Solutions Not Sides is a small project led by, and for young people. Our mission is to provide humanising encounters, diverse narratives and critical-thinking tools related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to empower young people with the knowledge, empathy and skills to promote dialogue and conflict resolution, and to challenge prejudice around this issue in the UK.
Three hearts pumping human blood. One is brewing with anger, one is uninformed and the third is filled with a desire to help the others.
The first heart belongs to a 15 year old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem. A boy who wakes up every morning and prepares to set off to school, backpack in hand, stumbling out the door while sipping the last drops of coffee from a mug. The same way I do, but for him it is not an easy journey. He needs to pass a checkpoint. Close your eyes and picture the lines of restless Palestinians awaiting to pass the vast metal barriers on their way to school or work. Imagine the interrogations and endless questions Palestinians receive daily about their identification.
“As a Palestinian living in Jerusalem, I don’t have any proof showing that I am a Palestinian. My passport is Jordanian, my ID is Israeli, my birth certificate is Israeli. This is the hardest thing to accept; it’s like living in a home that you don’t belong to.”
If that was your life, would you be angry too? Occasionally, I catch myself thinking about my friend’s distressing journey to school because for me it’s a smooth ride on the number 10 London bus.
The second heart belongs to an Israeli from West Jerusalem. She lives life as any ordinary teenager, just like me, going to dance class and scouts. Our lives don’t appear very different until you take a closer look. In her school she never speaks about politics or the ongoing conflict - in fact her teachers shy away from all political related discussions. She told me how important she realised it was to discuss her political opinion, explain her strong patriotism for Israel and also how crucial is it for her to “share the stories of ‘people from the other side’ to let people in Israel know what really happens. People actually don’t know what happens on the other side. I know I didn’t.”
Every once in a while, she senses the conflict through a tense phase in Jerusalem. During this period, she sometimes has to leave her neighbourhood in order to stay protected, leading to disruption to her daily life. A disruption that we, in the U.K., rarely experience.
The third heart, the one caught in the middle, is hoping to bridge what feels like an immeasurable gap. This is the one who questions the world we live in. A world where we hardly recognise the people around us because we get so caught up in our own lives. As my family always remarks, ‘we each are the stars in our own movies’. Once in a while we step out of that starring role and allow someone else to take the lead, but just for a split second, before we are back to being our own centre of attention. I am guilty of it, and so are you. How can we begin to help resolve the conflicts within our world if the vast majority of us are caught up in our own worlds? We can’t. It’s as simple as that. There is only one hope for change and it begins by allowing others to co-star in your production.
This realisation only struck me after attending Seeds of Peace International Camp. There I was able to take a step further into understanding the opinions, perspectives and beliefs of others. I participated in conflict resolution dialogue sessions based around the Southeast Asian conflict, shared accommodation and played sports with Middle Eastern students. These experiences were invaluable in order to learn about each individual culture and belief of the teenagers who currently live in conflict around the world. Some of the most impactful moments were looking into the pain-stricken eyes of these teenagers as they relayed the anguish conflict creates.
This Palestinian boy and this Israeli girl I met through Seeds of Peace face the hatred and bloodshed which conflict brings. They live in a region where war and violence break out like a disease; where grief and loss are as common as our daily alarm clocks and where people believe peace is simply a remote possibility. As impossible as a solution might sound, before anyone can begin to resolve this conflict they have to be aware. Awareness, knowledge and understanding is the first step I see to implementing the necessary road towards respect and peace. This earth is brimming with hatred, despite our similarities.
Therefore, I ask you to stop for a minute. Yes, just one minute. And do yourself a favour.
Open your eyes, switch on the news, open a newspaper, look up from your phone, take a trip, step outside your bubble, escape your echo chamber, just contemplate, put aside that to-do list and wake up.
I’ve tried to let my two friends co-star in my movie. Who is going to co-star in yours?