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Seek #JusticeAndPeace in the Holy Land

Half a century has passed since the six-day war when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Despite stalled peace processes and the sufferings entailed by the occupation, people still hope for a better future. Meet 12 people with different backgrounds sharing their hopes for justice and peace in the Holy Land.

 

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About the campaign

Half a century has passed since the six-day war when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Despite stalled peace processes and the sufferings entailed by the occupation, people still hope for a better future. Meet 12 people with different backgrounds sharing their hopes for justice and peace in the Holy Land.

Jean Zaru
Michel Sabbah
Nanor Arakelian
Noa Mazor
Nora Carmi
Omar Haramy
Raanan Mallek
Sam Bahour
Samar Hashweh
Shadia Sbait
Tarek Al-Zoughbi
Yehuda Stolov

 


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Love and peace will prevail

My hope is that love will prevail. There is no life without love--only waste, strife, madness and destruction.  We must find the way of truth, understanding, justice, and peace; otherwise, we will destroy others and ourselves.

With love comes peace.

Peace is a state of respect, cooperation and well-being. It’s the presence of social justice and the absence of war, poverty, hunger and oppression.

Peace is having enough to eat and the freedom from sickness and diseases. It is employment and health.

Peace is hope for our future and the future of all God's children and God's world. It is when we have no fear to assemble, to worship, to work, to publish, and to say the truth, even to power.

Peace is Salam, well-being for all, equality and respect for human rights.
Peace is where everybody feels at home and accepted, no barriers of age, class, sex, race, religion or nationality.

Peace is action that is dynamic and positive. It is when we break down the seen and unseen walls that separate people, nations, religions, and races.

Peace is that fragile harmony that carries with it the experience of the struggle, the endurance of suffering and the strength of love.

May we all be strengthened to work for this kind of peace by creating justice, equality and a world without seen and unseen walls. That is my hope.

Walls were built by people and people can pull them down, by creating enough breaches, enough openings, while digging deeper to understand and undermine their foundation.

My hope is that the walls that separate us will be broken down and that we will be united in a single body.

My hope is that in the end, love and peace will prevail.

Jean Zaru 
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Palestinian Christian peace and non-violence activist

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Hope is life

The current situation is hopeless. In reality, there are no signs of hope at all for the Palestinian people. In spite of that, we hope.

We hope because we are Christians, and God is present. 
We hope because we believe in the fundamental goodness of the human being, Israeli and Palestinian. Human goodness will prevail at the end upon the human power of evil.

We hope because Palestinians are persevering in claiming their rights. 
It is a source of hope that we never gave up, and that we are still fighting with a firm will, and faith that we will enjoy in the end our rights.

We hope because among Israelis, there are people who are trying to work with Palestinians for what is right. And there are an increasing number of movements for peace, strong in will. All these voices and visions of what is right will prevail and give light to those who do not see, or refuse to see what is right.

If we had no hope we would not live. Hope is life, and history gives us hope. What is right will prevail.

We keep hoping and acting for peace. We act out of love and a vision of peace through life, not death. 
In the end, the power of hope is stronger than physical strength. The weak can be stronger than the powerful.

Michel Sabbah
Catholic Patriarch Emeritus

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With hope comes love

Hope is the reason to stay positive and loving life, in spite of all the negativity around you. Without hope, there are no positive expectations. Hope helps psychically, spiritually and emotionally.

My Christian faith is instrumental in coping with hope. It tells me that everything will be ok, and that things will change for the better. It is important to share hope and it’s a tool that helps us support each other emotionally. Through hard work, team spirit and collaboration, within the society and among community members, we can turn our hopes into reality.

It is important that we don’t leave, and that we work together where we are for peace and reconciliation. Lasting peace can only be accomplished through tolerance and understanding. We must become more open to one another and respect one another. Dialogue is crucial for reconciliation.

My hope is that this conflict comes to an end, and that different communities can live together in harmony. That requires dialogue, in addition for courage to leave our comfort zones.

I also hope to be able to stay in Jerusalem, because this is where I belong. I’ve travelled, I’ve lived abroad, but I have always returned, and I hope that I can continue to have the privilege to live here, in a reconciled land where everyone will be at peace of mind.

Hope is a very strong word. With hope comes love.

Nanor Arakelian
Communication coordinator

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To put people first

Hope is an essential thing to have. If we lose hope it stops us from doing anything. Even when things seem desperate, you still need to have hope.

My hope is that people will find holiness in life and in each other – not sites or specific places. Only if we put people first, and then everything else after that, we can achieve a fulfilling life together in peace. There is a holy spark in each of us which needs to be kept alive and nurtured. The holiness of people is the most important thing to recognize, and from there everything else will come.

But how do we make our lives holy, and how do we work to create holiness? The answer is that it is our primary mission to keep our lives as holy as possible. We must overcome ethnical, religious and political constraints. We must talk more to each other, encourage more meetings, get to know each other, and strive to understand each other, so that we can find reasons for hope. We must celebrate diversity and pluralism. I believe that dialogue, courage and tolerance are critical here.

My hope is for people to be able to lead a fulfilling and complete life which is not restricted by governments, religions, terrorism or anything else. Human life and human dignity are the most important things, not physical places. We should care more about how people can find a way to pray, connect with each other and practice their religion, rather than who is in charge or in control.

To deal with hopelessness, we must remind ourselves that we are not alone in our struggle, and that we must work together.

The reality is complicated and it is not an easy task to make sure that people’s lives are fulfilling and sacred.  But we must continue to convey the message of hope and holiness, and find ways to reach out to more people. We must change the language, we must educate people and try to shift their focus to things that really matter.
We must try to open people’s hearts!

Noa Mazor
Rabbi

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The truth will set us free

As the daughter of an Armenian genocide survivor, my first legacy of hope comes from my family. Hope has always been with me. Fifty years is indeed a long time, but not in history. I wake up every morning convinced that we have to be steadfast and follow the will of God for a just cause. My Christian faith propels me, even in bad times. If we claim that we are followers of Jesus Christ, then our discipleship is not easy. But the truth will prevail and set us free in the end.

Human beings cannot remain under constant oppression. We are all created in the same image of God. There is something divine in every one of us, and we have no right to destroy that, regardless of opposite positions. No matter how much you suffer, you do not hate. You hope! I believe in justice with compassion and mercy, not revenge.

We must work on a human – not political – level, striving for the right and dignity of human beings. My work as a community builder among the oppressed and marginalized has kept my hope alive. Hoping that human beings will remain human.

In the Old Testament, forgiveness is included in the Jubilee every seventh year. To forgive and bring back the people who have been rejected. I hope that 2017 can be such a year of justice!

Nora Carmi
Civil society worker on justice and peace issues

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Choosing to stay

Many Palestinians feel that we are dying in the land of our Holy One. Often, we are asked: Is it possible to be hopeful in such a difficult context? Like many Palestinians, I frankly do not know. However, I continue to force myself to pretend I am hopeful. Why do I wish to deceive myself? In my opinion, the bitter taste of fake hope is easier than surrendering to the dark cruel reality of occupation.

The reality is absence of hope. We have very few expectations, if any. We are just trying to survive. I could easily move abroad, but I don’t want to live anywhere else. I want my nine-month-old daughter to grow up being able to say that this is where her parents grew up and live. Choosing to stay here is a sign of hope, steadfastness and resistance, and that we haven’t given up, after all. We still have hope that there will be some rights and that things will change.

Everything I work for everyday is that change will happen, regardless of the odds. But the reality isn’t promising. My anger fuels continuous resistance, which is also a sign of hope.

Our joy is in the path towards peace and justice. We walk with Jesus. The peace of Christ is not like any other peace.

Omar Haramy
Sabeel administrator

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A new way of thinking
You can neither have hope nor peace without justice. Who is justice for? Is it just for Jews or for all? If Palestinians don’t have justice, there can’t be hope for them, or for anyone else in this land. All their hopelessness – not just 50 years back, but 70 years back – compels us to reform our idea of what it means to live here. We cannot resolve the problem in the same condition as it was created. The belief that two peoples on the same land can be divided has caused 70 years of strife, struggle and occupation. To emerge from that, we need to create a new way of thinking, where we can live together in one land recognized as both Israel and Palestine. I hope that in ten years time, a Federal Republic of the Holy Land comprised of the States of Israel and Palestine on the same land becomes a reality. A republic with two different parliaments held together by a senate representing both Palestine and Israel equally.

Telling the Palestinians that they can have only 22 percent of the territory will cause more struggle, more injustice, more resentment and continued lack of peace. Instead, we must be part of a process with the Palestinian people where we address historical grievances and wrongdoings in an authentic manner which incorporates the traditional principles of Sulha and Conflict Transformation. We have to find a new way to solve the problem which teaches us how to live together.

The current situation is not sustainable and it is inevitable that change will take place. But it requires a change in rhetoric and a new model where conflict is transformed into opportunity. Conflict transformation begins on the ground among the masses and works its way up. Education is crucial in order to effectively change mindsets and reach a critical mass of support for nonviolent change. We are not there yet and we will encounter setbacks along the way. But I am convinced that our peoples can be brought together and create a brighter future for all. Better times will come!

Raanan Mallek
Rabbinical student at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary

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Living side by side in peace

My hope is that this occupation will come to an end and that Palestinians and Israelis can live normal lives side by side. I hope that this Holy Land can serve all three religions and be a global showcase of how different faiths can live together in peace.

Hope is important, and if we lose it there is risk that individuals turn to violence. Or that people give up and leave Palestine. That would be detrimental because we would then lose qualified Palestinians who could contribute seriously to a different and better reality.

Our hope is challenged every day. Turning hope into reality requires an effort on all parts. Not only generic efforts, but efforts asserted by everyone in their respective fields of expertise.

The prerequisite for a new reality is an end of Israel’s military occupation. I envision that to happen within a decade, and that also the issue of Palestinian refugees has started to be addressed by then. So that a rehabilitation process can begin, for both sides.

Israel cannot have an ongoing occupation and be accepted as equals – economically, culturally and politically – in the world at the same time. The choice is between remaining an outcast or joining the community of nations by ending the occupation. The will of the international communities is blocked only by Israel and the USA. 

I keep hope alive by civil society work and working to create jobs in our community. I am engaged in economic development issues and in my job and civil society activities, I meet many foreign visitors who have come to hear more about our efforts. I also spend plenty of time with my two daughters, whose generation are our hope for the future. It is crucial that people from all over the world continue to come here to see and learn for themselves. Equally important is for them to then act on what they learn.

Many churches are already contributing in a serious way. The impact the church has on reality is proven, as we have seen in South Africa. The church must continue to be a driving force for justice and peace.

Sam Bahour
Writer, businessman, activist

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Living under one sky

Hope encourages us, empowers our walks, sharpens our talks, enhances my belief that tomorrow will not be the same. It preserves my sanity and keeps me alive to meet the challenges with a smile and love rather than entices my hate or grudges. Hope is the main reason why I am living. We cannot live without hope.

There are lots of hopes that I wish to see in my lifetime. The Arab and Israeli children enjoying their childhood by living in safe havens turning the protracted conflict relationship into a transformative relationship. I love to see peace dwelling not only among ourselves but within our hearts. Peace we want based on justice and incarnated through collective responsibilities thus leading to reconciliation where mutuality, reciprocity and inclusivity replace hate, enmity and exclusivity. I love to see human rights rendered, injustice corrected and loss compensated. I hope that Israelis and Palestinians will acknowledge each other’s suffering, pains, ambitions and dreams. I hope to see my family reunified instead of having them isolated and besieged in Gaza, separated from the rest of us who live in Jerusalem, West Bank and Diaspora. I love to see them all living under one sky enjoying nature and nurturing their eyes with red color of the flowers rather than the bloodshed in the streets.

When I am in doubt about coping with hope I realize my grandmother’s steadfastness (72 years old) with my uncles, aunts and cousins who are determined to embrace life and to celebrate it in spite of the acute darkness, frequent incursions and terrible life conditions in Gaza. Their resilience, faith and trust in hope that will bring better living conditions in the coming years have fostered my belief in hope.

My work has allowed me to walk through Via Dolorosa on a daily basis, during years of instability, political violence and escalation. It has helped me to go back to my faith which says the last station of the Via Dolorosa is in the Holy Sepulcher where the tomb is empty and Christ has resurrected overcoming death.

To be realistic doesn’t mean to be hopeless. If there is no peace with justice in the area, we will see more terrible things happening. Since I strongly believe in hope it and my faith calls me to cling firmly to it. I love to work to create a different reality where dreams will lead to coexistence and thus justice will be rendered one day.

Samar Hashweh
Administrative officer

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The reason to wake up in the morning

My hope is to have PEACE – internal peace and to live in peace! My hope is not to see so many soldiers and weapons. Not to feel the tensions of war, especially in Jerusalem. My hope is to end the flow of the refugees from all over the world and to end this suffering, since I believe that no one deserves to be a refugee.

Having hope is the reason to wake up in the morning. You can’t do anything without hope. Therefore, hope is crucial. Without it, more despair, destruction and desperation. Losing hope under occupation is to hate life. You need hope to be happy!  

Hope is a very positive word and it’s not only about justice. All of us need to compromise, because peace is more important than total justice. The main priority is to prevent people from being killed, to save our children, to feel free to meet people and not have to worry all the time.

I believe in the words of the song that says “every land is a holy land, every people are the promised people.” I believe in embracing other faiths.

My personal hope is for my family to return to Iqrit in Northern Israel. My personal struggle is a small part of the Palestinian people’s struggle – the hope of all the Palestinian people all over the world. I am a hopeful person and my hope is to end the occupation. There is a lack of basic justice for all Palestinians under occupation. I call occupation war – a bad reality, which is hard to keep up hope in. People are suffering. Both sides have had huge losses and paid a huge price. And we are still losing kids, women, men, youngsters. But from the bottom it can only get better. It is time to stand up and act in order to bring change and hope to people.

Christianity is all about peace and forgiveness. We believe in the role of the church as Christians. The church can play an active role beyond the Christian part. A conflict resolution, inspired by the elementary parts of Christianity. It’s about justice and peace, regardless of religion. It is about what is right!

Shadia Sbait
Activist in the struggle of the people of Iqrit village

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A reason to move forward

Hope is like water for the soul. It’s a necessity, something the soul cannot live without. Hope is what revitalizes us. Under current circumstances, when there are no indications that we are moving forward, hope is crucial. Without it, there is no reason to move forward.

In spite of all the teargas, weapons and tensions, we still see the olive trees grow and the flowers bloom. The earth still lives. Our children smile, we laugh and enjoy life. People welcome visitors from near and far to their homes. These are strong sources of hope.

Our hopes can only become reality through hard work, perseverance and by not giving up. We must stand up as one and continue to strive for one goal: peace born out of justice. To reach that goal we must be more understanding, accepting the past and the change that comes with that.

We must strive for restorative justice – not punitive justice. In order to create the pathways for change, we must accept our flaws, work to forgive our transgressions and nurture the change we wish to see. And from that, always be assertive that we as individuals, communities and citizens of our respective nations, work to gain the rights and justice at no others expense. Instead, in our struggle for such justice, freedom and rights, work towards ending oppression in all its forms.

The path towards justice and change is long and difficult, but it is nothing short of possible and worth every tiring moment.

There are many possible futures. The sad one is continued suffering, mitigation and degradation. The future we hope and strive for is walls being torn down, strangers becoming neighbours and friends, and geographical restrictions and infringements on human rights and environments being abolished.

I see a future where Palestine and Israel live side by side, both protected and secure. Both leading fruitful futures and being examples of the world. It may take more than ten years, but the path will be walked towards that goal. We struggle to see the occupation come to an end and we look forward to a prosperous neighbouring Israel and Palestine. There is hope.  

Tarek Al-Zoughbi
Youth and intern/volunteer coordinator at Wi'am Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center

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Being friends rather than enemies

I hope that all people and communities of the Holy Land will learn to peacefully coexist and discover that their own being benefits when they are friends with the 'other' and when everyone cares for each other. I hope and am sure that this will lead to social and economic prosperity which everyone here will enjoy. For my own people, I hope that the Jewish Nation will continue to develop into the social and spiritual model for the whole of humanity that it should be.

For many decades, the situation has been going up and down. People sometimes have unrealistic expectations that the conflict can be solved in a short time and then they lose hope. We need to look at the long-term perspective of building inter-communal relations on the ground and when we do that we gain hope easily. It is like the stock market: it sometimes goes up very quickly and then down very quickly. Therefore, it is usually impossible to make big profits in a short time. But if you look long term you will see that the market grows steadily over time and this growth is sustainable. This is what we do at Interfaith Encounter Association, by encouraging people from all backgrounds, all faiths and all beliefs to talk together regularly in a way which unites them. One encounter at a time, a few more people each time, we bring hope to the participants and to people who learn about our work.

I look back at our organisation and I think about so many people we brought hope to. This makes me think that the animosity between our people is not as deep as it appears, and this view adds even more hope. I feel lucky that for me the current context does not only include what we hear on the news, but also include daily experience of thousands of Jews, Muslims and Christians coming together, overcoming prejudices and negative attitudes, and building true friendships of mutual care. Seeing this happening again and again not only brings me hope but also teaches me that it is much more natural for people of the Holy Land to be friends than to be enemies…

Hope is important because it can lead to effective positive action. When people know that interfaith encounters lead to really bridging the gaps and building good inter-communal relations, they actually join and make it happen. If we share the same space, we have to learn how to live together and together, we will change our reality.

Yehuda Stolov 
Executive director of the Interfaith Encounter Association


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