In the first gathering of its kind, over 60 young Israeli and Palestinian leaders joined forces to coordinate ways to support the peace process and confront violent actions that are threatening the chance for regional stability and peace. In an emotionally charged event in Jerusalem on March 21st, Ambassador Dennis Ross, a member of the PeaceWorks Foundation’s Honorary Board, inspired future Israeli and Palestinian leaders to spread the voice for conflict resolution.
The break through event was planned for months and attempted in the past, but lack of permits, travel restrictions, threats, and political conditions had prevented it. The last planned gathering in late February was canceled amidst the last terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. This time, 14 Palestinians from Gaza and 27 from the West Bank joined 36 Israelis from across all sectors of society representing a broad spectrum of politics. Leaders in their communities, young people between 19 and 32 years of age were selected from the OV Leadership Development program over the course of months to participate in this seminal discussion.
While most participants had organized OneVoice workshops and town hall meetings in their own communities, many of them had never met someone from the other side. With this in mind, representatives from each side were asked to start by sharing cathartic experiences. “Participants shared very painful personal stories – about jail, beatings, explosions, body inspections, hospitalizations, losses on both sides – but what struck me is that they all would end pledging to work to change things once and for all,” said Nisreen Shaheen, Palestinian Executive Director. Listen to their stories. http://blog.onevoicemovement.org/one_voice/2005/03/voices_of_pales.html
Where only months ago the professional staffs of both sides questioned whether the time was ripe for such a large and public gathering, the young leaders answered with a resounding yes, and demanded from themselves and from OneVoice sustained contact and concrete joint actions. “What impressed me the most was how hungry the leaders were for more coordination, for more interaction,” said Oriella Ben-Tzvi, Acting Israeli Executive Director.