My heart is breaking.
The hate that’s been unleashed through the rockets and terror attacks is unyielding, and the violent protests and riots are destructive and unrelenting. The loss of life due to the terror is senseless and disturbing, to say the least. We mourn for those victims and their families. The history of this conflict runs deep.
We in KC have invested in making inroads and building a united community in our sister city of Ramle. Ramle is a mixed community of Jews and Arabs, and for the past 20 years, we have been supporting various programs to bridge the divide and build understanding between the two populations.
It is a fragile state of affairs but we have made wonderful progress and movement in increasing the dialogue and relationships; until last Tuesday, when riots broke out and Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs pitted themselves against one another. There were personal attacks, fires set, and riots in the streets.
After so many years of co-existence, it saddens me that these fragile relationships are in jeopardy of unraveling. Programs we support such as A New Way and Net@ have created a different way of communicating and working together, which has brought a new understanding for youth.
A New Way aims to reduce unfamiliarity and hostilities between Jews and Arabs through bringing students together for experiential dialogue and joint activities. Net@ is the only long-term youth program in Israel that brings together Jewish, Muslim, and Christian youth and addresses a critical need for quality technology instruction, volunteer opportunities and coexistence among Ramle’s 14- to 18-year-olds.
In past years, we have also supported an integrated Jewish/Arab EMT training in Ramle, as well as a literacy program for mothers of children in an Arab school. This program was conceived by the students. On a visit to the school, it was heartwarming to see the accomplishments and pride of all the parents and children.
Finally, for a number of years we funded a JDC program called the Gishurim Community Dialogue Initiative, which was a leadership forum where Jewish and Arab leaders met to proactively address local problems, mediate conflicts and contribute to a healthier coexistence.
All of these programs have afforded Ramle’s citizens the opportunity to learn about each other, work together and live a more peaceful coexistence. They promote tolerance, assist in overcoming social challenges and hopefully work together toward strengthening the future of Israel as a nation.
I am relieved that a ceasefire has been negotiated, and our brothers and sisters will see an end to violence. I am encouraged by recent news of partnerships in integrated neighborhoods of Arabs and Jews coming together. I pray that our sister city of Ramle will be able to regroup and once again flourish and realize a peaceful coexistence.