Steven Aiello

Perspectives on Peace: Message #1

The following is a candid, powerful message from a young student living in Israel who is Israeli, Arab and Muslim. I hope that it will be the first in a series and that I can share several other perspectives from students, to get a feeling for what the next generation’s leaders are thinking and feeling. If you are interested in submitting a piece of any length, please contact me. The submissions will all be anonymous.

“As an Arab and Muslim girl who lives in Israel and has Palestinian roots, what I call a ”double identity,” it’s been especially difficult to witness all of the recent hate and violence. Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians lived together for centuries as neighbors, friends, and even family. As an Arab and Muslim girl I have been raised to respect all the religions. That’s what the Quran calls for: peace, respect and acceptance, all the holy books on earth calls for the same goals, and all the books came from the same source, from Allah to guide the human race in how to live without problems, with rules. If the holy books always called for that how can we as humans try to divide for the same reason that brings us all together?

Honestly, I think that all of us are simply sick of seeing the news. We want live in peace, we all say that but no one does anything to achieve it. In Israel the racism and the violence against the Arabic minority is taking a new turn, one which hurts so much, especially after the recent events: being scared to go anywhere and avoiding speaking in Arabic so that no one will recognize us as Arabs and hurt us; denying who you are, and feeling all the time as if you are a threat and being threatened is a very ugly feeling , the whole package is scary, but scarier more than all this is using protection as a pretension for violence against civilians (and I am talking about all parties in this conflict) because “healing” violence with violence will lead to distraction, and the victims are the children: Arab and Jewish children who will gain hate to each other.

Moreover, the main cause of this kind of tension is the not knowing the other side. For example last year I met a guy who is Jewish, and we had a conversation. At the end I asked him one particular question; what did you think about us as Arabs before meeting one of us? And actually his answer didn’t really shock me. He told me; ” when I was a kid I had never seen an Arab but my family told me that you are bad and when I started to go to school my peers started to tell stories about you as killers and when I went to the army they told me that you are criminals that need to be killed, but when I met an Arab girl who was putting on Hijab I was surprised that you are not like the picture I had in my mind” , to be honest I felt just sadness at what he said that we are killers and criminals, and I was pleased of the fact that after meeting one of us he changed his mind, because you cannot judge the person because of his nationality but because of who is he.

In addition, this is but one example of the main problem that is growing every single day! As a minority I have witnessed so many times examples of racism in coffee shops, streets, and so many other places, especially when my mom is with me (because she wears hijab) and I have asked myself over and over again if I witnessed an Arab or a Jewish attacked for ethnic reasons, what would I do? I simply don’t know and I always pray to not witness it at all.

Let me tell you a story- our prophet Muhammed had a Jewish neighbor, this neighbor didn’t like our prophet because of his message and started to collect garbage and put it at our prophet’s door. Our prophet Muhammed didn’t yell at him or even say a word. He collected the garbage and threw it away. One day our prophet didn’t see the garbage he was surprised and the other day he didn’t see any garbage as a result he felt that there is something wrong is going on to his Jewish neighbor and he visited him and the man was sick, and when he saw the prophet coming and checking on him despite all that he had done, he shed a tear.

Our prophet’s visit to the Jewish man teaches us several things including to respect the neighbors even if they have done something wrong for us, and not to feel any hate towards them, and the man being Jewish teaches us that no matter the religion of the other person, we respect and care for him. Unfortunately no one can see these pure messages today. Another thing, one of the Islamic rules of war is not to hurt civilians including: women, children, elders, disabled people and unarmed men, or animals or trees or even a rock because the trees and rocks are sources of life for so many creatures. This is the true Islamic war rules and I think that all of the religions have very similar rules, but unfortunately no one wants to read this part of Islam or any other religion!

In the end, we are all sailing in the same boat and right now the boat is ruined and we are all drowning together! If we want to cross safely to the land we need to work as a team; otherwise we all are going die. We all have one and only life that we choose to live, and must choose either to live in peace or to spend our lives suffering and afraid. We have to make the choice, but apparently the politicians made it for us and they chose to make us fight while they sit and enjoy their cups of tea!”

About the Author
Steven Aiello is the Director of Debate for Peace (, and a board member of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development NY. He has a BA in Economics, MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, and MA in Islamic Studies. He teaches Model UN for schools throughout Israel. Among his other hats he serves as Regional Coordinator for Creating Friendships for Peace, and Dialogue Officer at Asfar. Steven has also served as Chief of the Middle East Desk Head for Wikistrat, interned for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the American Islamic Congress. His writing has been published in the NY Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Iran Human Rights Review; Berkley Center at Georgetown;, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He can be reached via email at