Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March of 2011, children have been among those most greatly affected by the violence. According to the latest UNHCR report, over 115,000 Syrians have been killed, 5 million are internally displaced, 2 million have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, and 6 million are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Over four million Syrian children are affected by the violence. Only 100,000 children have continued their schooling despite efforts within the refugee camps and only one fifth of them have received counseling.
Last year, With the help of generous donations, we at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict resolution held the pilot summer workshop for Syrian refugee children in August 2013, reaching over 400 children. The goal now is to grow these efforts to reach thousands of children. Nousha Kabawat and a team of volunteers will be holding multiple summer camps for Syrian refugees. If you interested in helping check out http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/empower-syria-s-refugees-project-amal-ou-salam
Just over a year ago I started filming for a web series produced by National Geographic. My goal was to highlight the conflicting narratives and the different points of view while inspiring hope. As Obama is visiting the region, I no longer believe that he or other leaders will bring an end to this conflict. It must be people who lead the leaders. However, I have found that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are indifferent and ineffective. Indifference is the greatest enemy to peace and justice. In this series, I try to understand why this conflict is still going on. I try to examine the narratives and perspectives. But most importantly I also explore the effect of interactions between the sides.
This special online 4-part video series, Conflict Zone, follows Aziz Abu Sarah, a cultural educator, a native of Jerusalem, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who works in international conflict resolution.
Part 1: Uneasy Coexistence
This first segment shows Israelis and Palestinians trying to lead ordinary lives, but the complications of living in a conflict zone can be extraordinary.
Part 2: Israel Defense Force
This segment features the Nabi Saleh protest from the Israeli military’s point of view.
Part 3: Palestinian Protesters
This segment features the Nabi Saleh protest from the Palestinians’ point of view.
Part 4: A Space to Talk
This segment highlights the process of creating safe places for dialogue among people who are on opposing sides of a conflict.
The following video presents my journey in pursuing peace at a National Geographic Symposium, where I was named a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Cultural Educator.
I was ten years old when my brother Tayseer was tortured to death in an Israeli prison in 1990. Tayseer, 19 years old, was arrested from our bedroom a year earlier on suspicion of throwing stones at Israeli cars. He refused to confess, and was therefore beaten repeatedly until he signed a confession. By then it was too late.
Tayseer’s murder was one of the most influential events in my life. He had been my closest friend and confidant, and for long time I lived refusing to accept his death. I grew up bitter and angry at those who killed him. I joined the Fatah youth movement and was extremely active as a writer and organizer in my teens. I wrote extensively against peace, negotiations and the Israelis in general. To me, Israel was represented by the soldiers who killed Tayseer, and those who stopped me every morning on my way to school. I believed I was pursuing justice, but in reality I was seeking revenge.
It was only when I decided to learn Hebrew in an Ulpan that my views changed. Though I was 18 years old, it was the first time I had sat in a room with Jewish Israelis who were not soldiers or settlers. I was able to meet Israelis invisible to average Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israelis who didn’t carry guns. Israelis who believed in the Palestinian right to self determination and freedom from occupation.
Since then, I have changed directions. I have decided to work for justice, peace and reconciliation. I have decided that it is not Israelis or Jews who I should be fighting, but rather hatred, fear, arrogance and ignorance. This didn’t mean that I compromised on seeking freedom for myself or my people. My dedication to ending the occupation has not changed. But I did change the tools that I use. I have become active in conflict resolution through education, business and nonviolence as alternatives to violence.
The restoration of hope and morality in a place savaged by conflict, oppression and injustice is a difficult mission and requires intensive work and perseverance of heart and mind. However, the alternative is bleak. I have decided to challenge the status quo. There is no reason a Jewish 18-year-old has to man a checkpoint instead of a desk at school and Palestinian 18-year-old spend his youth in prison instead of college.
Posted in Aziz Abu Sarah, bereavement, Culture, documantry, holocaust, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace, peace movement, peace process, video, Videos | Tags: Aziz Abu Sarah, Business and Peace, Cultural Educator, Emerging Explorer, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Narrative, National Geographic, occupation, Peace, peace process, Reconciliation, Revenge, Story telling
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