By Uri Fishelson
The importance of participating in OneVoice Europe’s Outreach and Education Program speaking tour for me lay in the opportunity to transform a critical European audience into supporters that can play an effective role in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the first event approached, I grew very nervous. I was warned that the audiences on the tour might be hostile. I didn't even know if they would allow me to speak about the mission and work of OneVoice. Fortunately, I found they were all very respectful and I was able to explain OneVoice Israel’s activities during each event.
We met with Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike, most of whom expressed their acceptance of both an Israeli and a Palestinian state, even though they had fragmented opinions at times. I was very encouraged by the willingness of the audiences to listen to my Palestinian counterpart, Antwan Saca, and me, discussing painful but necessary compromises.
Antwan said it well when he told the crowd, "Don't be pro-Israel, don't be pro-Palestine; if you really want to help, be pro-agreement."
During the tour, we visited many schools and spoke to young audiences, who were eager to learn about the conflict. Many of them had never met an Israeli or a Palestinian before, so Antwan and I took it upon ourselves to establish a connection with them and expose them to the reality on the ground from our unique perspectives.
One student expressed interest in opening an Oxford University OneVoice chapter. Another inquisitive teenager held many polarizing views that he had learned from his family. Despite this, he was full of questions and Antwan and I spoke with him at length. I believe our conversations planted a seed in his mind that will make him a more critical thinker, no longer seeing things in plain black and white.
One interesting event took place in Westminster Abbey, where we spoke to nearly 40 community members. Canon B. Reiss of Westminster Abbey said, “I am sure many of those at the meeting were most encouraged to see a Palestinian and an Israeli engaging in such a constructive and open way, and therefore very appreciative of the work OneVoice is doing.”
Many students and community members were thirsty to hear about the daily life of Israelis and Palestinians, what we are doing to resolve the conflict, and how reality differs from what they see in the media.
One audience member asked "If your people are so similar, why can't you reach a solution?" This is a persistent question that we frequently ask ourselves.
OneVoice Israel is tirelessly working to answer this question and to bring about a solution, as we infuse the idea of “creating tomorrow today” into Israeli society. Equally, our colleagues in OneVoice Palestine, are imploring their communities to take an active role now to end the conflict for generations to come.
Read the Jewish Chronicle coverage of the OneVoice Europe’s Education and Outreach tour.