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...

December 27, 2019

I recently returned from Israel with the JCRC Study Tour in Israel for Civic Leaders, where State Senators from the Massachusetts Legislature participated in an in-depth 10-day tour of Israel. Our trip came at a politically salient time for Israel, as an unprecedented third round of elections were being organized. It was a historic moment in Israel’s history, to say the least. Following these events, we framed our learning around the potential consequences. What would a peaceful future for Israel look like under potential new leadership? What were the issues most important to Israeli voters and how were they being mobilized? Who were the citizens and non-citizens that make-up the diverse population of Israel and the Palestinian territories? Throughout the week we received clarity on these issues, and I was privileged to obtain even more insight upon my return.

Crucial to understanding the complexity of Israel were our meetings with grassroots organizations doing people-to-people wo...

December 18, 2019

It was October of 2015, and Jerusalem was pulsating with a dangerous tension. There were near daily stabbing attacks of Hasidic Jews and members of the I.D.F. Members of the far right held numerous rallies in my neighborhood. The Pride Parade had been scheduled to go through Jerusalem and the far right was constantly badgering, demeaning, and dehumanizing the LGBTQ community. To say that Jerusalem was divided, dangerous, and confusing would be an understatement.

I landed at Ben Gurion airport on September 28th, 2015. I stepped off the plane, cleared customs, somehow finagled a sim card, and ended up in a Sheirut (a shared discount taxi that runs between major Israeli cities) on the way to Jerusalem, my new home for the next eight months. At this point I was living a dream. At 21, I had moved to a foreign country, and was blissfully ignorant., and I was happy with this ignorance. I fell asleep excited by the thoughts of a party fueled eight months in my future. I dreamed of dancing in th...

November 22, 2019

Public schools in Israel are divided into four separate systems: Secular/Public, National Religious, Ultra-Orthodox, and Arab. Unfortunately, this division doesn’t leave a lot of room for person-to-person interaction or shared dialogue between the many groups of students that go to school in the country. This lack of contact leads to broader social issues and contributes to the deep divisions between populations.

Last Friday, I got to meet the people behind a groundbreaking solution to this issue. Hand in Hand is a network of integrated schools between Arab and Jewish students with over 1,850 students in six schools from Jerusalem to the Galilee. Their model of shared education features Arab and Jewish students taught side-by-side daily, learning Hebrew and Arabic, celebrating Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays, and learning both Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives. It’s a model of what a shared society and a diverse, integrated Israel can look like.

Boston Partners for Pea...

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...

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