Musalaha is a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, based on the life and teaching of Jesus.
Musalaha, which means "reconciliation" in Arabic, was founded in 1990. Since its creation, an executive board of Palestinian and Israeli community and church leaders has led this ministry of reconciliation in taking steps towards unity in our society.
From the beginning of Rosh HaShana until the last day of Sukkot, all you hear in Israel is "Acharei HaHagim" (After the Holidays). Whenever we try to move forward at work or get something done in the banks, we're told "Acharei haHagim." The same tends to be true when it comes to the difficult work of reconciliation; but how much longer can we afford to put it off? There is too much at stake to continue avoiding these issues. Today it is the last day of Sukkot - It's Acharei haHagim. Let's get to work.
Musalaha has been increasingly active in bridge-building between Christians and Muslims in Palestinian communities, applying the same principles used in reconciliation work between Israeli and Palestinian believers. This is an opportunity to introduce Musalaha to Muslim communities and learn, how we can use our knowledge and experience to ease some of the tension between Christians and Muslims which, mainly caused by historic prejudice, stereotypes and politics, has increased dramatically in recent years.
Working for reconciliation is extremely challenging. In general there are not thousands of Palestinians and Israelis rushing to participate or engage with the other side. But there will always be a few who are willing to take on the challenge seriously and engage with the other side. The faithful few shine a small but vital light in the midst of hopelessness and despair, a light that shines on a new path of peace, reconciliation and hope.
In times like this, it takes a conscious effort not to give in to frustration and depression even for adamant peace optimists. I took comfort in my daughter’s shared experiences and allowed my heart to fill with hope as camps like this allow Israeli and Palestinian children from different backgrounds to connect and see their neighbor in a new light, or even for the first time at all. Let us be encouraged and continue to invest in a new generation of peacemakers.
Two years ago a group of Musalaha’s Young Adults travelled to Ireland for a reconciliation encounter and to learn from from the conflict in Ireland. During their trip, Board Member Lisa Loden, who was leading the trip, and a few others were invited one evening to join the Bangor Missionary Convention taking place at the same time.
Musalaha camps are open to all children, from any ethnic and religious background. As we have increased the number of camps that we host we have received a greater diversity in the demographic makeup of both the campers and the leaders. This has been an exciting development and we are grateful for this opportunity to bring a wider range of children together to meet one another. Musalaha’s camps are also becoming known in new cities and villages, with various groups and organizations inviting us to their communities. Due to this demand, this year we decided to host two weeks of camp in Bethlehem instead of one.
Yes, there are catastrophic traumas that can kill a person. However, there is always hope. There is always a possibility for growth. We will not forget our traumas, but there can be a beauty that comes after an intense pain– and together, as a community, we help each other grow and heal.
The group participants felt that we had become like a family and not just a group. We created a WhatsApp texting group, and we have been chatting almost daily, updating each other about our lives. We have planned to meet for coffee and kanafeh, an Arabic dessert. I can say that this trip achieved its goal in that we have succeeded in forming a strong group. I look forward to all the things we can do together in Palestinian society, and the ways that we can influence our family and friends to get to know their Muslim or Christian neighbors more. What we discovered in the desert will not stay there, but will spread through us to our communities.
Two leaders from the group had known each other in the past and there was an unresolved problem between them. It was a coincidence that they met again in this group. In the initial stages of the trip they were avoiding each other. However, during an icebreaking activity one of them picked his old friend’s name. He asked his friend to forgive him and he apologized. We were all amazed to see this! Then they hugged each other in front of the whole group. After four days together, they really strengthened their relationship.
This is the essence of Musalaha for me. Humans enjoying each other’s company that would never have met under normal Israeli circumstances. To pursue those friendships and build bridges across our cultural and political differences I’ll gladly step out of my comfort zone. Again and again.