We were honored to host a panel of our peacebuilding organizations at Limmud Boston this past weekend as part of a day-long conference of learning and engagement. Five peacebuilding organizations with Boston connections participated: The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Science Training Encouraging Peace (STEP), Kids4Peace Boston, Hand in Hand Schools, and MIT MEET (Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow). Representatives of these groups spoke about their work and how the Boston community can effectively rally behind them. People were very impressed by the diversity of the organizations, and the different methodologies they use and diverse audiences they engage in peacebuilding
During the Q & A period, we had an excellent question from an audience member. She asked how individuals involved in these programs contribute to peacebuilding even after the programs are over. The answers our partners gave are a testament to their long-term, positive influence over the individuals who participate in their programs.
We heard from MIT MEET about one of their alumni, who went on to work for the Jerusalem municipality. She was given oversight over millions of dollars to turn Jerusalem into a high-tech city, helping it catch up with other Israeli high-tech hubs. She chose to invest that money in joint, Arab-Jewish initiatives because she had learned their value as a MEET participant.
Another story was about an Arab Hand in Hand alumnus who became a student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She signed up to be a mentor for other students and was surprised when she was only assigned to mentor other Arabs. She insisted on being assigned Jewish students as well, and thanks to her persistence, all mentoring groups at the University are now mixed Arab and Jewish.
We also learned that STEP alumni continue to work with their research partners even after their graduate work is over. They develop lasting relationships with their partners and home communities.
We also learned about the tremendous demand peacebuilding programs have created. As our panelist from Hand in Hand schools said, “People do really want shared society in Israel, illustrated by the fact that there are 500 people on the waiting list for several shared Arab-Jewish and bilingual schools. This work is creating the conditions for peace to happen.”
These are the stories we don’t often hear about in the media. The news often focuses on conflict and violence. We can choose how we as a Boston community relate to this conflict. We can choose to elevate the stories of hope and the people working to bring lasting change and the promise of a better future to Israelis and Palestinians.
We are thankful to everyone who came to Limmud to hear from our peacebuilders. If you are interested in arranging a similar conversation in your community, please reach out to us at email@example.com.