A story of hope amidst tragic violence

As a charity that works with young people from Israel and Palestine, our thoughts are with both communities following the tragic murders and resulting tensions in the region. At times like this it's vital that those of us who see people of all communities as individuals rather than labels, unite and make a stand against demonization, finger pointing and hatred. 

Encompass programmes bring young people from diverse cultures, communities and religions together to challenge stereotypes. We have been lucky enough to have worked with many amazing young people from the Palestinian and Israeli communities since Encompass was formed in 2003. Young people that have certainly changed our lives and whose lives have been changed by our programmes.

It is easy to succumb to hopelessness when all we hear about in the news is the violence and hatred and fear, but there are individuals who are taking a stand in the face of all this.

Yair from Israel, who participated in the Journey of Understanding November 2013, is one of them. He writes on behalf of the Israeli participants from that programme:

In the last few weeks we have been following the situation in Israel and Palestine getting tougher and tougher. We were grieving and heart broken over loss of all victims - Israelis and Palestinians, so many still not even 20 years old.

Today we heard terrible, shocking news - a Palestinian 16 year old was kidnapped in Jerusalem and later murdered, probably as a "revenge attack" by Israeli extremists.

We Israelis strongly denounce and condemn this despicable murder. Attacking people because of their nationality is not and will never be our way. We refuse to let extremist, racist bigots destroy our chances to live in peace on this land.

We convey our sincerest condolences to all families, friends and communities of the victims of both sides, and pray there will be no more.

Ben, Tamar and Yair

Yair adds:

It is very important to take responsibility and act on what we say. We went to protest against the murder, violence and racism in front of the Israeli PM's house in Jerusalem. Thousands of Israelis have showed up to say together out loud - we won't allow this.

Hundreds of us also went to Shu'fat to condole the family of the murdered teenager Mohammed Abu Khdier. We all know too well how it feels to lose someone close to us to war and terror. Any loss of a human being is a devastating one.

We can and will stand together against racism, hatred and violence. We can only overcome this conflict by talking directly to each other honestly and caringly - the way of the sword didn't work too well in the last 70 years.

Sadly, we are already past the verge of war, when guns and missiles speak loudly. But that doesn't mean we need to stop the better kind of dialogue. I sincerely hope that through honesty and caring, we will be able to get rid of fear and violence.

The more we meet, the less people can say "All Arabs are like this" and "All Jews are like that", and the more chances we have to understand each other.

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