Yes We Can – If we keep working together!
As you all know, IEA’s dialog groups have survived some very difficult times in these last few years. When the missiles which fell on Northern Israel strained nearly to the breaking point the fragile web of connections between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, our 4000 participants persevered – because they knew what would happen if they did not, and because they recognized that times of great danger can also be moments of opportunity to change the dynamic between our communities and begin to work together for a brighter future.
In a way, this moment too is such a time. It takes many kinds of courage for our participants to do what they do. They must often overcome fear, inertia, the sense that the task ahead may simply be too great for their efforts to succeed, and sometimes even physical risks. We know that you, our supporters, are also facing a period of great uncertainty and risk – perhaps one which is less immediate than the possibility of armed conflict, but terrifying all the same. Nonetheless, we are writing to ask you to join with the faith and courage of our participants, and with their unyielding confidence that together we can and will build a better tomorrow, by once again making a financial commitment to IEA’s work. Indeed, given our growth and successes of the past year, your contribution now can help us more than ever before to build a broad popular movement for real peace.
As you know, previous, unsuccessful attempts at making peace have largely focused on political and economic steps taken by governments. At IEA, we believe that in addition to the political and economic realms, it is necessary to emphasize the human side, finding ways to speak to and tap the deep cultural roots of each people, and catalyzing them to know, respect and befriend the Other. Our success has lent powerful proof to the idea that religion, which so often divides and inflames, can also serve as a potent unifying force.
In the past, there have been several points in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict when real quantum leaps toward peace have taken place – one was the visit of Anwar Sadat to Israel in 1977; another was the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan that was concluded by Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein in 1994. It is our view that for the next such leap to occur, much preparation is needed in transforming the hearts of people and building a true popular movement for peace, or the efforts of governments and political leaders may well come to naught.
At IEA, we are especially proud of the fact that so many of those who take part in our programs have met the “Other” for the first time at our events, and also of the fact that unlike some other dialogue organizations, the non-political nature of our work allows us to recruit participants from a very broad spectrum of each population, one which truly represents each people far more completely than do participants in political peacemaking efforts. And our distinctive method for interfaith encounters, in which study of sacred texts and ideas reveals shared values and the common humanity that is so often masked by conflict, has created bonds among our over 4000 participants which foster deep respect and understanding for differences as well.
When political issues eventually do come up in informal conversations between our participants, they are discussed in a way that is deeper and more personal, as a conversation between friends, and in a way which builds empathy for each person’s beliefs and experiences. Even when talking about conflict and trauma, relationships among our participants are deepened instead of being damaged by defensiveness or anger, because these difficult subjects are addressed at a point when the group is able to face them and integrate them into the process in a constructive, non-confrontational way.
Each encounter has a ripple effect, reaching not only participants themselves but family and community members. In this way, IEA, with your partnership, is creating the conditions for real and sustainable peace to finally come. All of our participants – the professor from Hebron, the high school student from Carmiel, the grandmother from Jerusalem – know that their chances for a brighter future critically depend on the success of efforts such as ours.
Those who take part in our programs know that they cannot allow themselves to walk away from dialogue, because their lives here in the Holy Land depend on finding a way – creating a way – for all of us to live together. We, and they, are depending on you to help build a better future for all of us, because what happens in the Holy Land powerfully affects how those of different faiths relate to each other the world over.
If everyone who reads this message can give just $30, we will be able to continue with our work for the next year. But our goal is to found at least seven more dialog groups in addition to the 28 which already exist. In this we are building peace, one person at a time. And each group has a ripple effect, as new attitudes and knowledge spread to our participants’ friends, family, and communities. So please consider helping us to grow by giving as generously as you can.
Your donation of:
$30 – covers printing and communications costs for one encounter session
$60 – buys food for one encounter session
$100 – pays for transportation for Palestinian youth to come to Israel for an encounter session
$250 – allows us to retain trained coordinators of one encounter session
$500 – covers all the costs for one Palestinian and Israeli Youth Encounter
$1,000 – pays for one conference
$5,000 – can sustain one ongoing dialogue group for one year.
You may also contribute online thru our web site, http://www.interfaith-encounter.org/donations.htm
In the US, contributions by check may be mailed directly to: Friends of IEA, 7 Lancaster Ct., Ramsey, NJ 07446-2114.
All contributions are fully tax-deductible in the US, as well as in the UK and Switzerland.
PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THE INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION. SUPPORT ONE OR MORE OF OUR PROGRAMS AND JOIN US AS A MEMBER IN WORKING FOR INTERFAITH UNDERSTANDING AND PEACE.
All contributions are welcome, small and large!
Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director