Just last month, I found myself walking down the hallway of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, searching for a complete stranger. I was looking for Mohammed, a Gazan in his young 20s and a member of the “Gaza Parkour Team” (yes, that’s a thing), who recently fell off a five-story building while training. When I heard Mohammed’s story in one of the peace-building Facebook groups I’m in, I knew I had to visit him.
Why visit him and not the thousands of other patients in the hospital? The answer is simple: this was not purely an act of kindness — this was an act of peace-building, an act of unity and an act friendship. We often cast hateful education as the reason that peace will never be achieved, but we fail to realize that it is in our own hands to help educate and impact those around us. I do not know how Mohammed was raised or what he thinks of Israelis. But I do know this: my decision to visit Mohammed showed him a side of Israelis he had likely never seen before and may very well impact on the way he views the conflict and Israelis in general in the future.
Along with this miraculous ability to reach out to humans around the globe through social media, a powerful new opportunity has arisen. In this past year of peace-building, I have made dozens of Muslim friends. Many of them had never spoken to a Jew before me and had only heard expressions of hatred toward our people. But ever since beginning to nurture these relationships through safe and easy online dialogue, many of my new Muslim friends have discovered that we are people just like them. In turn, I have discovered that they are people just like us. Naturally, there are cultural, religious and ideological differences, but we all share the same basic desires for peace, love, and freedom. Can you imagine how different the conflict would look if every Israeli had a Palestinian friend and every Palestinian had an Israeli friend? There is no better form of de-radicalization, no better path to peace, than the humanization of the “other”.
I’m not suggesting that one simple act of peace-building will solve the conflict. This dream requires a collective effort between millions of Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians alike. Now, more than ever, we must own our true potential as peacemakers and work together to help bring about the future we all so desperately want and deserve. I do not know when peace will be achieved. It may not come tomorrow; it may not come in 10 years. Perhaps not even in 100 years. But I do know this. Peace starts now, it starts with me, with you, with all of us. It starts right here, right now.
If you are interested in meeting friends on the “other” side feel free to contact me, I will gladly make an introduction.
FB: Adar Weinreb