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 their organization. For example, they have co-CEOs, one Jewish and one Arab, who run the organization together.
I introduced Mayor LaChapelle and Councilor Hurst to the Abraham Initiatives when we were in Israel together last winter. During that trip we met with Thabet Abu Ras, the Abraham Initiatives’ Palestinian co-director. Nicole and Justin were inspired by their conversation with Thabet, and they were excited to return the favor by welcoming him and his Jewish counterpart, Amnon, in Massachusetts.
Our conversations last week centered on community policing programs. In both Israel and the US, tensions between police departments and minority communities are growing. There are different factors in each country, but in both places underpolicing and overpolicing are significant problems. We were able to share strategies from communities separated by thousands of miles. For example, Springfield has been piloting 3C policing (counter criminal continuum policing). C3 is helping the Springfield police department improve its relationships with people of color and other underserved communities in Springfield. The leadership of the Abraham Initiatives was very interested in this program and may try to bring that practice with them to Israel in order to improve the relationship between Israel’s police force and its Arab minority.
Boston Partners for Peace can successfully foster these connections because we have spent years developing these relationships. Our meetings last week were productive because we knew who to include in the conversation—the influencers who are capable of enacting real change in order to keep communities safe. I am proud of this work. We are not caught up in flashy sloganeering and absolutism, instead we are embracing ambiguity. We are creating positive change through years of trust building, and because we believe this is the best way to make progress.