This week, I had the opportunity to sit with some of our peacebuilding organizations during a JCRC Boston study tour to Israel. I am always so inspired by the work they are doing, and nothing compares to visiting and hearing about their impact directly from the hardworking staff and volunteer leadership.
I spent time at the Hand in Hand bilingual school in Jerusalem called the Max Rayne school. What impressed me most was how ordinary everything seemed. I had forgotten that what is exceptional about Hand in Hand is just how normal it makes both Jewish and Arab students feel. When we saw the kindergarten children playing at recess or walked past a group of teenagers in the hallway, we had no idea whether the students were Jewish or Arab. There were art projects on the wall celebrating Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holidays, exactly as you would hope to find in a diverse school anywhere in the world.
During the trip, I also had the chance to have dinner with three members of Women Wage Peace, including one of its founding members. They gave us an inside look at their newly proposed Political Alternatives First law which would require the Israeli government to examine political alternatives before committing to any new military engagement. They also talked about the diverse relationships they have formed within both the Israeli general public and political class.
Finally, I met with Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, one of the co-directors of the Abraham Initiatives. I love that the Abraham Initiatives has Arab and Jewish co-directors, and it was great to hear about the work they are doing to help Israel’s Arab citizens become more included in society in new ways. Specifically, he talked about their community policing program and the work being done to increase trust between Israel’s police force and Arab citizens. He also talked about how they are working with Jewish journalists to improve media coverage of Israel’s Arab communities.
I am inspired by the changes that are taking place, and I am challenged by the fact that these efforts can easily blend into the landscape if we don’t know to look for them. It can be hard to see the change in how a community relates to a police department, evolving outlooks of politicians toward peacemaking over time, or how one particular school is different from others. But over time, and with our help, these changes accumulate and we see how societies can transform to build trust, equality, and peace.