New York, March 29, 2011—In teaching teenage Israeli Arabs the importance of personal empowerment, Shir Lachish felt compelled to act; finding her own way to help end the conflict.
Shir, 25, began earning her law degree in 2009 at Tel Aviv University. The program offered the chance to teach teenage Israeli Arabs an introduction to Israeli law. The opportunity, Shir felt, was not to be missed. Over a 14-week semester, they not only covered an aggressive curriculum, but also discussed such topics as Israel’s democracy, the Israeli Arab community’s sense of marginalization, and of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The weeks I spent with them taught me a lot about their perspective and I came to realize they too felt despair about the conflict,” said Shir. “While I was encouraging them to take an active role in shaping their future, I too felt empowered to act in shaping Israel's young Jewish democracy.”
After completing military service, Shir delved into her undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry at Tel Aviv University. She also worked as a chemistry research assistant at the university. Ambitious and politically curious, Shir applied for law school before completing her first degree to explore the fabric of Israeli society. Her curiosity also landed her an internship with the Israeli branch of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization. She’s researching the main bodies responsible for maintaining integrity, transparency, and accountability in Israeli society.
Though Shir’s experiences have been wide ranging, she credits her teaching experience with jolting her into action. Hearing her students complain about the state of their lives without any willingness to take personal responsibility made Shir think about the active contribution she’d like to make in her community. “I kept hearing from them that there’s nothing they can do and it made me think about what I can do personally to make a change, and to help shake them, as young people living in Israel, out of their apathy.”
Shir built trust with her students by giving them the opportunity to speak and be heard. She went beyond the class requirements by showing each one of them how they can make a difference by raising their own unique voice, an ideal ingrained in her since childhood.
All that Shir needed was a platform to amplify her voice, and she found the perfect outlet when she came across OneVoice on her campus. “I was looking for a movement that accepts the fact that there are two contrasting narratives,” she said. “OneVoice advocates for the future – as the Israeli and Palestinian narratives clash over the past, all of us realized that where we can come together and agree on is our future.”
Shir joined her fellow OneVoice Israel activists in launching a Facebook “headlines” application last winter, intended to address growing apathy among the citizenry by asking them what they hope for on Israel’s 70th birthday. Users can design the front page of a tabloid, reflecting what they’d like to read in the year 2018. Since then, she’s been at the helm of several initiatives that call on every Israeli to take personal responsibility and action to end the conflict.
Join Shir and OneVoice Palestine’s Mohammad Asideh on tour this April, as they share their message to end the conflict at universities and institutions around the Midwest.