the Palestinian narrative, at times overlapping with the Jewish perspective and, more often, conflicting with it.

Starting next week on February 11th and 12th, over 30 young adults will meet in various locations across Greater Boston to discuss the book, share their perspectives on the conflict, and reflect with one another. Over the course of the book club, they will discuss the book, meet with a Palestinian to gain a firsthand perspective, and come together for...

January 23, 2020

This blog post was originally published on October 18, 2018. We are reposting it in advance of our upcoming event with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies on February 6, 2020. We hope you will join us to meet two recent alumni, Shira Fisch of Moshav Yaad (Arava Institute ’19) and Mohammed Jarrad of Tulkarem (Arava Institute ’17) as they discuss their experiences and the impact of those experiences. 

When many of us think about our future, we think about how climate change will have a significant impact on our lives.  The Paris Climate Accord signed in 2015 was groundbreaking in its stipulation that every country has a collective responsibility to protect the earth and adopt measures to minimize climate change.  Even so, the agreed-upon goals fail to adequately address the negative effects in the coming decades. Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report written by 90 scientists with a dire warning for the future of planet earth. They believe tha...

January 16, 2020

This article was originally published on JewishBoston.com on January 14, 2020.

In August 2018, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) launched Boston Partners for Peace, an initiative that brings together Israelis and Palestinians in Israel with their peers in Boston. The participants are dedicated to building new bridges and forging connections in the name of peace and a two-state solution. Eli Cohn-Postell, JCRC’s director of Israel engagement, and Rachel Goldberg, program manager, recently spoke to JewishBoston about the project’s origin and its ongoing work.

One of the goals, said Cohn-Postell, is “to amplify the voices represented in grassroots projects for peace. Those voices need to be heard in the stories we tell ourselves about Israel and Palestine.” To that end, Boston Partners for Peace is a platform in which those voices are featured in Israel’s continuing peace narrative. Boston’s Jewish community has been a source of critical sup...

January 10, 2020

Throughout their history, peacebuilding efforts have primarily focused on promoting equity and diversity of voices between Israelis and Palestinians. More recently, there has been a call for diversity of involvement within these movements across demographics, specifically age (the next generation) and gender (women’s involvement). Considering that women account for 50% of the population, their influence over decisions that might affect their lives should reflect their presence in society. This week, I want to highlight the work of two movements that have been formed, both in Israel and the US, to provide women with opportunities to have their voices heard in the peacebuilding landscape. Both initiatives were inspired by UN Resolution 1325, which aims to “ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels… for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.”

When I was in Israel this past December with JCRC’s Study Tour for Civic Leaders, we were fortunate to...

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