Dear TalkMatters Supporters,

The war continues and whilst tragedy after tragedy unfurl, and it is very easy to give up hope, let us remind ourselves why TalkMatters exists and why it is important. 

TalkMatters represents over 30 grass-roots initiatives all of which, whether they be about music, ecology, education, sport or religion bring people together through a shared interest.  Our primary purpose is to encourage more Jews and Arabs in Israel-Palestine to meet face-to-face and listen to each other’s story.  We can do little about the acute need for a clear political strategy but we can try to eradicate the growing fear and hatred in both communities.  We can try to break down hard-line opinions influenced by incitement and indoctrination.  Not a lot in the big scheme of things but the importance must not be underestimated. 

However sceptical you are about when and how this war will end, our job is to support the inspirational initiatives that bring people together and enable bridges to be built. 

You can see for yourself how this is happening by reading the updates from four of our associates – Tech2Peace, the Abraham Initiatives, the Abrahamic Reunion and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.  The Arava Institute has just appointed Rachel Kalikow as their Chief Executive.  We would like to take this opportunity to wish you every success in your new role, Rachel.


Update from Arava’s newly appointed CEO, Rachel Kalikow 

I’m delighted to share with you my first update as CEO of Friends of the Arava Institute. At the Arava Institute, we are turning hope into action. Despite the war, the Institute’s work continues. During this past semester, our campus included Israeli Jewish and Palestinian, as well as Moroccan, American, and other students and interns preparing to become the next environmental leaders. The Institute continues to bring together Bedouin, Palestinians and Israelis as well. This work succeeds because of a common interest and mutual respect.

At a time when trust in the Middle East seems farther away than ever, the Institute consistently proves there are people on both sides who want peace.     

Spring Students and Interns at the Arava Institute

Last week we said goodbye to the students and interns of the Spring 2024 semester. Intern Elaine Donderer and student Jawdat Kasab were among those on campus. Read on for their stories and experiences at the Arava Institute.  

Elaine Donderer: Intern

Elaine Donderer was an intern at the Arava Institute’s Center for Transboundary Water Management, where she worked with the Center’s Director Dr. Clive Lipchin on creating a meta-database of environmental and social factors within Gaza and the West Bank that have an impact on current and future projects focused on the nexus of food, energy and water. At the same time, she was completing a master’s thesis on harvesting stormwater through Tel Aviv University. 

She learned about the Arava Institute after she had begun her graduate work at Tel Aviv University. There, Elaine met Dr. Clive Lipchin, and was drawn to the project-based focus of the Arava Institute. She expressed, “I’m focused on projects that don’t just care about things in isolation. Bringing water to off-grid communities isn’t just a case of water management, it’s understanding how water access affects all areas of life, and how life has an effect on water. Water forces you to think in dynamic terms. Where does water go? Who is collecting it? How are they using it?” 

Jawdat Kasab: Student

Energized by his experience during the Fall 2023 semester, Jawdat Kasab decided to return for a second semester to take more courses, experience, and learn. 

The Dialogue Forum was a quintessential component of Jawdat’s experience as a student at the Arava Institute. As a Palestinian Israeli, he faced an identity crisis as he tried to better understand others, as well as himself. In his eyes, the Dialogue Forum was a process to “build character by understanding one’s identity better and being able to see beyond it as well.” 

Jawdat is involved with several different initiatives between Arabs and Jews. He says, “…Forgiveness is when you know the person in front of you may not understand your pain, but you do not wish it upon them.” 
After his time at the Institute, Jawdat hopes to travel, open a law office in Haifa, and continue his bridge building work between people.

Students and Interns Show Solidarity

The past seven months have been a stress test for organizations like the Arava Institute and the other organizations within the ecosystem of Israeli-Palestinian NGOs (non-governmental civil society organizations). Understandably, it has not always been simple or easy. In the face of forces pushing Palestinians and Israelis further apart, students, interns, and alumni of the Arava Institute continue to find the bridges to strengthen the solidarity, concern, and empathy between both peoples.  
One example of this was a solidarity benefit students and interns organized in May to support families of Israeli hostage Hersh and Orjwan who is Palestinian. Hersh was kidnapped from the Nova music festival on October 7 and has been held as a hostage in Gaza since then. His family has been tirelessly working to bring him home, along with the other remaining hostages. Orjwan is a journalist and young mother involved in children’s relief aid. Since the beginning of the war, she has been trying to navigate the nightmare of fleeing Gaza to Egypt with her entire family. Within such initiatives lies a future Palestinians and Israelis deserve. 

SHINING Workshop for Bedouin Women

In late May, we hosted SHINING, a solar energy capacity-building training for 42 Bedouin and Palestinian women. The five-day program explored the fundamentals of practical and theoretical aspects of solar energy. 

Workshop attendees ranged in age, but all were profoundly impacted by the experience. Among them, older women expressed their intentions to encourage their children and grandchildren to pursue education to master technologies introduced during the week. Empowering these women with knowledge and skills in the solar energy field is a game-changer, providing them with tools to become more self-reliant, boost their economic prospects, and promote environmental sustainability in their communities.  
But the impact goes beyond individual growth. Initiatives like SHINING have the power to catalyze collaboration and build trust across shared spaces, contributing to a brighter future for everyone in the region. 

Jumpstarting Hope in Gaza

In response to the acute humanitarian and environmental crises in Gaza, Jumpstarting Hope in Gaza is mobilizing a collaborative effort to rapidly deploy water and wastewater treatment, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and energy solutions. Backed by extensive cross-border expertise, Damour for Community Development and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies lead a distinguished coalition of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs and technology partners which will provide interim solutions for immediate relief in post-conflict Gaza while long-term strategies are developed. 

Read the executive summary for Jumpstarting Hope in Gaza here

Jumpstarting Hope in Gaza launched on June 7th in Tel Aviv at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. The event featured distinguished keynote speakers and expert panels to discuss the environmental, political, and social impacts of the conflict in Gaza, as well as the potential for transboundary cooperation in the region. 

Watch the full recording from the event on YouTube

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is in our directory,  has their own website and joined us for a webinar in March 2023. There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page of their website.

Update from Tech2Peace’s CEO Hela Lahar

This year has been an emotional rollercoaster. With the ongoing war and immeasurable losses, we are all navigating a wide range of emotions, recommitting daily to exemplify an alternative to the bloodshed and ruin surrounding us. Building bridges and sustaining the ones we have built in our community remains our priority.

In 2024, we have already held over 25 programs across the region, including in Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and even Cyprus, with over 450 cumulative participants!
These programs have fostered connection, understanding, and hope among our diverse participants, proving that our mission is more critical now than ever.

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed. Earlier last month, we were honored to win the 2024 Erase Indifference Challenge, a testament to our commitment to fostering peace and understanding. Additionally, at the recent Nas Summit Tel Aviv, the audience voted for Tech2Peace to receive all the profits from the event, a heartwarming acknowledgment of the impact we are making.

Together, we are building a future where peace and understanding triumph over conflict and division.

Organization Updates

Since April we have expanded with four new full-time employees in the organization and two more part-time, with nearly all of the positions being filled by alumni from our community.

We have also joined an office space next to Sarona in Tel Aviv, which will serve as a new venue for events and support our organization’s growth. Alumni who have attended recent tech workshops have already had a sneak peek!

One last thing…
Applications are open for our August seminars in Mizra!

Tech2Peace  is in our directory, have their own website and joined us for a webinar in 2022.  There are details of how you can donate to support their work on this page of their website  

Keeping the Peace in Mixed Cities Since October 7th

Last month, Yoni Arie, our Safe Communities Director, participated in an important meeting of the State Audit Committee in the Knesset. Presenting data collected by The Abraham Initiatives and partners, Yoni explained that in order to sustain positive relations between Jews and Arabs in mixed cities, cooperation between the police, the municipality, and civil society is imperative. Our advice to the government and public officials is informed up by careful research and the relationships our shared cities coordinators in the field build.

Our work in mixed cities during this emergency period has helped prevent a recurrence of the intercommunal violence of May 2021. We have repeatedly called on the police and municipalities to strengthen cooperation with civil society and local residents. You can read more in our most recent policy paper examining the state’s response to the May 2021 violence and lessons learned for today.

On June 24th, Yoni will make a public presentation of The Abraham Initiatives’ study of the government’s implementation of its policy commitments to Arab communities. You can read a summary of the findings here.

Strengthening Civil Society in Ramla

Co-Executive Director Shahira Shalaby opened the first training session for local organizational and grassroots leaders in Ramla. Shahira’s presentation focused on strategy for community work in mixed cities and formulating a shared vision for everyday life.

This is just part of the work our local coordinator, Kholod Alzinati, has done in developing civil and political partnerships in Ramla. The dynamic group was composed of local leaders full of motivation and clear potential. Our work in mixed cities and regions, which was essential in controlling tensions and preventing violence since October 7th, is moving beyond emergency coordination to build capacity for long term day-to-day needs in mixed cities and regions.

Countering Racism and Extremism in Schools

Our team recently attended a daylong roundtable discussion organized by the Ministry of Education, the National Institute for Research and Development in Education, and the Center for Educational Technology.

In front of an audience of policymakers, academics, and educators, we raised concerns of growing extremist attitudes and racism prevalent in high schools since October 7th.

Dr. Shany Payes, Director of Research & Evaluation, and Galia Bazak Hilger, Director of Education for Shared Society, discussed our most recent survey results showing alarming levels of hatred among Jewish and Arab youth; the challenges that principals and educators are facing; and the model we have developed and implemented in high schools since October 7th. 

Narrowing Gaps in Digital Access

Yaacob Ibrahim, our co-Director of Public Affairs, sits on the Forum to Promote Internet and Digitization in Arab Society. This month, Yaacob addressed the Forum and discussed gaps in access to technology, including in schools and the workplace.

While certain socioeconomic gaps have recently seen improvement in Arab society—including the number of university students and level of women’s employment—there are areas still desperately in need of address. Access to digital resources in Arabic is one of them. The government has committed to making sure content and forms on Ministry websites will be available in Arabic by the end of 2026, and we intend to monitor progress toward this goal.

Introducing Shahira Shalaby

Last week, The Abraham Initiatives hosted a webinar conversation between Shahira Shalaby, our new co-Executive Director, and board member Josh Arnow. You can access the recording below:

Webinar recording:Click here
Passcode: Abraham1!

We are excited about our upcoming programs and initiatives, including preparing for the next national election in Israel, and hope hold more of these conversations in the future!

The Abraham Initiatives are in our directory have their own website and joined TalkMatters at a live event last year .  There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page of their website.  

200+ Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze gathered in Jerusalem for Interfaith March & “Believers” Evening at Hartman Institute

JERUSALEM, June 3rd, 2024

The Abrahamic Reunion co-sponsored an Interfaith Peace March through Jerusalem which was attended by over 200 people. Rabbis for Human Rights, the Shalom-Hartman Institute, and numerous other interfaith peace organizations were co-sponsors. The event featured prayers in Hebrew and Arabic.

The Interfaith March for Human Rights & Peace is the second annual, and timed to coincide around Jerusalem Day, when tensions can be high due in the Old City.

After the Peace March, Abed Elsalam Manasra and Sheikh Khalid Abu Ras were featured speakers at an evening of interfaith dialogue, prayer, musical collaboration and singing for peace. They spoke alongside AR Co-Founders Rabbanit Hadassah Froman, Ibtisam Mahamid, and other leaders the Abrahamic Reunion has collaborated with, such as event organizer, Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, and Ghadir Hani of Women Wage Peace.

From Abed:

“Yesterday, we participated in an evening called believers at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. My day started at ten in the morning. I travelled towards Jerusalem and returned home at 2 AM. I met with a number of people, young individuals, and social figures in Jerusalem and Ramallah. We headed to the Hartman Institute, where I participated in dialogue programs. I also met many participants, including religious men and women, academics, and young people. We concluded the meeting with a wonderful evening program that included spiritual music and speeches from religious leaders.”

I was one of the speakers, representing our association. I was asked to give my speech in Arabic, out of appreciation and with the organizers’ aim to ensure the presence of multiple languages, especially Arabic, at such events.”

The Interfaith March received news coverage widely in the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel (2nd Article), Daily Motion, highlights on the Rabbis for Human Rights Instagram, among other outlets.

Click here for more event photos

You can watch the video recording of the “Believer’s Event” here on YouTube:

The Abrahamic Reunion is in our directory have their own website and joined TalkMatters for a webinar in November 2021.  Details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page on their website.    

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.