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By: Mindy Chapman

I believe that the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination. I also believe that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination. As a Jewish woman living in diaspora, I feel a deep connection to my historic homeland, Israel. During my one visit there, I experienced the magic of Jerusalem and of praying in the same places my people have been praying for thousands of years. I experienced the intense feelings of belonging, homecoming and spiritual and religious freedom. During my lifetime in Canada, I’ve experienced the yearning and longing, not just for the people of Israel, but for the physical land, soil and trees as well. These powerful feelings affirm not only my own connection to the land, but my understanding of the connection that Palestinian people feel to the land as well. I recognize the existence of another group of people that might feel the exact same way that I do.

Sustainable, long lasting peace is an attainable goal. However, it will only be achieved through coexistence, mutual respect and shared understanding. Learning to love one another as human beings, and to understand and respect one another’s stories and perspectives, is the first step to living side by side and amongst one another in peace.

I have often been told that it is wrong to divide the world into simplified categories like “us” and “them.” I’ve learned that there is an “us” and “them.” There are Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis, who seek to further the divide between us, and there are those who strive to build a better future for the children of Israel and Palestine.

In Israel, efforts that strive to create a shared society from the top down, as well as the bottom up, are well underway. Government initiatives that require the teaching of Arabic in Jewish schools are helping create broad societal changes by providing Israeli children with the tools to communicate effectively with their Palestinian counterparts. Organizations such as Hand in Hand and PeacePlayers are making real changes on the community level. Both organizations run programming that connect Israeli and Palestinian youth through a shared experience. Hand in Hand does this through multicultural schooling and PeacePlayers through after school recreation activities.

There is an “us” and “them.” There are Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis, who seek to further the divide between us, and there are those who strive to build a better future.

In order to promote these incredible initiatives and advocate for the building of a shared community, Israel on Campus is running our first Coexistence Week. By bringing attention to the organizations that are creating positive change in Israeli society, we hope to encourage the innovation and support for similar initiatives. We can no longer allow hateful rhetoric and closed-mindedness to further the divide between us. It is time to work together, learn from one another and build the shared society we want to live in: founded on diversity and coexistence, abounding with peace.

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