Musalaha is a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, based on Biblical Principles of Reconciliation.
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.
They were bright, educated, savvy, and well-read. Anyone would wish they were his children, students, or upcoming leaders in his community. However, as we sat together talking, I could sense how frustrated and paralyzed they were on what they could do to bring the necessary change for reconciliation to their communities. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many groups of young upcoming leaders, mostly of the millennial generation, in our community that I’m conversing with about leadership and vision in our society.
I was recently asked to engage with a group of high school principals on the subject of the ultimate other. These principals included Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli men and women who were Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. This group plays a critical role in our society because we entrust them in large degree to educating our children during their formative years. Educators play an important part in influencing the next generation in creating an understanding of the other and in teaching about tolerance.
University students are hard to pin down. For many, their energies are devoted to their studies. They are at the mercy of rigorous course and exam schedules and have too much to do with their limited time.
We at Musalaha considered what would be the best way to utilize the time of these young adults, as many were home on holiday, and where we could help them through this period of their lives. We realized that these young people with their leadership abilities needed direction, support, and training. We planned a 3-day weekend where we would give them the tools for leading others and the framework to put their learned skills into practice. We were delighted with the turnout of more than 40 young people, and even more, the results.
Under a black velvet Jordanian sky choked with stars, 22 people sat together, each one thinking of two nice things to say about the person in the circle whose name they had plucked out of a disposable paper cup.
Some were Muslim, some Christian, some Jewish. Half were Palestinians and half Israelis, but those distinctions were blurred after being together 24/7 for three days. The participants in the Musalaha Community Leaders Desert Encounter, the first in a four-session program spread over 18 months, were almost shocked at how close they felt to one another after such a relatively short time.
This is the season in which we give gifts to our family and friends! We love to show our generosity and express kindness to others. In our culture, giving gifts is something we do all the time. Recently, following the renovation of our home, some friends wanted to come over. They were Palestinian and they told us that they would only come to visit on condition that they could bring us housewarming gifts. The desire and obligation to give is part of our culture. I remember my father’s notebook, in which he recorded the amounts that close and extended family members gave to us, so that he would be able to reciprocate in kind. In our culture, it is shameful to give anything less than what you have received. My father believed it was important to give others the same amount or even more than they had given him. Sadly, too often in our culture, giving comes with "strings attached" and is connected to material things.
We arrived early Friday morning to join the group of the 14 Israeli and Palestinian young adults for a time to reunite for a Poetry slam. This was a group who had participated in an exchange program with British young adults at the end of the summer.
The meeting was designed to help them understand their potential for true impact within their communities. This was done by sharing their experiences of how their trip to the UK impacted those around them.
Everyone was given a set of questions about the changes they had experienced since going on the trip and all of them had stories to share.
I asked Michel,"So, how do you want to change the world?"
His stared at me with his eyes wide-opened, “How do you know I've been thinking about that?”
I met Michel at Musalaha's summer camp. Six days with 83 children means hours of screaming, sweating, water-splashing, running around, all in the summer heat. After a day full of activities and two hours of dragging the four girls from their gossiping and giggling to their sleeping quarters, I thought to myself,
"What do all these have to do with reconciliation?"
Many look at the situation in our country and continue to ask if there is hope. What does our future look like? I see both hope and a future in our young people.
I have been actively working with Israeli and Palestinian women for many years. I have been sowing and planting with tears, sometimes frustration, but also with much joy when I see the fruits of our labor. Yet, this was the first time I was asked to lead a group of young adults on a cultural exchange with British young people. It was this trip that gave me a renewed vision of our work of reconciliation here at Musalaha.
Much has been written on the impact of the Jewish Nation-State law, passed by the Knesset only a few weeks ago. By defining the state of Israel as the “national home” of the Jewish people, the law declares that the right of self-determination within the State of Israel is exclusive to Jews only. Most popular criticism of the law has correctly stated that it compromises peace, democracy and equal rights for all Israeli citizens, and it has demoralized the non-Jewish segment of Israeli society. In particular, it has diminished legitimacy of the Palestinian people. The aim of this article, however, is to address how this law affects Christians in The Land alongside those of us working in reconciliation.
During a blazing hot week beneath the Middle Eastern sun, we took a group of 75 kids on a journey “back to Egypt.” This was the theme for the first of our two summer camps that took place in Bethlehem and included Muslim and Christian children from the city and its surrounding villages.
Musalaha summer camps are in many ways like any other camp with teaching, crafts, games and so forth, but there is an important dimension that is unique to our camps. We deliberately seek to impart principles of reconciliation to our participants who represent communities across the divide. The demographic makeup of our camps includes people from the cities and villages, Christians from a wide spectrum of churches as well as Muslims. This year almost 50 percent of the participants were from Muslim backgrounds, and much of this had to do with the success of the camp the previous year.