Same, Same, But Different: Cyprus / by Sophie Schor

I've been off the grid for the last 10 days in Cyprus with a group of Palestinians and Israelis who have joined together for the next year to work on cross-community conversation and dialogue. We have sat isolated in a village for the last week discussing our shared values of justice, empathy and transformation. We cried, we laughed, we made up new lyrics to songs, we connected to each other as people.

We also traveled around Cyprus and learned about the Turkish invasion and the current separation between Northern Turkish Cyprus, and the Southern, Greek-Oriented, Republic of Cyprus. We walked through a checkpoint and crossed the green line and watched as everything that had been written in Greek suddenly transformed into Turkish. We shrugged and laughed uncomfortably as a feeling of déjà vu descended upon us as we discussed the conflict there with the locals. The same cactus we have here, grow there. So much was the same to our conflict back home. Same, but different. It added a larger perspective. 

But while we were there, living in an intentional, loving community, Israel and Palestine was burning. A one and a half year old Palestinian baby burned to death in his own home after a settler threw a Molotov cocktail through the window. His parents and 4 year-old brother are in the hospital in critical condition—the mother has 3rd degree burns over 90% of her body and the father is not faring much better. 

A 16 year old girl was stabbed and died after attending the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade. The attacker was a radical religious man who had a previous history of violent acts. 5 other people were wounded for their mere presence at an event that he disagreed with. 

A 17 year old Palestinian, and son of a professor at Birzeit University, was killed while at a protest. 

A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a car driving through Beit Hanina in Jerusalem and an Israeli woman was seriously injured.

This all happened in one week. 

It's really challenging to come crashing back into reality after we spent a week together building up hope and our potential and sharing our dreams. I'm optimistic about returning however, because when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I have a group of 15 incredible and talented individuals who are committed to bringing their skills and passions to their communities, to build channels of communication and teach new ways of listening. We are Building Bridges

Follow the Facebook page, I'll be working on the visibility team in the next year and there's tons of new projects that will be rolling out: work with Bedouin girls and boys in the Negev, women leadership and empowerment in Jerusalem and the North, and migrant worker rights. This is an organization that inspires me and breathes hope into a hopeless situation.

For great coverage and reflection on the events that happened last week, see The New Yorker: Israel's Jewish-Terrorist Problem, David Grossman's reflection in Ha'aretz, and Moriel Rothman-Zecher, "A Night of Horror: Stabbing at Jerusalem Pride; Murderous Burning in the West Bank."