Civil and Human Rights

Voices of Peace, Voices of Sanity

10 July 2014 By New Israel Fund

While all this is happening, the SHATIL Be'er Sheva staff is in high alert due to the barrage of rocket attacks on the south - and now throughout the country. And as these words are being written, a SHATIL staffer just received a text message to report to reserve duty immediately.

We hope and pray for better times.

The ongoing escalation of violence, with teenagers on both sides killed in cold blood and the voices of intolerance, hate, and revenge filling the airwaves, has put an entire country on edge. But activists and people of goodwill reacted quickly, and are taking action to oppose violence on both sides, and urging peace, tolerance, dialogue, and a shared society.

At the onset of the crisis, SHATIL immediately established a situation room with staff connecting daily to coordinate where and how SHATIL can bring guidance, hands-on assistance, and coordination to efforts preventing further escalation of violence and racism. Our staff mobilized quickly to respond to unpredictable developments and provide assistance to organizations and activists working to calm tensions and build bridges between people, organizations and sectors.

In addition to our intensive activities with the Tag Meir coalition, SHATIL media and social media experts are helping to strengthen the visibility of initiatives promoting tolerance. Here's just one example: In Wadi Ara, a predominantly Arab area that saw violent rioting, SHATIL media experts worked with local activists to publicize an event emphasizing neighborly relations and calling for an end to violence and incitement. The organizers plan to repeat the event this Friday.

The alternative Russian language news site RelevantInfo, founded by SHATIL and the Coalition Against Racism, has played an essential role in promoting a pro-peace, pro-tolerance voice in the Russian speaking blogosphere. During the past few days, a spate of articles dealt with online incitement within the Jewish Israeli public and its connection to actual violence; criticism of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for cavalierly calling for an extensive military operation in Gaza; and reflections on the commonalities and shared values between the Israeli and Palestinian public. Another article, by SHATIL's Director of Programs Avi Dabush, who lives in the south, called for a different response to terror despite the missile attacks from Gaza that have rattled his family and community.

Dabush and NIF's Shira Ben Sasson Fursternberg were among many private citizens taking part in grassroots initiatives to make moderate voices heard. Dabush initiated an evening of study on tolerance and dialogue in Sderot with over 100 participants and Furstenberg can be here seen in a moving condemning the unspeakable murder of teens - Jewish and Palestinian: