Hundreds of people across three events this week are hearing from two young activists – one Israeli and one Palestinian – speak about their hopes for peace and reconciliation.
Rena – a Palestinian from Ramallah, and Shaked – an Israeli from Ra’anana, were speaking at ‘Invest in Peace’, a joint initiative between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which invites Christians and Jews to support Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding.
Sessions took place at St Mary’s Church in Woodford – in partnership with East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue; Bushey United Synagogue – with the Church of St Peter Bushey Heath; and a further session will take place in St Albans, supported by Marlborough Road Methodist Church and St Albans Masorti Synagogue.
Speaking to a packed room in Bushey, Rena spoke movingly about her distress at the escalation in Gaza: “People on both sides are losing their lives, children cannot go to school, this situation cannot continue. The Palestinian and Israeli people must find a solution to stop this violence.”
Shaked, who has recently returned from reserve duty in the Israeli Defence Forces, spoke about growing up during the second intifada: “Our childhood in Israel wasn’t normal. You can’t feel safe when you are always anticipating the next suicide bombing. We have to take responsibility for our children’s future.”
The event in Bushey was introduced by Rabbi Elchonon Feldman and Father Andrew Burton, and the event in Woodford by Rabbi Richard Jacobi and Revd Ian Tarrant.
Board of Deputies President Marie Van der Zyl said: “At a time when tensions and emotions are understandably running high, it is so refreshing to have balanced, nuanced dialogue on this topic. In the shadow of the terrible attack in Pittsburgh, and now the violence on the Gaza border, getting together with Christians and other faith groups in a spirit of unity and honesty to discuss these issues is interfaith work at its best.”
Revd Peter Colwell, Deputy General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland said: “With so much violence, hatred and suspicion in the world, there is a critical need for different faith groups to come together. Our message to extremists on all sides is simple: You will not divide us. This project delivers that message loud and clear.”
The Invest in Peace project began in 2017, and events have taken place so far in London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Nottingham, Bristol, Oxford, Cardiff, Birmingham, Woodford and Bushey, with St Albans still to come.
Photographer: Sam Pearce / www.square-image.co.uk