The American Center in Jerusalem yesterday hosted a celebration honoring of the winners of the Victor. J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East for 2008 in the presence of U.S. Deputy Principal Officer, Thomas Duffy, U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Luis J. Moreno, and a group of Palestinians and Israelis from the Bereaved Family Forum.
Aziz Abu Sarah and Lily Yaffe received the Goldberg IIE Prize for their work with the Parents Circle Family Forum, conducting educational activities that draw on their own very moving personal stories and the experiences of hundreds of bereaved families, half Palestinian and half Israeli, who have lost immediate family members due to the violence in the region.
Mr. Abu Sarah and Ms. Yaffe have played an important part in the Dialogue Meetings conducted by the Parents Circle Family Forum, with the goal of creating a gradual change in the views and perceptions of Israeli and Palestinian youth. As trained facilitators, they reach out to young people in Israeli and Palestinian high schools, youth movements and community groups. By describing their own deeply personal loss and their unwillingness to avenge, they encourage the students to begin the long process of transforming their own feelings of suspicion and fear toward the other side. The award recognizes their success in promoting reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge.
Abu Sarah, whose brother is a victim of the first Intifada, says that he speaks in front of the Israelis in order to explain the story of the Palestinian people, and at the same time have the latter listen to Israeli opinions regarding what is happening in the region.
Abu Sarah, who heads the Palestinian side adds, “If we want to reach a solution to the conflict, we have to know what each side thinks, pointing out that he held an open meeting last year in which 30,000 people from different areas participated.
The Forum includes 500 Palestinian and Israeli families. As for the Israeli, Yaffe, who lost her son in the 1983 war with Lebanon, sees that the two peoples must respect each other and listen to each other’s points of view because, “we are all humans and we all live together to achieve the anticipated peace.”
She said that she joined the forum in 1997 in order to follow her son’s footprints in achieving reconciliation between the two peoples.
During the ceremony, Thomas Duffy and Luis J. Moreno gave speeches which emphasized the need to limit hatred and violence and they confirmed that peace is the best solution to the conflict and can be achieved through dialogue.
The Goldberg award is presented each year by the Institute of International Education (IIE), a New York-based non-profit organization. The prize recognizes outstanding work being conducted jointly by two individuals, one Arab and one Israeli, working together to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East and includes a $10,000 prize. The initiator of the award, Mr. Victor J. Goldberg, who was also in attendance, explained its significance further, “the intent of this award is to recognize innovation and reward those who are courageous and committed enough to work together to overcome the religious, cultural, ethnic, and political issues which divide the Middle East. We hope not only to recognize significant work being conducted today, but also to inspire others to join together across these divides to advance the cause of peace in the coming years.”