News / Middle East

US Activist Spearheads Grassroots Mideast Peace Effort

In this Dec. 14, 2007 file photo, a Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier at the village of Bilin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In this Dec. 14, 2007 file photo, a Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier at the village of Bilin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Faiza Elmasry
While official peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are restarting at the highest levels, ongoing efforts also continue on the grassroots level.

Frank Romano, who lives in Paris, has been working for the past eight years to try to resolve the decades-long conflict. Since 2005, Romano has made more than 40 trips to Israel and the West Bank, where he brings Christians, Jews and Muslims together for interfaith dialogue.

“Some people even tell me I’m wasting my time talking about religion because this is not about religion," Romano said. "The conflict between Israel and Palestine is about historical claims to land, not religion.”

The peace activist says religion is interwoven throughout the conflict and he believes misunderstandings and lack of communication among religious groups have contributed to its longevity. He leads interfaith dialogues and projects to change that.

In these sessions, small groups of people of different faiths get together to eat, listen to music and talk about themselves, their families and life.

“The Christian says, ‘They don’t accept Jesus as their savior like I do.’ Then the Muslim will come out and say, ‘They don’t understand Mohamed the way I do.’ And the Jew will say, ‘They don’t have the same impression of Moses as we do,’" he said. "I say 'OK. Let’s just pick the Torah, the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Quran and we'll just look at them.' After an hour or two, they are actually astounded. They know...in theory that there are similarities, but when they see it in writing, it brings home the point that they are not as different as their religious and some political leaders lead them to believe. They are starting to think ‘OK, we have separate religions, but we maybe we do share the same God.’”

Mahmoud Muna, 29, is a Muslim Palestinian who has come to several of these sessions.

“Due to the Israeli barriers, the separation wall, there is a lot of separation between Palestinians and Israelis," he said. "We’re not any more having the easiness and ability to meet, sit down and talk. That's really been a major problem because when people don’t meet, they can easily be manipulated by the media. They can easily see each other's different realities.”

Israeli Ruth Victor, a 61-year-old kindergarten teacher, has also taken part in Romano’s interfaith dialogues.

“When you talk, you don’t shoot," she said. "I think it's better to meet the Palestinians in a gathering like that than on the battlefield...I’ve never lost hope in a peaceful solution. I think it will come someday.”

Discussing religious views is just the first step in Romano’s interfaith approach. He also organizes projects that send people out to work together.

“Replanting olive trees, thousands of them have been uprooted to put the walls in. We try to go on both sides of the wall, rebuild buildings and make them international schools as opposed to yeshivas, or madrassas or parochial schools," Romano said. "The third step is that individuals or groups get together and pressure their governments to do the right thing, to make durable peace. It's possible as opposed to continuing the conflict.”

Romano believes it all starts with people understanding each other, recognizing similarities and respecting differences. Without that, he says, it will be hard to even hope for peace in the Middle East.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Carl Zaisser from: Vienna AUSTRIA
August 06, 2013 5:28 AM
This is great for the necessary reconciliation phase which should (must?) follow a JUST political settlement. Michael Lerner actually wrote some valuable stuff about the reconciliation phase in his book "Healing Israel-Palestine" though some of his political principles (e.g., the historical suffering of the Jewish people trumps the rights to the land of the Palestinian people to the land) are dubious and not based in international law and internationally accepted human rights conventions.

HOWEVER, the big problem is not the people; it's the total ignoring and denial by the United States, enabling impunity for all successive Israeli governments, of these same established pieces of international law and human rights conventions, e.g., UNSC 242, 338 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN) that enables the less than desirable status quo.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid