Messages of Hope

“Do one good thing every day that everyone else is scared to do” — Leymah Gbowee

In honor of International Day of Peace, celebrated on September 21st, it gives me great pleasure to share a couple of short videos from two of our peace heroes, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish from Gaza, Palestine. These messages are directed towards all students of the Peace Heroes Curriculum.

For a description of our interaction with Leymah Gbowee during the women’s peace march that took place in October 2016, please read the blog post entitled “When Lives Collide.”

For a description of Dr. Abuelaish’s visit to one of our pilot schools in March 2017, please read the blog post entitled “Brave Is.”

May these messages of peace inspire each and every one of us to continue to play our part – big or small – in bringing hope to people, both near and far.

 

Miracle Mother

“Mum Shirl’s enormous compassion and her endless generosity towards all people in need were without equal . . . She will never be forgotten for her tireless work for justice for the Aboriginal people”

August 9th marks International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. According to the United Nations,

Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live . . . Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history, their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world.

One of my favorite units to write for the Curriculum was the one on Australia, probably because I was least familiar with that country’s history and was absolutely fascinated by all that I learned. Though there are many inspiring Australians I could have written on, I chose to focus on the Aboriginal community’s history as well as its long quest for dignity and equality in modern-day Australia. The peace heroes featured in that unit are amazing individuals who found ways to make a change for good in that tangled and often tragic story. On this day, which honors the world’s Indigenous people, it is my privilege and honor to share an abridged version of one of these heroes’ biographies – an Aboriginal woman whose life of limitless compassion has left its indelible mark on Australian history. Continue reading “Miracle Mother”

Brave Is

“The refusal to hate is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of human experience”

I had been told that there is a group of fifth grade girls at the Jerusalem School that gathers most days during the lunch break to do peace-related things: they draw pictures, put on dramas, recite poems, write and perform songs, and have lively discussions about whether or not they themselves are peace heroes – like the ones they are studying. Apparently this little get-together has been going on for some time, and this week I was invited to join them during lunch to see what it is all about. Continue reading “Brave Is”

The Choices We Make

It is often said that the parallel worlds of victimization that these two people live in makes it virtually impossible for each side to comprehend, let alone accept, the other’s pain. But when attempts to cross over that divide do happen, they are deeply moving – as is illustrated in Dalia’s life-story, or in the community that is being created at Hagar

This week I had the opportunity to visit a bi-lingual (Hebrew and Arabic) elementary school in Beer Sheva (approximately an hour and a half south of Jerusalem) on account of the school’s interest in the Peace Heroes Curriculum. The school, called Hagar, is a truly amazing enterprise – I was completely blown away by how they have managed to create an environment of equality, mutual respect, and shared living for all of their 250 Jewish and Arab students. The school was started ten years ago by Jewish and Arab parents who were unhappy with the way the education system separates the two peoples. So they decided to start their own mixed school, beginning with kindergarten and gradually increasing their capacity so that today they have classes all the way to 6th grade. The school is completely bi-lingual and each class is co-taught by two teachers, one who speaks Hebrew and once who speaks Arabic. There is a strong emphasis on identity at the school, and students are encouraged to learn about their own heritage and culture as well as that of their peers. As part of this journey toward a deeper understanding of self and others, the school celebrates all the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays. The environment they have created at Hagar is a remarkable manifestation of what shared life between Jews and Arabs in Israel can look like.

Continue reading “The Choices We Make”

Girl Against All Odds

Malala knew she was putting her life at risk, but being denied her basic human right to education was not something she was willing to accept quietly, without a fight. Silence was what the Taliban wanted of her. Silence was what she refused to give them

Several weeks ago I had the honor of visiting one of our Israeli pilot schools, where the 8th graders were giving presentations on the first peace hero they had studied. The teachers were quick to point out that this was a special event (“8th graders don’t do presentations!”), and the school even opened up its auditorium for the occasion. In total, six groups presented on Malala Yousafzai, each of them focusing on a different aspect of her life and work. Two of the teams did presentations that looked at Malala and children’s rights (the right to education) and Malala and women’s rights, and the various issues that arise from a violation of these rights and freedoms. It was fascinating watching Israeli students talk about their Muslim counterpart (Malala was a student just like them). The discussion that followed the presentations was also quite remarkable, as the teacher deliberately guided the students into an examination of these issues as they are manifested here in Israel. For many of the students, it was an exercise in awareness – suddenly they were able to transfer what they had learned about Malala into their own personal context, which, in turn, raised some very poignant questions and led to a very passionate/heated debate. I was pleased to see how interacting with this peace hero was making the students grapple with their own reality. That, I thought, is exactly the point of the Curriculum.

Inspired by this school visit and in honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share an abridged version of my write-up on Malala from the Peace Heroes Curriculum. May her life story inspire each and every one of us to look at our own contexts with new awareness of and sensitivity for the rights and freedoms of those within our sphere of influence.

Continue reading “Girl Against All Odds”

When Lives Collide

I couldn’t help thinking, as she held me tight, that what goes around comes around, often in the most beautiful and unexpected ways

A week ago, Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee arrived in Israel for a whirlwind two-day visit. She was invited to attend the grand finale of an event organized by Women Wage Peace, which had begun on October 4 with a group of Israeli and Palestinian women who were slowly marching from the north of the country down to Jerusalem, where they planned to hand the Prime Minister a letter demanding an end to the conflict. Their inspiration was the women’s peace movement in Liberia that had brought down that country’s dictator in 2003.  It was, therefore, in her capacity as a woman, a peace activist, and a Nobel laureate that Leymah was invited to attend this event and give the keynote addresses in a variety of settings on the final days of the march. Continue reading “When Lives Collide”

Flagging History

To re-imagine a country’s flag is an incredibly poignant exercise – it brings the story behind the history to life in a visual and visceral way

To say that this is the first year the Curriculum is being piloted outside of Jerusalem School is not exactly true. In actual fact, the Curriculum began its venture into the wide world a little over a year ago, when Mel and Joccoa decided to add it to their homeschooling program, as an experiment. Mel is a trained teacher from Australia who now lives in Kenya; Joccoa is Mel’s daughter and has just begun her adventures in sixth grade. Peace Heroes was only supposed to be a short-lived addition to Joccoa’s homeschool program in fifth grade, but Mel soon realized that she would have to find a way to teach it for the duration of the year when Joccoa decided it was one of her favorite subjects. By the time Joccoa finishes sixth grade, she will have covered an extensive number of heroes!

What makes Mel and Joccoa’s experience with the Curriculum so unique is the incredibly creative way they have chosen to engage with it, Continue reading “Flagging History”