by Miki Joelson
In the first two parts (see Part I, and Part II), I wrote about the exciting TEDxYouth event held in Holon on April 25, 2013, dedicated to youth social involvement and creativity, where Face to Face alumni attended.
Following Idan Levi’s and Shaked Eisenmann’s experiences while being involved with social change actions, I would like to bring you now Apkar Nalbandian’s and Lavi Eisenmann’s experiences. Apkar wrote of his vision, after participating in Face to Face, to create opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians to meet and talk, in order to get out of the cycle of judgment and racism:
“Who is right and who is wrong? Who to blame? Who is responsible for all this chaos and conflict?
As a kid growing up in area of conflict, these questions never left my mind. The answers to these questions were given by my family, friends, and later on the media. As I grew up, I learned that I will face racism because I am Palestinian. I learned that people will judge me based on my nationality, race, and religion and not based on my personality.
All this racism and thoughts stirred hatred, anger, resentment, and fear. I grew up looking to the other side with a mentality that they are the ones responsible for all this conflict, that they are wrong, and that they are the ones to blame. I did not encounter with any Israeli or Jew. Quite frankly, I just avoided them. Until I heard of the Face to Face / Faith to Faith program. The program attracted me because it had a trip to New York. As shallow as I was, I didn’t know that this program was about to change my mentality and me.
The program brought Israelis and Palestinians together. The program gave a chance for the youth to communicate, to think deeply with thought-provoking questions, to look at each other as human beings and not as enemies, and to create a safe atmosphere where the participants could share their feelings. Week after week, as we kept on meeting, communication with the other side brought me to believe that not all Israelis and Jews want to exterminate the Palestinian people. I learned to put myself in the other person’s situation before I judge. I learned that the young Israelis are growing with similar feelings of hate, fear, and anger. I then recognized that I was judging people based on their nationality, race, and religion. I learned that I was not giving anyone a chance to speak and to share his story.
Unfortunately, we still see the conflict present in our world today. The people of each side are driven away farther from each other as each day passes by. The actions of the governments are also hindering this process. Each person’s stubbornness and pride are obstacles that also hinder this process. The people are being brain-washed with biased media showing one side of the story. The people are becoming ignorant and they are allowing these thoughts of hate, anger, and fear to control their actions and life. Therefore, one project that I would like to participate in or initiate is to give a chance for both sides to meet, talk, discuss, and debate. So that in the end, they will reflect upon what they learned and know not to judge someone based upon his nationality, race, or religion and that there is far more than what the eyes see.”
[Apkar Nalbandian, 17, alumnus of F2F 2012]
Lavi wrote on his experience in the “Life Journey of Gilad Shalit”
“One of the most meaningful experiences of my life was participating in the “Life Journey of Gilad Shalit”.
At the end of June, 2010, Noam and Aviva, Gilad Shalit’s parents, went on a journey starting at their home in the north and arriving to the home of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, in Jerusalem. This was done in order to increase the pressure on the government to reach a deal and release Gilad. Many Israelis joined this journey or parts of it.
On the third night of the journey, in Kibbutz Yagur, I noticed many people are leaving and only few are staying with the family. I decided to stay and joined the organizing team. I was the only Jewish religioussettler there.
In addition to my will to support the family, I joined this journey to experience something I have never experienced – to be in a place where no one knows me. All my life I have been in the same environment with the same people, at school, at the youth movement etc. furthermore, participating in a journey, which was identified with the political, left (wrongly in my opinion), forced me to deal with the people at home and explain my choices to them (I think the political right should blame themselves for this image).
This journey taught me a lot. I learned the Israeli society pitches in when a friend needs help and that people here loves to be connected to an all-national effort as it makes them feel a part of a people. I believe the peoples’ involvement showed the government the public cares (after all, this is democracy). Also, the support for the Shalit family was like a big hug.
I also learned something about myself – I have the power to succeed in the challenges I make for myself, I can know and work with people who are different than me whom I will probably never have met in a different situation, and I can come back to my community and stand up for my choices.”
[Lavi Eisenmann, 18, alumnus of F2F 2011]