March was an extremely successful tour month for OneVoice Europe’s Outreach and Education Program (O&E).
Gabi Avner of OneVoice Israel and Ahmed Shtaya of OneVoice Palestine toured the three cities of London, Birmingham, and Manchester on the first tour reaching over 500 people, while Nanor Arakelian of OVP and Maya Peretz of OVI addressed over 600 people on a second tour in London. Both tours paved the way for O&E to connect with established supporters and reach new groups in 2013.
The Moseley School in Birmingham was one of the first schools that partnered with OneVoice for pilot sessions in 2010. The school’s students – many of whom with predominantly Muslim backgrounds – find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be a sensitive issue. O&E made it a priority to return to Moseley and discuss the conflict during the first tour.
“We learned about the needs of the two different states… and that after all everyone wants freedom and not to live in war,” one Moseley student said after the event.
During the second tour, O&E had the opportunity to conduct an event it had never done before. In the London Borough of Waltham Forest is a branch of the Youth Offending Service. Enrolled in this program are young people with experiences in conflict, including gang violence in London neighborhoods. The enrollees responded well to the stories of OneVoice youth leaders Israel and Palestine and what these activists are doing to turn their situation – the status quo of violence, conflict, and occupation – around for the better.
A case manager from the Youth Offending Team said it was only the second time that they had experienced a successful session from outside visitors with this group. The last time had been a session about child soldiers. It seems that the young people needed to address and process issues associated with conflict and were open to doing so with OneVoice youth leaders who shared some similar life experiences.
One of the group members thanked the OneVoice team for the intimate and informative talk. Reflecting on the day’s event, he simply yet poignantly said, “it’s real life out there.”
“I was eager to encounter audiences that had less knowledge about the conflict and the two-state solution,” said OneVoice Israel’s youth leaders, Maya Peretz. “I was wary that some of the audiences might not be so receptive, but these fears didn’t materialize, and I felt our encounters were quite productive. Most importantly was the fact that they got to hear both sides, and in a context of agreement and speaking in one voice.”
Along with 13 other schools in the cities, O&E had the opportunity to visit the East London Mosque, the EU Commission, and provided a speaker for an event with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which also reaffirmed the belief in expanding O&E’s presence to untapped audiences while keeping close the early champions of OneVoice’s mission. It shows that a firm base is now established from which to facilitate dialogue in the UK about the end of the occupation and a just solution that will ensure equality, human rights, and that the conflict is ended.
"The tour experience was phenomenal and challenging,” said Nanor. “I had the opportunity to meet new people and felt that I actually am doing something for my country. I increased my knowledge about the conflict and became even more supportive of OneVoice. This tour motivated me to participate more in Palestine and also spread the word of the importance of two states.”
The success of the March tour and the program was also not lost on O&E Director Sharon Alsoodani.
“The Outreach and Education Program now has a broad base of participation and has developed over the past two years to become a multi-dimensional project,” said Sharon. “It offers an all-round package of intensive education, grassroots encounters with Israelis and Palestinians, and membership of a growing and diverse community that is for an end to the occupation and a win-win solution.”