Post 3: Project Harmony by Sonia Black

To learn about the background to this blog post and read other blogs from Sonia, please click on the link above.

Salaam Shalom are supporting Sonia Black, a British student, to volunteer with Project Harmony in Israel this summer (2015).

Blog post 3:

One of the highlights of the summer at Project Harmony is the community event. Held during the evening in the school courtyard, it is an opportunity for children’s parents, siblings, and friends, as well as alumni of the school and their families to spend an evening together. All families are encouraged to bring food to share, and this summer there was more than enough to go around. After dinner, all the guests are invited to watch performances which the children had been preparing for the event. Some of the campers sang, others danced, and there was even a theatrical performance. The evening culminated in a bonfire, over which the children roasted marshmallows while their parents chatted amongst each other.

The community event is a powerful experience as it demonstrates the knock-on effect which small initiatives like Project Harmony can have. I have spoken before about the bubble of coexistence which surrounds the school as well as the continuous attempts made by outsiders to burst it. Sometimes it can feel as though attempts to build peaceful and meaningful relationships between Palestinians and Israelis are futile – that the reality of the society that surrounds the Hand in Hand School is likely to destroy even the strongest of bonds between the children. But seeing the beauty of the community event has also shown me another reality. It has shown me a small but growing collection of people who truly believe in coexistence and in exposing their children to an alternative version of Israeli society.

Seeing a Jewish and a Muslim woman sharing a meal together and discussing their children is an unfortunate rarity in Jerusalem, but to the mothers at the Project Harmony community event it seemed like second nature. The parents of Project Harmony have, despite the odds set against them, managed to raise children who are not concerned by the ethnicities of their friends. They often face criticism from within their ethnic communities for sending their children to a school like Hand in Hand and, when the school is the target of vandalism and destruction, they must confront the difficult reality that is potentially an unsafe environment for their children. Despite the sacrifices they must make, the rewards for their determination shine through their children. Watching a young generation of Jewish and Palestinian children singing and dancing together to the enjoyment of their families and friends; it is impossible not to feel that you are witnessing something special.

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