Dear TalkMatters Supporters,

Nearly seven weeks have passed since the brutal Hamas attack murdering, maiming, torturing and taking hostages on Saturday 7th October, and the ensuing war on Gaza.  It is hard to be anything but profoundly angry and sad as more and more innocent people are killed, injured and misplaced.  The news today gives a tiny glimmer of hope with 50 hostages to be released whilst the fighting goes on hold.  

This was a political decision and far remote from us.  Alongside the politics – an end to war – a demand for new leaders and constructive discussion leading to a new reality, there is a lot of work to be done at the grass-roots level. Building bridges between communities will be even more important.  When the time is right, the grass-roots initiatives that TalkMatters supports are in place to lead the way.   Although many activities are curtailed at the moment, the trust built over many years between the inspirational Arab and Jewish leaders is not going away.  If they have the courage to continue bringing Israelis and Palestinians together, we can and must be by their side. 

In the last week I have attended three events bringing together people of faith and none to show solidarity for all suffering – both Israeli and Palestinian – and to reject hatred against any group. The first was a vigil opposite Downing Street under the banner of Humanity not Hatred.  No flags, no screaming – just a sad silence as we listened to a Palestinian and an Israeli talking about the recent loss of their loved ones.

Lawrence Joffe with Jenny Nemko

The second and third were Zoom events with two of TalkMatters associates – the Abrahamic Initiative and the Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA).  Here Israelis and Palestinians tried to answer the difficult question of how they can continue to speak to each other in these dark days, offered prayers and provided a space to place all our horror and sadness.

The IEA talks are a series and you can register to receive the Zoom links for the next talks online – I will be logging in to see their next two talks, and encourage you to do the same.
Today we are sending you a personal update from Hela Lahar, CEO of Tech2Peace and a further update from Meir Berman of the Teachers’ Lounge.  

We thank you for continuing to read these updates. Below you will see some of the encouraging comments we have received that encourage us to keep going!  Our community is growing.  Please pass this email on to friends and colleagues and keep your comments coming.   It is a hard time but made a little easier by knowing that we have like-minded friends who know the importance of enabling more and more Israelis and Palestinians to meet and build up trust. 

Update from Hela Lahar, CEO Tech2Peace

Tech2Peace began work in 2018, with the aim of connecting Arab and Jewish youth from Israel and the Palestinian territories through hi-tech & dialogue seminars. Some of the alumni are now working on creating cross-cultural start-ups.

This week, I want to take a moment to shift our focus and address a question that may be lingering in the hearts and minds of many. How do we carry on in the face of uncertainty, doubt, and the complexities that surround us?

Navigating through these challenging times is far from easy. There are moments of doubt, despair, fear, anger, and anxiety: emotions that are, in many ways, an inherent part of the work we do. Our commitment to engaging with conflict and addressing difficult realities requires a resilience that we often find within ourselves.

Personally, what keeps me going is a profound belief that violence will not pave the way to a sustainable solution. As we witness the impact of current events, we recognize the urgent need for building bridges and fostering understanding among communities. The aftermath of the current situation will leave two people in this region, both yearning for recognition and, most importantly, their rights. This realization underscores the importance of our work – constructing bridges and fostering understanding to pave the way for a better future for all who call this region home.

While we acknowledge moments of self-doubt and confront our fears and anxieties, we choose to act. We act because we believe that our efforts contribute to a constructive path forward, one that has the potential to bring about the positive change our region so desperately needs.

In solidarity and commitment to a better future,

“The Tech2Peace community means a lot. I’m part of many different communities, but during this difficult time T2P is the only community that keeps my mind in a better place.” -alum

Tech2Peace is featured in our directory has their own website  and joined us for a TalkMatters webinar  in May last year.  There are details on this page of their website which show how you can donate to help support their work.

Update from Meir Berman of Teachers’ Lounge

The Teachers’ Lounge creates an inclusive, respectful and multicultural meeting space for groups of Jewish and Arab teachers operating in Jerusalem, Ramla, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and the Western Galilee. The programme brings together teachers for a series of ten sessions. As part of the programme, the teachers visit each other’s schools and homes, and tour their respective neighbourhoods, streets and markets.

The Teachers’ Lounge creates an inclusive, respectful and multicultural meeting space for groups of Jewish and Arab teachers operating in Jerusalem, Ramla, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and the Western Galilee. The programme brings together teachers for a series of ten sessions. As part of the programme, the teachers visit each other’s schools and homes, and tour their respective neighbourhoods, streets and markets.

The last month in Israel was one of the hardest one we’ve ever experienced. The pain and shock caused by the enormity of the devastation that has befallen our country are immense.

We are in the midst of war and there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding us all. According to careful estimations, this period might last for a long time and it’s hard to know when it’ll end.

There’s no doubt these difficult events are already affecting all aspects of life and even more so, affect Shared Society projects.

-Postponing programs’ opening dates
– the program’s headquarters have convened a number of times for work meetings to rethink our strategy in light of the situation. The first decision was to postpone the programs’ opening dates for all the centers. It is important to note that the Board of Education has decided to postpone all teacher’s advanced education programs. (including of course the Teachers’ Lounge Program).

-Centers – parallel to the general overview we are examining the situation in every activity center individually with the understanding that there might be a possibility to get back to activity in a modular and different way in each region.

Human Resources:
– We are happy to welcome Hiba Saleh Al-Din Iselah who has recently joined our team as the Teachers’ Lounge Jerusalem coordinator. Hiba brings with her many years of experience in the field of Shared Society in various projects. Hiba’s presence and experience as part of our team, especially during this time, are meaningful and important as we learn, evaluate, and plan our way forward.

-Coordinators and facilitators – the program’s headquarters is in contact with the programs’ coordinators and facilitators in all the centers to strengthen and support them in these tough times and get updates on their feelings and initiatives in their respective regions.

The days after October 7th bring with them many challenges in the pedagogical field, there’s a need to re-examine our plans and our ability to create a joint conversation. In light of the situation, our staff, together with ‘aChord’ and past and present facilitators are holding round tables to develop relevant thinking models which will become the base for the program’s continuation in this operational year.

As part of the planned establishment of the program’s alumni program, we are formulating ideas as to how we can initiate appropriate and relevant content and events in light of the situation for our graduates.
In these times especially, we see our graduates as vessels for continued conversation based on mutual familiarity and developing a community which provides a professional, supporting community for teachers in Israel now, who are required to provide support and leadership for their students.

The Teachers’ Lounge is featured in our Directory, has its own website. Back in August 2022, TalkMatters and The Teachers’ Lounge met online for a webinar – you can see a recording of it 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.