Two dozen members of the Nottingham Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group connect over Skype with an Israeli youth leader in Tel Aviv and a Palestinian youth leader in Ramallah at an event organized by OneVoice Europe's Outreach and Education Program.
London, May 29, 2012—Members of the Nottingham Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group assembled at a local synagogue earlier this month to connect over Skype with an Israeli youth leader in Tel Aviv and a Palestinian youth leader in Ramallah. The session allowed them to learn firsthand about parallel grassroots efforts to achieve the two-state solution.
Two dozen members listened intently to a brief presentation by OneVoice Europe’s Outreach and Education Program Director Sharon al-Soodani, and then opened the floor for a question and answer session with Ben Ofer and Abeer al-Natsheh through video conferencing. Part of an ongoing series – the program has held 38 sessions so far and reached more than 900 individuals – the events allow UK communities vested in the Middle East conflict to address this often highly volatile topic in an intimate and safe environment, using a constructive approach.
“It was an excellent meeting,” said Jeff Cohen, co-chair of the dialogue group, after the session. “We not only gained an insight into what it is like for people living in Israel and Palestine, but it also helped to cement relationships in our group as well.”
Abeer, a 28-year-old Jerusalem resident who holds a bachelor’s in computer science, answered several questions about living conditions in the West Bank and freedom of movement between Jerusalem and other major Palestinian cities. Ben, a 24-year-old law student, spoke about the first-ever Two-State Solution Caucus in the Knesset, which OneVoice Israel co-conceived, and the recent successes of using social media to impact Israeli society.
“The Nottingham Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group sets an example of how interfaith groups can explore both the comfortable and uncomfortable aspects of dialogue,” said Sharon. “By participating in a Q&A with two of our activists from Israel-Palestine, they have engaged together in a pragmatic approach that challenges the status quo and demands justice and peace for all those affected.”
Sharon explained to the group that her program focuses on forward-thinking and solutions to the conflict. The approach has allowed the program to successfully improve relations between Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities and promote a win-win scenario to conflict resolution in Israel-Palestine and in British communities, schools and campuses. OneVoice advocates for the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders, and resolving all final status issues according to international law and resolutions.
School students, university students and members of communities who are most affected by the Middle East conflict are finding a space, through the Outreach and Education Program, where they can be heard and understood. The program enables them to channel their energy and passion to be active toward ending the occupation and finding a just solution to the conflict.
“Grassroots understanding here in the UK of the needs of both sides in the process and how their experiences have shaped their positions is what will eventually lead them to take a realistic and pragmatic attitude toward resolving conflict and divisions both in their own societies and back in the Middle East,” Sharon explained.
Interfaith groups have been particularly keen to invite Sharon to work with their participants on this issue, where they are failing to deal with it effectively. A connection with five synagogues, three mosques and nine churches has been established. A network of nine Muslim organizations, two Christian organizations and six Jewish organizations has been built, and extended into 22 other organizations, including interfaith, community development and local councils.
Ben Ofer spoke to members of the Nottingham Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group about the first-ever Two-State Solution Caucus in the Knesset as well as successes in social media activism to impact Israeli society.