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...

July 25, 2019

In the blog last week, my colleague wrote about his recent trip to Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC Boston’s) delegation of Labor leaders from Massachusetts. He reflected on “the generational shift that [Israeli and Palestinian] societies are undergoing. Many speakers referenced the iconic image of Bill Clinton looking on as Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House Lawn in 1993. The number of people who do not remember that moment is growing, they are reaching adulthood, and their entire attitude toward peacebuilding and the ‘other’ is different from previous generations. We do not know exactly how this new attitude will crystalize, but we should be hopeful about the rise of a generation that can re-imagine the possibilities of peace and human-to-human connection.” This newer generation of Israelis are more familiar with wartime than hope for peace. After decades defined by unrest and mistrust, many Israeli and Palestinian...

July 19, 2019

This week's post is the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) Friday Message. Director of Israel Engagement Eli Cohn-Postell reflects on the recent Israel Study Tour for Massachusetts Labor leaders.

Last Friday, I watched in admiration as Shaul Judelman and Noor Awad unwrapped a new sign as though it were a birthday present. The sign was for Roots/Shorashim/Judur, the grassroots group of Israelis and Palestinians living in the West Bank who come together to foster understanding, nonviolence, and transformation among their societies. Shaul and Noor looked like they could have been two kids in a candy store, and the scene was only strange because these two were never supposed to meet in the first place. Both live in the West Bank. Shaul is an American-Israeli living in Tekoa and Noor is a third-generation Palestinian refugee living in nearby Bethlehem.

We get to see friendships like Noor and Shaul’s develop because we visit with them consistently on our JCRC Stud...

July 10, 2019

Can you name this city?

It has two distinct ethno-religious communities that are separated by a large wall. On one side of the barrier, you will find Israeli flags and graffiti depicting a narrative of a people who have suffered from terrorism and honoring the brave soldiers who have risked their lives to keep their people safe. On the other side, you will find Palestinian flags and graffiti telling a narrative of a people who have suffered from settler colonialism and have struggled for independence.

If you guessed Jerusalem, you would actually be mistaken.

The city I just described is in fact Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The people residing on the side with Israeli flags are not Jews, but British Protestants who fly the flag of Great Britain alongside the flag of the State of Israel. On the other side of the wall are not Palestinian Arabs, but Irish Catholics who fly the flag of Ireland alongside the Palestinian flag.

Last year, I traveled to Northern Ireland where I took a dual narrative...

Please reload


© 2019 by Boston Partners for Peace

Kraft Family Building | 126 High Street  |  Boston MA 02110  |  617-457-8648 |  email us