In October 2015, we launched our new “From Dialogue to Action” program. Consisting of three parts- the From Dialogue to Action Course for young adults (aged approximately 20-30), direct activism projects, and the creation of a new Theology of Peace– the program is rooted in faith-based activism and nonviolent political-change, and is helping to bring our dialogue work onto the streets of Jerusalem. We are happy to share with you that, as we near the end of its pilot year, the program has had a great many successes.
The Dialogue to Action Course: The course first launched last year and provided Palestinian and Israeli young adults the opportunity to come together for deep dialogue and to walk together in some of the most tense areas of Jerusalem, where such mixed groups are not seen in public. Participants in this first course are now engaged in their own activism projects of various types, and this summer a short Advanced Skills course was offered to members of the first group and their new networks to help support them in developing their initiatives. Today the second course is in progress, using an updated curriculum that continues with the dialogue and public visibility of the first iteration while adding skill development workshops aimed at teaching core skills needed to become active leaders for change and peace. The participants are utterly inspiring. They come from a diverse set of backgrounds- some come from the settlements, while others from refugee camps. Some live comfortably yet still feel compelled to work for change, others are barely able to feed their families. Yet each participant comes from a place of great pain and suffering, and a deep knowledge of what it means to live in conflict on the streets of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. And each participant arrives ready to learn, ready to open themselves to the group, and ready to take responsibility for creating a better future, regardless of the immense challenges they face in simply arriving to our classroom.
Direct Activism Projects: The DTA program sets up direct activism projects to involve a wider audience in the work of creating change. These projects take on many forms, but always involve engaging various people in a sensitive and productive way that can help spark further action and change. Among the projects
we had thus far have been organizing an interfaith prayer on the roofs of Jerusalem’s Old City for 70 participants (Sep 2016), conducting the first tour for Ultra-Orthodox journalists into Palestinian East Jerusalem (Feb 2016), lecturing to the Israeli military and, pre army academy, and dozens of meetings with community and religious leaders, police and military officers. One specific series of talks was aimed at convincing right wing religious Jewish leaders to discourage the kinds of anti-Palestinian rhetoric and acts that typically take place each year as Israelis mark “Jerusalem Day,” to great effect (May 2016).
Writing a New Theology of Peace: Further supporting Dialogue to Action’s commitment to faith-based activism and to reaching audiences that often feel alienated by some “peace” programming, the program features extensive writings in a wide range of publications. So far, Dialogue to Action has supported
publication of articles in Ynet, Haaretz, Sicha Mekomit (+972), The Huffington Post, and extensively in The Times of Israel, among others. These writings are working to create a new Theology of Peace that can be accepted throughout Jewish society, helping to provide a model of how peace activism can be brought not only to more left-leaning communities but to a much wider audience.
In only one year, DTA has become an example for many peace organizations for the future of the work which needs to be done in Israel and Palestine. As one of the directors has said: DTA pushes us to evaluate what is peace work. Maybe some organizations will not create a program like the DTA model, but no NGO can not ask itself the questions why we don’t have DTA in our NGO.