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All We Have in Common: Youth Dialogue Offers a New Vision for Israel/Palestine

Penny Holland, Tikkun

Sixteen girls straggle in, a few at a time, from a long morning of poignant and difficult conversation. They are greeted by house mothers who seem to know exactly who needs a hug at this precise moment. The girls themselves exchange tears and laughter. And even amid obvious wrestling with what they have just shared and witnessed in dialogue, a tender affection fills the air. Music comes on. A few girls set about doing chores. In the living room, three take turns with a hula hoop. In the bedroom next door, several sing along as one plays guitar. Each girl makes a point of thanking me and my colleague—the volunteers who brought them lunch this day.

Surrounding us is the quiet red rock expanse of northern New Mexico. The program: Creativity for Peace, a youth dialogue camp involving therapeutic art and experiential leadership training. The girls are Palestinian and Israeli teens from Israel and the West Bank seeking a new and peaceful path toward the future.

As a psychotherapist specializing in the neuroscience of trauma, I understand that the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine may never cease if the emphasis for resolution continues to be built upon mistrust and the defense of borders. If we truly want peace, we must highlight and strengthen solutions to the conflict that instead seek to build thoughtful relationships between Palestinians and Israelis. Programs that bring together Jewish Israeli and Palestinian youth offer such a solution. They range from efforts based in Israel/Palestine, such as Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam and Parents Circle Family Forum, to North American programs such as Seeds of Peace, Hands of Peace, and Creativity for Peace.

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