In retrospect 2007 has been one of the busiest years for the Parents Circle-Families Forum since its inception.
The year included many new and innovative projects and opportunities for working on the ground in the Middle East. It is important to note that the impact of our work, both in Israel/Palestine and internationally, has been covered extensively by the media. This has opened new doors of opportunity for us to spread our message of hope and empathy. We would like to share with you some of the highlights of the Parents Circle's work in 2007.
"KNOWING IS THE BEGINNING"
The project, funded by the Japanese Government, provided an intimate way for members of the Forum to come to understand the historical family tree and personal narrative of the other. The project began with 140 Israeli and Palestinian members visiting the 'Yad Vashem' Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. The Purpose of the trip to the museum was for the Palestinian members to understand the fears of the Jewish people and to attain a deeper understanding of how they see Jewish History in order to create empathy even when there is no agreement.
The group then visited a Palestinian village that existed before 1948 near "Beit Shemesh" in Israel. Two of the Palestinian members of our group originally came from this village. The fact that the village was completely destroyed was distressing for all and gave everyone an incredibly moving and insightful understanding of the pain and longing of the Palestinian people, a short and intense perspective of the "Nakbah" (Catastrophe)
Since the initial seminar, members of the group engaged in personal, one-on-one in depth meetings with members of the "other side" visiting each other's homes and sharing stories. The intimate knowledge of the other has brought the group much closer together and has brought about an understanding of how intertwined all of our histories are and how critical it is to approach one another with empathy.
Throughout the year similar smaller seminars were held with the guidance of two academics, Prof. Nave (Israeli) and Mr. Bader (Palestinian). This was a wonderful opportunity for sharing what happened in the one-on-one meetings and giving all of the members an intimate glimpse into the lives and histories of other members.
Our vision is to take this program out into both societies. We are currently in the process of negotiating for a suitable academic partner to advice and research.
135 Israeli and Palestinian artists received large ceramic bowls with the idea for a theme of "Offering Reconciliation". From this point, each artist embarked on a personal path, sharing their own interpretation and narrative of reconciliation and all the values that stem from it-coexistence, pain, loss, rift and fusion. Each artist presented his own unique reconciliation piece of art as a message of hope instead of hatred.
Since its extraordinary success in Israel, the exhibition traveled to Brandeis University in Boston, and was covered by "The Boston Globe" as well as many other media outlets. The Exhibition then traveled to Washington DC and was displayed at the World Bank, before continuing on to the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle, WA where it remained on display from June to August. The next venue was the United Nations in September, followed by the Pomegranate Gallery in New York and finally to SOFA Chicago, one of the largest decorative art and sculpture exhibitions in the world. Most of the bowls were sold through an online auction as well as a live auction at SOFA. In addition to providing financial support for our education projects, this exhibit was the most effective medium for us to spread our message of reconciliation to a broader public. Not only through the fact that two members of the Forum accompanied the Exhibition and gave lectures and tours around the venues, but also by the extensive media coverage received wherever they were, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, a thirty minute interview on the Arabic channel Al-Jazeera, repeated coverage on N.Y.1 news channel. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the PR firms Ruder Finn, Carol Fox and Associated, and Ben-Or Israel, Parents Circle had more than 1,000 mentions in the press. We would like to thank all the wonderful people who made this exhibition happen, Orna Schestowitz Tamir for the idea and for being the curator, Dafna Zmora , "Israeli Friends of the Parents Circle" "Harsa Merhav" and the Sagol family, The Ted Arrison Family Foundation, AIDA Association of Israel's Decorative Arts, James Wolfensohn , the Cummings Foundation and many other wonderful friends.
HIGH SCHOOL DIALOG MEETINGS
This is the most important educational activity developed by the PCFF, which has been ongoing for the last 7 years. These meetings address Palestinian and Israeli 16 - 18 year old students. For most of the participants it is their first opportunity to meet a representative from "the other side" who does not fit existing stereotypes such as a soldier or a settler, or a terrorist. Given the potential for extreme views, our members prove to be the most effective promoters of peace and reconciliation. We send a pair of facilitators, one Israeli and one Palestinian, together to these meetings. This in itself is an example and a lesson. It allows an informal contact, an atmosphere of listening and empathy, thus neutralizing a number of myths. By describing their own personal loss and their opting for reconciliation and non-violence, our members encourage the participants to begin the long process of transforming their own feelings of suspicion, fear and hatred.
Classroom dialogs continued throughout 2007, and despite a two month teachers strike that paralyzed schools, we still expect to reach our target of over 1,000 classroom lectures. We now have a trained team
of over 50 lecturers who work in the schools.
Two examples of feed-back from the forms the students complete after the dialog:-
11th grade student,Al-Hikmeh Secondary, Sakhneen 13th Feb, 2007:
"Peace is possible but on one condition and that is both sides will know each other. I know now there are some Jews who like Arabs and they are in good contact with them, I would like for you to write your stories and distribute them to everyone widely. I want you to reach the Israeli schools and inform them that they have to know the Arabs well, we are human beings and it's possible to have good relations. Only then we can have peace".
12th grade student Metro West, Raanana 8th February, 2007
"The meeting carries a message of co-existence and as such is essential and basic. It is important to show that there is hope for peace between the peoples. I think that more time should be allotted to these issues. I will think about the issues that we've discussed a long
time after the meeting. These meetings could actually change the way extremists from both sides think."
Many of the participants in the meetings as us "what can I do?" As a reply to this question we plan to shift some of the resources we have to more intensive projects . During 2008 we plan second and third meetings with groups in schools, talking to them about the historical narrative of the two nations and about reconciliation attempts in the world. Another project we are working on is "Ambassadors of Reconciliation" a group of Israeli and Palestinian students who will meet and work together on ways to enhance reconciliation activities on both sides.
We held our 4th annual summer camp this year. Imagine a group of 40 kids, Israelis and Palestinians who do not share a common language. They have all lost immediate family members in the conflict; yet they manage to play together, communicate with each other without words, and interact with each other as human beings regardless of nationality.
There were 3 goals for the camp this year:-
1. To further develop the process of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
2. To allow the participants an enjoyable experience.
3. To spread the message of reconciliation and dialogue to the younger generations.
It always proves the need for the children of bereaved families to meet one another and to understand the humanity on both sides.
Summer Camp in Austria
In order to strengthen the understanding and act of reconciliation among youngsters, PCFF tries to develop projects that enable the participants to go through a deeper and more intensified process of reconciliation.
The need for such projects emerged from the field. We found ourselves approached on many occasions by students who participated in our meetings and asked us "what can we do"? A delegation of young students, Palestinian and Israeli traveled to Austria to meet with Hungarian and Austrian students of their age. During the camp they were given the tools to have an open and respectful dialogue. It was for all an intense and rewarding experience and this could be felt through the blog they ran during the period. The students created a forum and are in touch by e-mail; - we feel it is very important for them to have a way to maintain the contact and friendships that were formed. This activity was funded by the Austrian Diakonie and the Protestant Church.
Cameras and photography lessons were given to Israeli and Palestinian children from the Forum. The goal was to show their daily lives and to express themselves. This idea was then turned into an exhibition which was displayed in East Jerusalem and in Yaffo, Tel-Aviv. The children who participated had an added benefit of getting to know each other both through the lens of the camera and then through the time they spent together.
The Reconciliation Center will be responsible for all professional seminars for our Forum members and for the general public. It will encompass our research and evaluation activities as well as organize our first yearly international workshop/conference on reconciliation. In order to do that, the Reconciliation Center has established an ongoing relationship with academic institutes and is planning to further expand such relationships. The Reconciliation Center held a ceremony to celebrate the "International World Peace Day" (21st September) and they selected a Palestinian and an Israeli candidate for our first Peace and Reconciliation prize which will be given annually.
TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES
The Parents Circle-Families Forum with the assistance of U.S.A.I.D. has initiated a new means for spreading the message of understanding by removing the demonization of both sides through the media. With the assistance of Reshet, the most popular station, channel 2 T.V. Company and their skilled script writer, have created a 10 episode fiction drama dealing with the personal and historical narratives of two families. We feel that this is the largest breakthrough on the topic of reconciliation to the general public that has ever happened through the media. In addition to the drama series, which is geared to the general public who watch television and not to the "converted" they are also creating a "Making of" for the series which will highlight the work of the Forum. We are very excited as the fist episode is planned to air in the first half of 2008. So as not to lose the momentum, we are planning the next steps after the series including an advertising campaign and a series of lectures to the general public featuring the stars of the series. Much of this campaign will be dependent on funding in the upcoming year.
RADIO PROGRAM "KOL HASHALOM'
This weekly radio program which broadcast in Hebrew and Arabic is going from strength to strength. Two of our members create and direct the program. They report on PCFF activities and tell the personal stories of our members and others through in-depth interviews.
EUROPEAN UNION PROJECT - BUILDING TRUST
After much research and learning from others (specifically Ireland and South Africa) we understand how important it is to include adults in the quest for reconciliation. The Parents Circle Families Forum submitted a proposal which was granted by the European Union for this purpose. Over the past 2 years more than 200 lectures were given in both Palestine and Israel. These lectures were directed to groups who could make a difference in their own communities, such a young leaders, key community members, religious leaders, high ranking officers in the army, activists, lawyers and social workers. As a result, many meetings were created by these adults who were exposed to the message in previous meetings including an invitation to a college who now want to have a joint venture with the Parents Circle for their interns. We hope to continue with this project in 2008, if funding permits.
PARENTS CIRCLE WOMEN'S GROUP
We feel strongly that women can and should play a unique role in fostering reconciliation within their communities and that they should be empowered to take part in all negotiations regarding the future for both sides. During 2007 , the "Ladies of the Forum" met everal times and produced an innovative multi-cultural calendar for 2008 which is sold to support the work of the group We hope to further invest in this group for them to be able to continue to meet and to grow and influence the work of the Forum.
VISIT TO PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES
A delegation of forty Palestinian and Israeli members of the Forum met with the President of Israel, Shimon Peres. It was a very moving event. The President warmly thanked the members of the Forum for the work that they are doing, adding that he was deeply touched by the personal stories and by the fact that people on both sides were prepared to communicate in an effort to promote peace - despite the personal price they had already paid. President Peres state that "no one can bring anyone back to life, but we can prevent future victims. The differences of opinion between Israel and the Palestinians are not that crucial, so true peace is not too far off" He added that "we need peace between people, but first we need peace between governments and our only consolation is peace." At the end of the meeting, the Forum presented a "Bowl of Reconciliation" on which the President signed his name in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
• Meeting with Congressman Ackerman, and his subsequent signing of a letter together with a Moslem Congressman to the leaders of the Annapolis Conference encouraging them to make agreements.
• Meeting in Sarajevo at the Emmaus International Conference.
Meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury Mr. Rowan Williams and his request to meet with us on his next visit to the region as well as his message of support for the work of the Parents Circle-Families Forum: http:www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/sermons_speeches/071224.htm
• Meeting with the Belgian Foreign Minister, Mr. Karl de Gucht, at his invitation
• Lecture at the Oxford Union at Oxford University resulting in 300 students signing a petition to Tony Blair to include the Parents Circle - Families Forum in his work in Israel/Palestine
• Meeting in the House of Lords.
• Lecture at the Nobel Women's Initiative in Galway
• 92nd street Y Lecture by Forum members.
Over the past year, there have been numerous screenings of "Encounter Point", featuring forum members and their work. After screenings in Jordan, PCFF members met with King Abdullah and numerous other Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli politicians. We are hoping that after the successful premier at the Jewish Film Festival in London, will open many more doors . Encounter Point was also shown in Dubai as well as all over the United States , Canada and many other countries. It was also screened twice on El. Arabiya.
A film made by the Italian Television featuring some of the mother from the Parents Circle premiered in Venice . Two of our members attended and spoke.
SOLIDAR SILVER ROSE AWARD
The Parents Circle Families Forum was awarded the "Solidar Silver Rose" award at the European Parliament in Brussels for its contribution to Peace and Reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians. The European M.P. Luisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European-Parliament proposed the candidacy of the Forum.
"SOLIDAR" is an independent international alliance of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who are involved in social service provision, international co-operation, humanitarian aid and life-long learning and are historically linked to the free and democratic labour and trade union movement.
"Solidar's Silver Rose " awards celebrate outstanding achievements of individuals and organizations that are active in the fight for social justice.
Every year, Solidar receives nominations from around the world. The winners, chosen by the Silver Rose jury, are people or organizations working in civil society, who dedicate their work to bringing about a fairer and more just society.
We as members of the Forum, come together on an ongoing basis to provide support and encouragement to one another, Israelis and Palestinians alike, sharing the same pain and sense of loss. This mutual support serves as a source of strength and enables us to continue acting for the greatest common goal - reconciliation and peace.
You can also become an important part of the Parents Circle by supporting our efforts to end the bloodshed, violence and circle of hate. To ensure the continuation of our projects your generous support is needed. The Parents Circle - Families Forum is a registered 501c3 not-for-profit organization
Donations ma be made through:
In Israel & Palestine
Asia House, Tel-Aviv
In North America:
American Friends of Parents Circle - Families Forum
114W. 26th Street
Office No. 212-509-2407, email@example.com
Israeli Office: 972-3-5355089 firstname.lastname@example.org
Palestinian Office:972-2-2344554 email@example.com
The Parents Circle-Families Forum received by Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel
Solidar's Silver Rose Award to the Parents Circle Families Forum: A hope for peace, justice and reconciliation for Palestinians and Israelis
The Bereaved Families Forum and the "Photovoice" organization have pleasure in inviting you to the opening of a photographic exhibition – "SIDE BY SIDE"
Dialogue4theFuture - Daily blog summary - July 2007
“Are You Mabsuta (pleased)? – Na’am!”
The ladies of the Forum's calendar
"Knowing is the beginning"
On the weekend of the 4-7.1.2007, fourteen youth, Israelis and Palestinians, had their first Seminar in the PC/FF collaboration with "Photo Voice", new youth project.
More articles in Past Activities and From the Media