It’s easy to be a cynic in Jerusalem — especially if you’re a journalist. More than the average citizen, we are immersed daily in the injustice, hatred and tensions that have gripped this city for time immemorial. Though it’s nice to fantasize about Jerusalem as “The City of Peace,” I can’t help thinking of all the wars and battles fought for control of our city since biblical times, spurred on by nationalist and religious fervor.
Journalists seem to thrive on their distrust and skepticism. But as a mother of a 3-year-old, I can’t afford to live in a world of pessimism, standing back, wrapped in the careful armor of a casual observer. This is the world my son Nilai will inhabit. For his sake, I look for the hope of peace. Despite what I see with checkpoints, house demolitions, military incursions, Qassam rocket attacks and suicide bombings, I seek out stories of hope, of people and groups who try to build peace—even one tiny step at a time.
I rarely find hope among political leaders or even local and international political activists — some of whom are too one-sided to be peace-builders and others who are too busy fighting something to be able to build anything.
True peace-building is done quietly, with little media attention, at a basic human level. The real peace-builders simply do what needs to be done. They are:
• Israeli doctors and nurses who struggle with bureaucracy to get a sick Palestinian into an Israeli hospital (to be treated by both Arab and Jewish personnel) or who offer care in Palestinian villages.
• Israeli hospital volunteers who sit with Palestinian children whose families weren’t allowed to cross the checkpoint to be with them.
• Young Palestinians from the Nablus Youth Federation and other areas of the West Bank who risk being arrested so they can attend Interfaith Encounter Association meetings and get to know Israelis as individuals.
• Israeli and Arab women—Jewish, Christian and Muslim—who share their lives and faith at monthly meetings through the Women’s Interfaith Encounter Association.
My greatest hope rests in a few schools and youth groups that regularly bring Jewish and Arab children together. Many involve only Israeli Arab and Jewish children, while others bring Palestinian Arab children together with their Israeli counterparts. I see hope in Seeds of Peace’s youth leadership work and programs at Givat Haviva educational and research center. I see hope at Jerusalem International YMCA’s bilingual kindergarten where Arab and Jewish children learn together, and also the Israeli Hand-in-Hand bilingual schools in Galilee and Jerusalem. I see hope at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace) Jewish-Arab Israeli community 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem, which educates people of all ages about peace, equality and understanding.
I already know where I will send Nilai to nursery school next year. Even before my husband and I thought about marriage, I knew my future children would attend a bilingual school. At that time, Oasis of Peace was my only option. Now the Hand-in-Hand nursery school in Jerusalem is just a five-minute drive from our home.
Every day I read the newspapers. I see with my own eyes what’s happening here. There is no other option: Only through our children will true peace be built.