We have no choice. This is the only way.

Today I took part in another meeting between Arab and Jewish teenagers in Israel. For those who don’t know this, I volunteer in an organization called “אפשר אחרת” or in English “A New Way.” It literally means- “A different way is possible.” During the meetings, I speak privately with the students and try to understand how they feel, and why. Today, I had the privilege in joining them at the circus!

67 students walked into a circus with hula-hoops, ropes, mattress’s, and were ready to start! This specific group today met for the 3rd time. I parked my car, got out and saw two men standing in the parking lot. I approached them asking if they knew where the students were and could tell me where to go. They smiled and told me “The Arabs and Jews?” I nodded. They told me they were inside. Before walking in they stopped me and said- “Wait, what is this for?” I began to explain what A New Way was, and their purpose. They were the bus drivers that brought the students, and ironically, one was an Arab bus driver and one was a Jewish bus driver. They began to laugh. The Arab told me- “I brought the Jewish students! And he brought the Arab students!” After a minute of laughing they stopped, looked at one another and then at me and said – “So is a different way possible?” I smiled and told them there is. One said Amen, the other Inshallah.

When entering the circus I noticed the problematic students, the easy going ones, and the girls who didn’t want to ruin their hair and sat on the side. I quickly made eye contact with one student. He seemed like the leader of his pack, and I needed him. After speaking to multiple students I asked him to come with me to the side. He stood, and I began to ask questions. His friends said “Can we come too?” And I said “of course, as long as you’re willing to answer questions!” I began to ask the leader of the pack, Salim, how he felt, if the meetings gave him hope, or changed his opinion… He was optimistic and told me there was a lot of racism between the two sides in the first meeting and he’s seen a huge difference. Suddenly, his friend cut him off and yelled “There is no peace with them! Are you crazy? This is all bull shit!” The other 5 students simply looked at him and were shocked he had the courage to speak this way to Salim. Salim was angry, you could tell by looking at his eyes but he gave his friend a friendly slap on the back and told him “Stop! If we don’t do it, no one will. We have no choice. This is the only way.” His friend was aggravated but said – “I guess you are right.” Salim continued to explain to his friends how important it was that I was recording them and sharing their message he said “If more people hear us talking like this on the radio, they will know the truth, that we are peaceful and want to live together.” He was right. And it wasn’t only I who saw it. His friends saw it too. The 48 year old bus driver asked me if it was possible, if a different way was even attainable. And the 16 year old Arab high school student could have given him the answer.

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Rayhaneh Jabbari – the girl who has been sentenced to death because she killed the man that attempted to rape her

Reyhaneh-Jabbari1

Rayhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death in Iran for stabbing a man in self defense after he attempted to rape her in 2007. Yes, since 2007 this girl has been sitting in jail waiting for the day when they call her out and kill her.
Rayhaneh is an interior designer who sat in a cafe one day, had a conversation over the phone that was work related, when a man approached her and asked if she would meet him in his office to discuss a remodeling project. She agreed. When she arrived, he offered her a juice which contained ‘roofie’ (a date rape drug) – not made up, this is based on a forensics test done by the police.
I don’t think I need to go into much detail- she ended up stabbing the man to death and has been sitting in prison ever since. The man was an employee of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS)- which is why many believe she will never get out of this alive.

A petition made for her release holds the signatures of over 126,000 people from around the world (that doesn’t sound like it’s enough to me)- you also can’t blame the people of Iran considering social media is against shari’ah law and the government restricts their usage.

I’ve been following this girls’ story for a while now, but I’m fully aware of the fact that not many people know about her, like most of the things that go on in Iran. Her lawyer even published her story in a blog a few years ago- but still; no go.

An Iranian government run website wrote that she must be executed unless she receives consent from the man’s family.

On September 30th, 2014- her mother spoke with her daughter for the last time. Her execution since then has been postponed.

My heart goes out to this girl, her family, friends and loved ones.

Fox News interviewed her mother – the interview can be found here
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/10/01/mother-iranian-woman-sentenced-to-death-makes-plea-for-daughter-life/

Have We Lost Hope?

Hi All,

I’m not big on making political posts because I feel like my blog is suppose to make you smile rather than cry, but living in Israel has forced me into feeling a certain way that I would like to address.

The past month has been rough on both Israelis and Palestinians. Over a month ago, 3 boys went missing, their bodies were found after 18 days. A few days later, a young Arab boy was found dead in Jerusalem. They say it’s “A way to get back at the Arabs for what they have done.” I put this in quotes not because it was said, but because this is what people think. Now, for the past 6 days, Israelis and Palestinians have been running the moment they hear a siren or in Gaza’s case, the moment they hear a “boom.” On Israel’s side, there are tons of bomb shelters. On Gazans side, there is nowhere to hide.

Israelis think that a way to “get back” at Hamas (or whoever did it for that matter considering no one is 100% sure), is by rioting in Jerusalem, throwing rocks, and sacrificing their lives. Palestinians feel that a way to “get back” at Israelis, is by rioting in Jerusalem, throwing rocks, and sacrificing their lives. These are radical, activists who feel harming others, will in some way help them gain respect for Israel/Palestine after they killed 6 of OUR boys. I say 6 of OUR boys, because while the IDF searched for the kidnapped boys, they killed 3 on the Palestinian side. Totaling in 6 lives. How is their life any different then OURS? How are OUR lives different? Palestinian, Israeli, Arab, American, how are we any different?

An Arab women was yelled at by a Jewish lady. The women and her son ran off the bus when the women called her a whore, slut, and anything else she could possibly think of to “get back” at this mother. Did this mother kidnap and murder those 3 boys? Did this mother in any way harm your freedom, or happiness? It is said that 110 lives have been taken in these past few days in Gaza. Supposedly 10 of them, are Hamas activists. I ask again, did the rest of the innocent lives that were taken in Gaza kidnap and murder those 3 boys? Harm your freedom, or happiness?

My one question is: Have we lost hope? Has society lost it completely? Do we not believe that peace is even possible?
When society still has hope, anything is possible. The moment we stop believing that peace is possible, we begin to vote for the wrong political parties, protests about the wrong issues, and overall speak differently. When you promote something to a single human being, you may change that persons perspective. When I, an Israeli who served in the IDF speak to a Palestinian in Gaza or the West Bank, I grant him the feeling that maybe there is someone on the other side that doesn’t want him dead, that maybe someone on the other side has that hope that he has too. That maybe, just maybe, together we’ll be able to achieve peace. Because tomorrow morning when he tells his friend that he spoke to an Israeli who told him that they differentiate between Hamas and Palestinians, that friend will talk to his friend and so on and so forth.

For some of us, not all, the hope is there. And maybe just maybe, with just your single voice, the hope will pass on to the next person, and the person after that- and maybe that next person will be a radical activist that once stoned Palestinians cars in East Jerusalem and suddenly was granted the hope that you passed onto him.

Let’s share the hope.