On February 15, more than 50 students and community members attended a panel discussion with members of Creativity for Peace, an organization that brings Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls together at a camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The evening began with dinner, schmoozing and introductions by Robert Abzug, UT Professor, Audre and Bernard Rapoport Regents Chair of Jewish Studies & Director of Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. Next Dottie Indyke, Creativity for Peace’s Executive Director, shared a brief history and overview of the program. The highlights of the evening were the four participants – two Israeli and two Palestinian – who shared their experiences of getting to know one another and the understandings gained from living, talking, playing, and working together for three weeks in Santa Fe.
Creativity for Peace trains young Israeli and Palestinian women to partner together by breaking down barriers of anger and prejudice, facilitating an understanding of the other, building friendships, and inspiring action to promote peace and equality. The participants, who are now leaders in the program, spoke honestly about the difficulties they experienced trying to find ways to interact with people they were taught to hate as their enemy. During their 3-weeks in Santa Fe, the participants learned to put themselves in the other’s shoes with empathetic listening and to have compassion for one another. One Palestinian participant spoke of her realization that all of them are suffering, not just one side or another, when she learned an Israeli participant, like herself, had also lost her grandmother in the conflict.
While the women spoke of the challenges of learning to listen deeply and to accepting they can agree to disagree with respect and compassion, they also spoke of the difficulties returning home. One participant recalled being shunned by her community for participating in the program and another told of realizing that she had changed greatly while in Santa Fe but that her home had stayed the same. The participants spoke of hope for younger generations to bring a change hearts and minds to the region. And they credit Creativity for Peace for successfully changing the world one person at a time.
This incredible event was co-sponsored by the University Interfaith Council and the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. Special thanks to Michael and Jeanne Klein for bringing this wonderful organization to the campus community.