Five things Friday roundup: Pro-peace organizations in the Holy Land

Street with vendor tents and stands on either side. Street market in Tel Aviv. Many Israeli citizens are not aware of the conditions in which their neighboring Palestinians live. — Andrea De Avila

I trust many of you would agree with me when I say that it is hard to talk about Israel these days, perhaps more than ever. I have publicly tried to avoid it in hopes that I might increase my chances of not getting denied entry if I were to go back. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been outspoken with friends, family and the different communities I’ve been in contact with in regard to the issue. 

Recently, I was visiting my aunt and uncle, and we got into a heated debate of what it meant to be pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. Although many people think that Israel is a Jewish state, the state of Israel is in fact a secular government.

Like any government, I argued, it must be held accountable for the erroneous decisions that it makes. Also, like any other government, it does not represent all of the perspectives and beliefs of its people. Therefore, it would be an enormous mistake to assume that the decisions the state of Israel makes represent the wishes of Jewish people as a whole.

After my visit with my family, my aunt sent me an article written by an evangelical pastor. She said, “I did my own research. I read it, and I liked it very much. You should read it.” So I did.

What I then realized was that the language the author used was the evangelical lingo my aunt was used to hearing. Nevertheless, the content was almost exactly what I had been trying to get across to my aunt and uncle. Also, the author used examples of groups of Israeli-Jewish people that oppose their government and have come together with their Palestinian neighbors to work for peace. 

In that spirit, I’d like to share with you five groups of people that are coming together from across a seemingly impenetrable wall to work for peace in their home, which is the Holy Land. These people can come together across their pain, sorrow, religious and political differences. Can we?

1. Parents Circle

According to its website, “The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict.” This group has asserted that in order to be able to reach “sustainable peace,” there must be a “process of reconciliation” that takes place between the stakeholders.

2. Breaking the Silence

Veteran Israeli soldiers who spent time in the Palestinian territories after the Second Intifada have come together to expose what everyday life looks like for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Breaking the Silence’s website says its “work aims to bring an end to the occupation.” As an organization, Breaking the Silence collects testimonies of soldiers and veterans who oppose the occupation and also organizes education sessions and tours for those willing to dig deeper into the subject. 

3. Bimkom

Bimkom is a group of Israeli architects and planners that has formed a non-profit organization that “works with both Jewish and Arab communities among others, in attaining fair, equitable and appropriate planning of the physical spaces in which they live.” Bimkom has helped hundreds of people throughout Israel and Palestine with a variety of issues such as “home demolitions and lack of plans to provision of necessary infrastructure and affordable housing.”

4. Combatants for Peace

This organization has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice: once in 2017, and another time in 2018. Combatants for Peace’s website says it is  “the only movement worldwide that was founded by former fighters on both sides of an active conflict.” A movement of both Israelis and Palestinians, this group works to end the occupation. Combatants for Peace has been devoted to nonviolence since it began, and it engages in civil resistance, activism and education, among other methods of creating consciousness.

5. Machsom Watch

This all-volunteer, all-women organization “has taken it upon [itself] to recount the reality of the Occupation, publicize and pass on to the un-knowing Israeli public what has been taking place just minutes away from its homes, and in its name.” As Israeli women, they try to access every place in the occupied territories they can to write, document, see and hear what is happening, and then inform their fellow Israelis of the realities Palestinians face every day.

Andrea De Avila

Andrea De Avila is an ordained minister with a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Canadian Mennonite University. Originally from Read More

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