Dear TalkMatters Supporters,

Each week it is getting harder and harder to write this letter. The situation does not change and in many ways is worsening.  It is totally depressing and it would be easy to give in at this point.  To give in to the voices in my head that say ‘how naïve you are, what’s the point, get a life!’ .  Yet I cannot give in because the other voices in my head are stronger and I really believe that I am doing the right thing.  It must be right to prepare for the time when this nightmare ends and people can live their lives without the fear, anger and the growing hatred that we are experiencing now.  It is only through the combination of the slow drip-drip of ‘People to People’ work, and a massive political turn-about that things will ever change.

And this is where TalkMatters comes in –  we tell a different story – one that always acknowledges the pain and hurt for both people but shows that hope is possible.  We know about the positive things that are happening.  We support the inspirational leaders and their co-operative initiatives that enable moderate Palestinians and Israelis to engage with each other, to listen, to talk and to build up trust.  Through TalkMatters webinars, video clips, blogs and live events, the UK public have the chance to meet an Israeli and a Palestinian – often for the first time – thus making it much harder to stereotype and remain ignorant of the two narratives. We believe that this helps to counteract the increase in antisemitism and islamophobia that we are seeing right now on-line, in our schools, our institutions, our political parties and on the streets. 

Our update today gives details of a series of live talks with Sheikh Ghassan Manasra from the Abrahamic Reunion; the latest news from both the Interfaith Encounter Association and Roots, and finally a YouTube recording for those who were not able to see Palestinian peace activist Hamze Awawde live last week and more details of our upcoming visit to Neve Shalom~Wahat al Salam.  

From Roots’s update, Khaled Abu Awwad speaks with young Israelis

And now for some thankyous and news of some changes.  Thankyous first.  A huge thank you to Daniel O’Neill for  producing these weekly updates since October 7th, and for his unstinting support, time and patience ever since we started up in 2020.  And a warm welcome and thank you to Tamara Jacobs who is expanding our social media activities.  We are now posting regularly on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn and Instagram.  At the same time we are moving this weekly newsletter to a new monthly update with snap-shots of what’s going on in between.  

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 WhatsApp group, or please pass this email on to friends and colleagues and invite them to join the TalkMatters mailing list

All good wishes, Jenny and the TalkMatters Team.

The Abrahamic Reunion

The Abrahamic Reunion recognizes that creating understanding and empathy between diverse faith communities is fundamental to developing multicultural acceptance, constructive cooperation and peaceful coexistence. Working in the Holy Land for over 18 years, the Abrahamic Reunion uses education, interfaith dialogue, group processes and large-scale events to bring together diverse faith communities as well as secular groups to replace fear and trauma with understanding and trust. 

Tree Of Life Speaking Tour – February 15th to 20th
The Abrahamic Reunion’s Director Sheikh Ghassan Manasra from Nazareth is on a speaking tour around the UK over the next few days, where he will be discussing his experiences as an internationally renowned peacemaker.  His talks are given in partnership with Spirit of Peace

You can meet him in Crawley, Sevenoaks, Stroud and Golders Green:

• Thursday 15th February, CRAWLEY, 7pm, Crawley Museum (public event)
• Sunday 18th February, SEVENOAKS, 3pm Peace Tea, Sevenoaks Unitarian Meeting House (booking required)
• Monday 19th February, STROUD, 7pm, St Bride’s Hall (booking via Eventbrite)
• Tuesday 20th February, GOLDERS GREEN, 7pm, Golders Green Unitarian Meeting House (public event)

There are full details of each event, including address and location information, on this page.  For further information or if you have any queries, please contact Heather-Jane Ozane, either by email on info@spiritofpeace.co.uk or by calling 07711 960644.

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

The Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)

The IEA runs dozens of  ongoing community groups of interfaith encounters – from the Upper Galilee to Eilat, including many groups that bring together on a regular basis Israelis and West Bank Palestinians. Thus building a true grassroots movement which constitutes the human infrastructure for peace in the Holy Land.

Letter from Director Yehuda Stolov on the IEA and the war.

As many of you have wondered, we are now briefly explaining our activity since October 7th.  When the war began we sent out several emails referring to it. In all of them we included our commitment to continue building a better future, a future of hope and cooperation, despite any hardships the present introduces. Facing the great shock and sorrow it seemed especially challenging at the current time.

We dived into immense efforts to sustain our activity. IEA’s dedicated office team communicated with all the groups’ coordinators, to check how they were doing and to encourage them to resume activity.

These efforts were successful and to date 25 groups have already met, some more than once and we were even able to launch a new group on 26th October. Several additional groups are working to schedule their next encounter.
In addition, we organized an online series of events on our current activity, under the title Interfaith Talks, which attracted many hundreds of views.

Consequently, we decided to return to the sequential sending of the activity updates. We hope they will continue to bring inspiration and hope!

Yours, Yehuda

The Interfaith Encounter Association is in our directory  has their own website and joined TalkMatters for a webinar in   October 2020 There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page of their website.

Sipur-Hikaya hosts Palestinian Peace Activist Hamze Awawde

The Sipur-Hikaya  (Hebrew and Arabic for ‘Story’)  initiative teaches the two sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the book ‘Side by Side – Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine’’. The dual narrative approach is studied in pre-military preparatory courses, schools and universities.  The goal begins with the understanding that to begin the process of reconciliation it is necessary to recognise the other and a condition for recognising the other is to know the other.

Hamze Awawde spoke at a Sipur-Hikaya Zoom meeting last week.  We bring you a recording of that inspiring interview 

Hamze was born in Dura, near Hebron. While studying at Bir Zeit University, he began working for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In recent years he was the Palestinian coordinator of Hands of Peace and with the Israeli coordinator, organized Israeli-Palestinian-American youth groups for youth camps in the United States.


Roots is a Palestinian Israeli Initiative in the Gush Etzion-Bethlehem-Hebron area. Roots works to nurture understanding, non-violence and personal transformation between Palestinians and Israelis in order to advance the two peoples towards a new social and political reality founded upon dignity, trust, and mutual recognition and respect for both peoples’ particular historic belonging to the entire land.

Roots Intervention against Violence

In the past three months, Roots’ Israeli leadership has sought, where possible, to actively oppose acts of violence against Palestinians, and the imposition of restrictions on their movement, in the areas where our network is active. We’ve worked with local army officers to find ways to ease the restrictions on those Palestinian communities most affected by road closures, reported on abuses of authority by security and military personnel, and approached Israeli local leadership to set clear red lines against vigilante groups taking advantage of the heightened tensions.

The images below were taken during a meeting with Palestinian shepherds who lost access to grazing lands due to expanded security perimeters. We forged a connection that we hope will develop into the future.  While the work seems endless against the backdrop of the continued war and tensions, these small acts of solidarity have their own potency. They help us to reach out to new communities in times of great need, and exemplify Roots’ commitment to each other’s basic rights at a time when fear and us-or-them thinking have become
so prevalent.

Khaled Abu Awwad speaks with young Israelis before enlistment

In January, Roots hosted over 180 Jewish and Arab Israeli youth

Roots is in our directory, has their own website and joined TalkMatters and Muswell Hill Synagogue for a webinar in March 2021 There are details of how you can donate to help support their work on this page of their website.  

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.