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Complicated Friendships

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 for Arab university graduates within the Israeli business sector. They have programs for Arab high school and university students that help them prepare for life after academia. They train Arab managers, host coding workshops, and help employers understand the value of workplace diversity and what an investment in the Arab work force can contribute to a company.

 

Justice Joubran is acutely aware of the barriers that some Arab citizens in Israel face as they try to integrate into Israeli society. He grew up in Haifa, a mixed city, where I also lived for a brief time. We discussed how even in mixed cities such as Haifa, there are often separate Arab and Jewish neighborhoods. As a result, language, social, and economic barriers can stand in the way of success for Israel’s Arab citizens. Organizations like Kav Mashve are working to eliminate these barriers and create a more just, shared society in Israel.

 

We at JCRC share a peacebuilding philosophy with Justice Joubran. I am often asked about the prospects for a political peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. I learned my answer over the course of many visits with our peacebuilders: I don’t know when we will have peace, but I do feel very confident that this is the method that will get us there. While we acknowledge that a political breakthrough is both possible and necessary, we also know that we cannot sit idly by waiting for that day to arrive. It is incumbent on us to invest in the peacebuilding process. Boston Partners for Peace is committed to the individuals building new social trust and connection because we believe their methods are the ones that are needed right now to help bring peace.

 

In his talk, Justice Joubran described this as friendship. He said something simple yet profound, which is that friendship is made between individuals and not between governments. Friendship is created when people build their lives together—sometimes in simple ways, as when Jews shop in Arab cities on Shabbat, and sometimes in more complex and strategic ways, as does Kav Mashve.

 

Friendship is an appropriate word for the process we are invested in, for the work that our Boston Partners for Peace organizations are engaging in every day. Friendship is complicated and it requires trust, honesty, and empathy. These are the exact qualities we want to lift up and amplify. Yes, the lack of political progress can be frustrating, but our partners are invested in something more fundamental than political solutions.

 

At JCRC, we have spent years cultivating relationships with grassroots peacebuilders. We visit them on our Study Tours, we host them in Boston, and with Boston Partners for Peace, we have a growing infrastructure that enables our community to connect directly with Israeli and Palestinian activists. I have always believed in our work, and it was a hugely validating experience to know that Israelis and Palestinians on the ground believe in us just as we believe in them. Please join us for our next peacebuilder visit with Hand in Hand Schools, taking place at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton on November 14th (click here for event details). And sign up here to learn about upcoming visits from other peacebuilders.

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