Dear TalkMatters Supporters,

Heaven only knows what is going on now as far as the ceasefire is concerned.  What is for sure is that the live and dead hostages need to come home and food and essentials need to get into Gaza as quickly as possible. 

Here in the UK more and more cases of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred are reported daily. The elephant in the room is Israel and Palestine. TalkMatters offers a different perspective.  TalkMatters demonstrates how moderate people behave.  Behaviour we hear little about.  Behaviour that questions our own prejudices.  TalkMatters makes us aware of the many Jews and Arabs who get to know each other and build up trust through a shared interest be it music, ecology, hi-tech, sport, education, religion, etc.  This heightened awareness encourages us to question our own prejudices and leads us to a greater understanding of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.  

I am pleased to tell you that thanks to our social media consultant Tamara Jacobs, TalkMatters is becoming more active on social media and is running regular campaigns that explore in a respectful way the complex issues surrounding Israel and Palestine. Recent campaigns include:

  1. Tips: How to have more successful conversations about Israel and Palestine
  2. Voices of Hope and Fear
  3. #IsraelAndPalestineDifficultQuestions

All campaign details and informative responses received on social media will be shared in the ‘Your Say‘ section of our website.  But please, follow us on social media to engage.

– Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkmattersinfo
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talkmattersinfo
– Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/talkmattersinfo/
– LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-nemko-b7504a24/

This is the first of our new monthly updates: we hope you find it interesting.  Today we bring you the latest news from the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, the Hand in Hand Schools, the Leo Baeck Education Center, and the Teachers’ Lounge

Finally, if you think TalkMatters is important, please share this update.  Please also take a moment right now to send this link to your family and/or friends WhatsApp group, or pass this email on to friends and colleagues and invite them to join the TalkMatters mailing list

With every wish for better times, Jenny and the TalkMatters Team.

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus are on tour in the USA.  They have just auditioned for America’s Got Talent.  In these horrifying times, the JYC decided there was an urgent need not just for their music but for their message to be amplified as much as humanly possible. Here’s the message they brought to America’s Got Talent:

We are the Jerusalem Youth Chorus: Palestinians and Israelis raising our voices to push back against the violence surrounding us—to reject war, occupation, and terror, and instead sing out for peace, justice, inclusion, and equality. We don’t all share the same opinions—and have hard conversations about them every week—but we do share the same future, no matter what the politicians say. In JYC we have a rare chance to truly hear each other, and that’s what makes the chorus a home for all of us. Every kid deserves to grow up with that same safety and dignity. We know we don’t have the power to single-handedly stop war, but we also know that the reason war continues is because people think there is no alternative. We are the alternative.”

Thanks to their Boston hosts (Emmanuel Church and Central Reform Temple), JYC will be able to livestream their Boston performance on Sunday, April 14 at 21:00 UK time.  Online tickets are available here – meaning that anyone in the world with an internet connection can share in this mission moment together. 

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus is in our directory has their own website and joined TalkMatters for a webinar in February 2022  There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page of their website.  

The festivals at this time of year are a major anchor for Hand in Hand Schools; they are a platform to teach kids about their own heritage and also about the values that our different religions share. Recently teachers have focused on the theme of generosity, a pillar of both Ramadan and Purim which overlap on the calendar this year. 

But, like everything else, the war has also changed how we celebrate holidays together in ways big and small. Like a request that children’s costumes be free of swords or weapons during the Purim dress-up days at school. Normal levels of sensitivity regarding costumes have been turned up a few notches this year. 

Our beloved community Iftar celebrations have also been shaped by the war. Normally exuberant events with parades and live music, community Iftars were scaled back to potluck meals and assembling thousands of food packages for families in need.

These shared holidays celebrations are a precious part of Hand in Hand’s DNA, and will always remain so. But for now, our communities directed focus to coming together to simply connect and help others in need—a fitting antidote during such a harsh time of conflict.

The Hand in Hand Schools are in our directory and have their own website which has details on how you can donate to support them in their work.

At the Leo Baeck Education Center we make sure to keep our Shared Society activities running. As time goes by, racism and antisemitism are rising in Israel and across the world.  It is our duty and privilege to maintain our long-term interfaith relationships and educate our society for shared living, equally with mutual respect.  

Here is a link to our short video  The speakers are Rima Boertz and Nir Hodis.

We were fortunate to host the National Conference for Shared Society, which was led by The Israeli Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, with over 100 participants. This period brought many challenges to the delicate Jewish-Arab relations, and to the racism that is increasing across Israel. The Jewish and Arab speakers dealt with the mission of restoring Jewish-Arab relations after the October 7th atrocities, and during group activities, the participants received practical tools for implementing outreach programs.

End of Ramadan and Iftar Meal

On Thursday, April 4th, we kept our long-time tradition and held the Iftar dinner.  We had 150 guests, among them Arab and Jewish social activists, people from our various communities, and from the nearby mixed neighbourhood.

This year, the dinner was modest and quiet, to remind us that we still have 134 hostages in Gaza, and many soldiers are at risk in the South and North, while keeping us safe. 18 religious leaders of all religions and faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Bahai, Ahmadi, and more)  shared their blessings and prayers. We kept the traditional fast-breaking announcement, and served traditional delicacies, escorted by a band that played calm traditional music. At the end of the festive dinner, we held a three-language prayer (English, Arabic, and Hebrew) for the safe return of all our hostages and soldiers, and a peaceful solution to end the war.

The Leo Baeck Education Centre is in our directory  has their own website.  There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page of their website.

Latest news from Meir Berman of the Teachers’ Lounge programme
The current situation in Israel remains challenging and complex, with ongoing war and states of emergency declared in various regions of the country. Despite this, we understand that life must go on and we remain hopeful for the completion of the program sessions at all centres. We believe that the Teachers’ Lounge activities are an important part of the effort to rehabilitate and heal society and restore hope for a shared society.  We continue to update and revise the meeting’s content to reflect the impact of the events of October 7th and the ongoing war on the participants. 

Our Alumni activities are expanding. Alongside the open meetings, a national annual group has been opened which is available to all program graduates. It allows them to accumulate continuing education hours for participating in various activities.  Last month, the first Alumni seminar was held in Neve Shalom.  Fourteen teachers participated in the seminar “Translating Pain into Educational Work”

After extensive recruitment efforts, two uni-national groups started meeting in Jerusalem. The program has a total of 28 teachers, with 15 Arab and 13 Jewish participants. The first two meetings were held in a uni-national format, while the following meetings were joint in a multinational group. A Jewish teacher who returned to the second uni-national meeting said: “I don’t know why I came back, but there was something good at the previous meeting, so I wanted to come again.”

Tel Aviv-Yafo:
We completed the recruitment of participants and the group’s meetings began with 14 teachers (7 Arab participants and 7 Jewish). The first meeting was held on February 20th and the second meeting on March 5th, and we are looking forward to their successful continuation.
Here is a quote from a Jewish teacher who is part of the group:
The truth is that I experienced extreme turmoil after October 7th, my innocence was lost. However, I believe I can only benefit from a meeting with Israeli Palestinians, and if they have chosen to come to these meetings, then they have some “innocence” too. I would be thrilled to participate in such a process and learn from it.”

Western Galilee:
The program started in early March with a group of 12 teachers, consisting of 6 Arabs and 6 Jews.  The meetings take place at Beit Lohamei Ha-Getaot in the Western Galilee and have been held in a multinational format since their inception.

We were initially concerned that we would not be able to run a program in Ramla this year, however, in collaboration with the Rossing Center  we managed to recruit a new coordinator for the program. Over the past few weeks, our team has made tremendous efforts and successfully recruited 16 teachers for the group, consisting of 7 Arab participants and 9 Jews. The first meeting was held in early March in a multinational format from the first session.

As we have previously reported, the program will not commence until the fall, which will be the next school year. Our team is in continuous communication with the local partners and donors of the Haifa Center to ensure thorough preparation for the upcoming year.

The Teachers’ Lounge is in our directory  has their own website and joined TalkMatters for a webinar in September 2022 There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page.

TalkMatters together with Oasis of Peace UK are looking ahead to better times.   We are planning our next interfaith trip to Wahat al Salam/Neve Shalom (WASNS)/Oasis of PeaceThis is a wonderful initiative that I have been involved with for a very long timeIt is a village that supports three educational institutions half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where Jews andArabslive in a shared, equitable society.  Postponed since last November due to the war, we are hoping to visit this November.  Please join us.  To register your interest and/or for more information please contact hello@talkmatters.info or office@oasisofpeace.org.uk

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. 

We send out regular newsletters like this, and run our own in-person and online live events – we’d love to be able to keep you up to date!  Please subscribe to our free mailing list using the form on this page.

Thank you for your support.

Jenny and the TalkMatters Team.