By Ruth Foster
Since Trump’s announcement that the US is moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in December 2017, it seems like everyone has an opinion on Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine, and what exactly peace will look like in the region.
Trump hold’s up proclamation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Trump’s announcement brought rejoice to right-wing evangelicals in the US and religious conservatives from within Israel, who see Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel. Meanwhile, Trump’s announcement broke the hearts of the estimated 6 million Palestinians living between the State of Israel and the West Bank, as well as the Palestinian diaspora and allies of the Palestinian cause. As a result of his announcement, they saw their source of identity and cultural livelihood to be declared as illegitimate by an international power.
Trump’s announcement led to political commentary from all sides online, as well as riots and arrests on the ground in Jerusalem. Within all of this, those who are working for peace in the divided eternal city have been overlooked. These voices from within Jerusalem use both conventional and unconventional methods to build a community between the Eastern (Palestinian) and Western (Israeli) parts of the city, building resilient communities who can coexist peacefully. Although the rhetoric of many may paint the situation in Jerusalem as black and white, the work of these organisations shed light on the complex grey areas of everyday life in a divided city.
Israeli citizens react negatively to President Trumps declaration of Jersulam as their capital
Individuals have decided that in order to ensure a better and more peaceful future for themselves and their children, they must focus on what unites the people in East and West Jerusalem, rather than what divides them. These individuals know that peace is not merely a matter of international mediation and treaties imposed by foreign powers, but also the building of trust and interpersonal relationships across community lines.
Kids 4 Peace
Kids 4 Peace is an international NGO that works with Israeli and Palestinian youth in interfaith conflict transformation and interfaith relationship building. Founded in 2002, Kids4Peace is a global movement of Jewish, Christian and Muslim youth, which works in Jerusalem to provide after school programing for over 500 families between the different faith communities. They describe their mission as building communities that “embody a culture of peace and empower a movement for change”.
Hand in Hand schools
The Hand in Hand schools bring Jewish and Arab children together through schools and communities throughout Israel, with their flagship school in Jerusalem. Through teaching in Hebrew and Arabic, Hand in Hand’s mission is “to create a strong, inclusive, shared society in Israel through a network of Jewish-Arab integrated bilingual schools and organized communities”. At present, Hand and Hand schools have 1578 students and more than 8000 community members.
If you walk down any street in Jerusalem, whether it’s Arab or Israeli, you’ll find people of all ages and backgrounds playing backgammon. This love of backgammon inspired Zaki Djemal, an Israeli of Syrian Jewish descent and entrepreneur, to co-found Jerusalem Double. Jerusalem Double is a backgammon tournament that brings together Jews and Arabs of all ages and religious affiliations, using backgammon as a vehicle for relationship and empathy-building. Since it’s founding, Jerusalem Double has won 2nd place in the Jerusalem Foundation Social Innovation Challenge, and has gained international attention from the New York Times.
You can find out more about Jerusalem Double through Zaki’s TEDx talk here:
Ruth is a final year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, originally from Northern Ireland. Her aim in life is to try and make the world a little bit better and care about the right things, which includes (but is in no way limited to) storytelling, politics, culture, and coffee.