In painful times, it can be hard to find words.
We weep. We pray. We don’t know what to say or do. The violence spreading across Jerusalem has filled the streets with suffering and fear. It can leave us paralyzed and speechless.
As a community of Palestinians and Israelis, together with friends from around the world, we feel the pain of both sides like almost no one else.
We have learned to trust and respect and love each other. We cling to our common humanity, our hope for peace, our rejection of violence, and our bedrock commitment to see the holiness – the image of God – in every human person, even our enemy.
This is a blessing and a burden.
We cannot repeat the simple slogans of our own side. We cannot demonize the other. We know that violence will lead only to more suffering and pain.
But we also know that the violence we see now is part of a larger reality of hopelessness and despair. The lack of security, equality and justice for all the people of Jerusalem is fueling hatred, inciting extremism, and taking us further from the peace we long for. And most painfully of all, we see children – children so much like our K4P youth – caught up in this cycle of suffering.
We are angry. We are afraid. But we will not be drawn into a death spiral of blame and retaliation.
We must offer an alternative.
In the face of so much fear, where even to leave our homes is a matter of life and death, we feel called to take leadership in building a new future. The future begins now, as we come together – to talk, to cry, to pray, to listen, and to connect deeply and honestly with each other’s lives.
To understand how the conflict is destroying Palestinian and Israeli families. To sense the fears and struggles at the root of our pain. To face the evil committed by our own side, not only by the other.
To take responsibility for our future.
Step One: We will talk with each other.
1) Over the coming days, Kids4Peace staff and parents will meet – in person and virtually – to reconnect with our sisters and brothers across the lines of conflict. It will be hard, but we are ready.
2) Next week, no matter what, we will launch our fall youth programs as planned. More than 120 young peacemakers are scheduled to meet each other to speak, learn, act. If it is safe, we will gather all in person. If it is not, we will meet online, on Facebook, in homes, or wherever we are able.
Nothing will be cancelled. We will not be defeated.
We will find a way forward together.
Step Two: We will join with our partners.
Together with other peace organizations, we will loudly and powerfully raise our voices in the community – to mobilize for real change.
While we long for an end to this round of violence, we also cannot return to the status quo. Division, despair, hatred, fear, injustice – this cannot be our future.
Our young adults will take the lead, through the Dialogue to Action Initiative, our latest effort to put our values into practice through nonviolent social change.
All of us will be working – night and day, heart and soul – in a sustained campaign to influence our peers and our political leaders, and to put forward a vision of the future which reflects our values as Christians, Jews and Muslims, and people of goodwill from all backgrounds, in Jerusalem, and around the world.
We will redevelop our educational programs, to equip youth with skills for advocacy, organizing and nonviolent action – as well as compassionate listening and dialogue.
We will increase our commitment to know – in detail – the reality of the other side, and to take seriously our responsibility to each other.
We will raise our voices.
One by one and all together, to empower a movement for change.