By: Kianna Haskin
Goucher students Michelle Cheifetz, Mira Dov, and Israel Engagement coordinator Karin Hasin brought forth a dialogue focused on peace and coexistence, in the context of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, with guest speakers from the Friends of Roots organization on March 23rd.
The Israeli and Palestinian conflict began in the mid-20th century. After World War II and the mass murder of Jewish believers, Zionism became more widely known, as Jews were trying to find refuge from the war. Zionism is the movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland in Israel. Israel was established in 1948, three years after World War II. When Jewish believers were fleeing Europe and moving to Israel, Arabs saw that Israel was rightfully theirs and resisted the incoming Jewish settlers. In August of 2014, the peace negotiations set in place dissolved, and the conflict escalated.
For Israelis, this is a continuation of the struggle their nation has always fought with, to have a land of their own and to have a Jewish state. For Palestinians, the fight is for freedom from the foreign military that controls their communities and lives.
“Who doesn’t want to live in a safe place and know that no one isn’t hurt? The fighting has been rooted for a long time and people today are born into the conflict. Like myself and Friends of Roots, there are others who believe there is a way to trust and to sacrifice in order to have a better future,” Hasin said.
At the event, which was hosted by Goucher Hillel, an organization called Friends of Roots had two speakers tell stories about their past and living in Israel. Friends of Roots’ mission statement reads, “At Roots, we envision a social and political reality that is founded on dignity, trust and a mutual recognition and respect for both people’s historic belonging to the entire Land.”
Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian activist, told his story of growing up in the conflict, fighting for peace, and redemption for his brother’s death. Awwad focused on coexistence and non-violence toward Israelis in his talk. After Awwad and his mother were jailed and three years had passed, they wanted to see each other. Awwad and his mother took part in a seventeen-day hunger strike. This was the turning point in his life as he realized that he could make a change without violence.
“Peace is a responsibility. Peace is painful. Peace is cheaper than the price of war,” Awwad said.
Hanan Schlesinger, an orthodox rabbi, and teacher told his story of living in Israel and taking a leap of faith to meet with Palestinians. Schlesinger was born and raised in New York. When he turned twenty made his way to the Holy Land as a Zionist settler. One night in Israel, Schlesinger went to a plot of land owned by a Palestinian to have an open conversation.
“Never before had I met a Palestinian as an equal, never before had I socialized with one or broken bread with one. I knew nothing about them. We live so close to each other, and yet we are so far apart,” said Schlesinger.
This plot of land would later become the center of Friends of Roots, an open space where Palestinians and Jewish believers can come together and have open conversations.
In an interview about peace and coexistence, Hasin said, “We cannot start any kind of process if you don’t trust the person who sits in front of you. I think the best way to achieve peace is to be more educated. To let go of prejudice, to be willing to talk, in a respectful way to know that your opinion matter but your actions matter more. When I say actions I don’t mean picking sides. The last thing you need is to pick a side, then you create war. We don’t want that we want to create something good something meaningful and something helpful.”
To learn more about Friends of Roots, visit their website: http://www.friendsofroots.net/index.html.