London, December 16, 2011—OneVoice Europe organized several events throughout November in London that connected Israeli and Palestinian youth activists with British students and faith groups, giving them the chance to hear firsthand about OneVoice’s parallel work to achieve the two-state solution.
Thuraya Aghbar, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student, and Shir Lachish, a 25-year-old law student, spoke at 14 events and reached more than 400 people during their weeklong visit. At each event, they started by sharing their personal stories of growing up in Israel and Palestine, set against the backdrop of the conflict. The motivation behind their activism, they revealed to the audience, lay in the tension between moving beyond and being propelled by their hardships.
“The message of ending the occupation and living in freedom has been the highest dream of all Palestinians,” said Thuraya during an event held at the Islamia Girls Secondary School. “OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice Israel are working in parallel to achieve the two-state solution so we can reduce pain happening in our part of the world.”
The 25 young Muslim girls, most of whom had never heard the Israeli narrative, said they’d grown up believing there was no possible solution. Listening to both Thuraya and Shir, they came away with the realization that resolving the conflict requires cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and lots of painful compromises for both sides.
Thuraya and Shir visited several other schools, including Copthall Girls School, Chigwell, William Morris Sixth Form, Queens Park Community School, and Winchmore, where positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have grown increasingly divisive. No topic was out of bounds, from Israel’s settlement policy to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and the Palestinian’s UN bid for statehood. The students relished the rare opportunity to hear the voices of the Israeli and Palestinian grassroots instead of a lecture from politicians or experts, and left the sessions with a sense that they, as young individuals, can come together to support people their age in Israel and Palestine who are working to change the status quo.
“As a teacher, I wasn’t looking forward to covering this subject, as it’s really tricky to deal with,” said Nathan Godleman, the humanities teacher at Queens Park Community School. “But since [OneVoice’s] last visit, it has really relieved some of the tension around the issue.”
OneVoice Europe’s Outreach and Education Program also targeted faith groups, such as the West London Synagogue, the Kingston Jewish community, and Palmers Green Mosque, all of which have a vested interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Outreach and Education Program will capitalize on the relationships it built throughout 2011 to run more conflict resolution workshops in schools and communities, and expand its coalition of supporters for the two-state solution.