Dear TalkMatters Supporters,

This is our sixth update and I’m sad to say there are no changes in the situation.  Grief and uncertainty are everywhere and as reported last week, the initiatives TalkMatters supports are finding it hard to function in the same way as before.  
Nevertheless the inspirational leaders of these initiatives are determined to keep going and will not give up on the Israeli-Palestinian partnerships made over many years. They are trying to work out what they should do, how, and when.
Today we are sending you an up-date from two of our Associates.  The Freddie Krivine Tennis Initiative with whom we had our first live event in the summer, and the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue.Together with the Rev’d Keith McNicol, I was going to be taking an Interfaith Group to the Rossing Center next week, but of course the trip had to be cancelled.  We look forward to re-convening when this ghastly time is over. 

We are also sending you details of the Abrahamic Reunion’s regular prayer vigil. If you would like to express solidarity, togetherness and hurt without a political opinion this is the place to do it.  Details below.  

On a brighter note, a couple of thank yous are due.  Thank you to everyone who is supporting Oasis of Peace‘s hugely relevant lecture ‘A Holy Land for Us All’ given by Rob Rinder.  You will be pleased to hear we are now sold out.  And an enormous thankyou to my local constituency MP, David Simmonds, for the support he is giving TalkMatters in kindly offering to host TalkMatters at the House of Commons next year.

Jenny Nemko meeting David Simmonds MP

Update from Jane Krivine, director at the Freddie Krivine Tennis Initiative

For over 20 years the Freddie Krivine Initiative has helped to break down stereotypes by bringing Jewish and Arab children together through their interest in tennis. Several thousand disaffected Arab Israeli young people from some of the most socio-economically disadvantaged villages in Israel have enjoyed playing tennis with their Jewish Israeli counterparts and have built long-lasting friendships.

It is hard to take on board the fact that post-Covid not only had we made a full recovery, relations with families and attendance levels were better than ever and when we spoke at TalkMatters first live event in Stanmore we could not have been more optimistic.   Our world has been upended.

Jewish Israelis on the left are deeply disillusioned, the whole country is shocked and distressed.  Everyone I know is connected in one way or another with the horrors of October 7, and the ensuing war in Gaza.  The Arab communities are very quiet, we don’t see families having ice cream in the neighbouring shopping malls, some are not yet back to work.  It is going to be hard to move on from this.

However, we do want your supporters to know that we are continuing our activities, with our Arab coaches running tennis programmes with children in their villages.  As you will remember, we are now on the verge of completing our refurbished courts, with a landscaped surround and a new community and tennis clubhouse at Beit Hananya, continuing the project we have been running there since 2009.  It is our fervent desire to be able to use the facility as soon as possible, for the reason it was created, to introduce Jewish and Arab children, and their families, to each other – on and off the tennis courts – in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

The Freddie Krivine Tennis Initiative is featured in our Directory, has their own website.  Jane joined us at our live event earlier this year, and recorded a video message for us.  There are details on this page of their website which show how you can donate to help support their work.

Update from John Munayar, director at the Rossing Center for Dialogue and Education

The Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue is an interreligious organization based in Jerusalem which promotes an inclusive society for all religious, ethnic and national groups. Through education, encounter, research and consulting, the Rossing Center promotes better relations between Jews, Christians and
Muslims in the Holy Land

Since the 7th of October, the Rossing Center has been through the most challenging time in its history. Some of our staff have lost family and friends, and all are living with fear and trauma. Many of our regular activities have been suspended, and over the last days we have developed new responses according to the needs that have emerged during this war. Much of our work is now uni-national, as the needs on the two sides are different, and the ability to dialogue in such extreme times is limited.

The first focus is supporting and strengthening the Christian communities in the Holy Land. Even before the war, many Christian communities were under threat from various developments in the Middle East and the Holy Land. And according to many anecdotal sources, there is a significant increase of Christians expressing their desire to leave the land. We will be making contact with churches, schools and organizations to see how we can support them during this time. We are already running sessions for teachers in Christian schools who are in need of tools and methods for addressing the war in the classroom.

The second focus on both sides is to help people deal with their loss, pain and fear. To this end we are focusing on alumni of our dialogue programs and teachers from our wide network of schools – helping them find ways to support their students during this close-to-impossible time. We are also offering to support schools which serve a mixed population, or with both Jewish and Arab teaching staff, since these schools are finding it particularly difficult to cope with the current polarized climate. Later we will have to create spaces for further healing, for these wounds will easily lead people to hate and violence. But for now we must help people process their pain, as best we can, and find ways to operate in this complex situation. In parallel, we are adapting our existing educational programs to the new reality. Our Educating for Change program usually trains teachers to conduct conflictual conversations in the classroom – the emphasis this year will be less on conflict, and more on creating space for emotional processing and healing. Our Foundations for Partnership program, which usually twins schools for meetings between Jewish and Arab students, this year will work with the schools separately, taking the staff and children through a process of healing and re-engaging with topics such as democracy, human dignity and freedom of speech.

The third focus is on preventing escalation of the violence in Jerusalem and within Israel. To this end we are members of several coalitions of organizations, working together to do our utmost to maintain calm, working with municipal leadership as well as grassroots efforts, and in parallel working to support freedom of speech of both Palestinians and Israelis to express empathy for the other and opposition to the war. As part of this effort, and in order to reduce tensions in Jerusalem, we are leading a humanitarian and advocacy effort for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Many areas have been cut off by roadblocks and many East Jerusalemites fear going into West Jerusalem. Food supplies have been reduced and prices have correspondingly risen, in parallel with many residents being unable to work and therefore not receiving salaries. We are therefore working with other organizations to try to improve the ability of Palestinians to reach their places of work; to supply food parcels to the neediest of families, and to provide activities for youth and young adults in order to reduce the risks of violence.

The food parcel distribution also provides a way to connect with some of the most marginalized of East Jerusalem Palestinians, who are largely unknown to the official welfare services. Although much of this work is being done by volunteers (including graduates of our Meeting Place program at Hebrew University), we need additional staff to coordinate both the logistics of the food distribution (done through the Centers for Youth Advancement in East Jerusalem) and the activities for youth and young adults.

In parallel, we are working in Ramle and Lod with a coalition of organizations, and in cooperation with the municipal authorities, to meet the urgent needs of the local community and to maintain calm and good relations between the different communities. Since Lod and Ramle are also characterized by marginalized populations, both Jews and Arabs, we are working to support those in most need, utilizing our network of alumni and current students to meet the varying needs of the local community – from support for parents, to the provision of tablets to enable children to attend online classes while their schools are closed.

All of this work is subject to change, as we continue to adapt to emerging needs.

The Rossing Center is featured in our directory, has its own website.  There are details on this page of their website which show how you can donate to help support their work

Abrahamic Reunion’s prayer vigil

The Abrahamic Reunion recognizes that creating understanding and empathy between diverse faith communities is fundamental to developing multicultural acceptance, constructive cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

11:00 EDT (15:00 GMT London time)

Multi-faith ~ All Welcome
Prayers for the peace & safety for all people in the Holy Land

Prayers are needed and the community of peace that is being built on these vigils is growing, providing important compassionate middle ground amidst so much horrible and heightened conflict. All welcome. Leaders from different faiths at each program. Please join in compassionate peacebuilding community together to support the Holy Land, the peacemakers, each other, ourselves, and the world. 

 Peace ~ Salam ~ Shalom

You can join the prayer vigils at 16:00 UK time every day via Zoom. The Abrahamic Reunion is featured in our Directory, has its own website and joined TalkMatters for a webinar in November 2021.  Information on supporting their work with donations is here

Please pass on this information

Please pass on this information to your friends and colleagues.  Please talk about the human stories that we share with you. In the horrendous circumstances we all find ourselves, TalkMatters continues to introduce the UK public to the people who refuse to see one another as enemies.  We believe in supporting the grass-roots work in Israel and Palestine and we know that it is only by working together with you – our UK supporters – and with our Israeli-Palestinian Associates that we can ever walk another path.  A path that leads to a future of peace, justice and equality for everyone. 

Thank you for your support.

Here’s to better times,

Jenny and the TalkMatters Team.