Since 2002, AJEEC-NISPED’s Arab-Jewish Volunteer Year has brought together young leaders from both communities for a year of joint volunteering and learning, based in Beersheva. The program is implemented together with the Israel Scouts Movement which recruits and supports the involvement of the Jewish participants.
This popular program continues to grow — along with the 36 participants in the Negev this year (18 Jewish and 18 Arab), 12 young people have become pioneers in its expansion to Lod. Further expansions are planned for Jaffa in 2017 and Ramla in 2018.
Elad Moshe, a young Jewish woman participating in this year’s program in the Negev expressed her thoughts in a piece published yesterday in Israel’s Hebrew language daily newspaper, Yedioth Achronot.
“I am sitting across from a girl who is exactly my age. She is wearing a Hijab and a long dress when it is 30 degrees Celsius outside. She speaks in Arabic and most of our communication involves hand gestures.
Considering the security situation today, it’s reasonable to assume that if I saw someone who looked like her on a bus or on the street, I wouldn’t want to get too close.
But the room we are sitting in today is an “Island of Sanity”.
I am from the Scouts’ group and she is from the Bedouin partners who volunteer together with us during this year of service. And the two of us are meeting. And there is a huge disconnect between the feelings in this room, and the insanity raging outside.
True, we don’t agree on everything. We don’t need to agree on everything, and I assume that we will never agree on everything, but both of us are equally hesitant about walking around these days and both of us grieve for the deaths of too many innocent people.
Despite the pain and fears we’re both feeling and the anger we feel toward the other side, we are still able to look one another in the eye and we will not allow the situation raging outside to control us.
I won’t lie. It isn’t easy — It isn’t easy to learn not to blame, or to learn to listen, to control one’s emotions, to put one’s anger aside for the moment and to be grateful for the opportunity to sit in this circle where Jews and Arabs can sit together and talk.
Au contraire, today, I understand how important is for me to be here.
I am certain that peace won’t arrive tomorrow and I don’t know how it will come. And I am not going to pretend that I will bring peace.
Across from me sits a girl who is exactly my age. She is wearing a hijab and a long dress when it is 30 degrees Celsius outside. The peace that is between us, I can bring by myself, with her”.