On August 2nd, the Efrat library held an event, sponsored by the Kfar Etzion Field School, on the topic: Arab-Jewish Relations in Gush Etzion. A number of wonderful speakers spoke about their peace-building work in the region, including Roots' very own Khaled Abu Awwad and Hadassah Froman. The main focus of the event was on the work of Roots and its activists. Over 100 people were in attendance! Thank you everyone for this incredible opportunity; we are excited to welcome newly interested participants from Efrat into our activities at Roots!
During the month of Ramadan, we hosted five Iftar meals (breaking the fast). One was run by our youth movement, one was for our main activists and their families, two were run by our team for the wider public, and one was sponsored by the people of Aderet after hearing about our work at a hug bayit (home information session). Each Iftar included a delicious kosher feast, followed by small group discussions. Just one Iftar hosted over 70 individuals - Palestinians, Israelis, and foreigners of all ages - many of whom were first-timers at a Roots event! What an inspiring experience.
Written by Hanan Schlesinger on July 3rd, before one of the Iftars we hosted, shortly following the deaths of Hallel Yaffa Ariel z"l and Rabbi Miki Mark z"l, two beloved members of our communities:
במהלך יולי קיימנו שתי סדנאות צילום לנשים ונערות שעברו ע"י צלמת
בינלאומית שהגיעה במיוחד עבור כך אלינו פרטים בפלייר
Throughout July, we held two photography workshops for women and girls, given by an internationally renowned photographer, Saskia Keeley, who came to the country especially for Roots. Details in the flier
Some thoughts on our photography workshop, by Sarah Ingram Mandel:
I spent this morning taking photographs of my local area with Israeli and Palestinian women. We passed a group of Israeli children on a summer camp hike who were accompanied by an armed guard (for fear of Palestinian attacks). One Palestinian woman was shocked and asked why on earth he would be carrying a weapon? I had to explain that Israelis are scared of terrorist attacks. Meanwhile another of the Palestinian women was constantly on the phone to her boyfriend who was terrified that she was in imminent danger during this meeting with Israelis. Each side has almost no conception of the other's fear.
A gathering in memory of the rabbi who provided the original inspiration on which Roots is based, Rabbi Menachem Froman of blessed memory,took place on March 18
by Hanan Schlesinger
Today I was part of a 10 person delegation that journeyed to Ofer Prison to testify and show support for Muhamed, the young son of our friend and colleague in the work of co-existence, Ziad. Muhamed had been in jail for about two months now, and stands accused of rock throwing. Because Muhamed is a minor, all the court proceedings were confidential.
When we entered court, Mohammed was there and there was no way for him to hide his smile upon seeing us all. He looked good and in good spirits.
The judge was very impressed by our but we can reveal that Hadasah Froman spoke for our delegation and her powerful and eloquent words seem to have made a very deep impression on the judge. It looks like we did some good ... presence, especially that of Hadassah Froman (wife of the late Rav Menahem Froman ז"ל) who was our representative speaker to the court. Hadassah's powerful and eloquent words seemed to have made a very deep impression on the judge.
We expected that today would be the end of the court proceedings with a settlement worked out on the amount of jail time. Instead, the judge took a position that he wanted an independent report to basically verify Hadassah Froman's claims as she is a witness for the defense. We all see this as a very positive sign. Th judgee set the next court date for 2 weeks from now, at which time he will have the report and make his final determination.
As much as we all want to see Mohammed home, this appears to be a good thing.
We all left feeling very optimistic. Let's see what happens in 2 weeks.
Regarding the picture, no Ziad is not in jail, he is on the Palestinian side of the waiting area. We are on the Israeli side.
Andye Friedman, who was a part of the delegation, published an article in the Jewish Journal about the visit. The article can be accessed here.
by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger
Two girls holding hands, tightly, or so it seems. They’re about ten years old. The two of them, one tall and thin, with jet-black hair and the other smaller, wearing her blond hair in braids, walk together joyfully and resolutely. They are not talking much, as girls that age usually do. Every once in a while they stop, say a few words while looking directly at each other, gesticulating and pointing. Now and then they approach a young adult, talk with her and look at each other and then, satisfied, go off on their way – together.
My eyes follow them, trying to understand what is going on. I get it, but can hardly believe it.
These girls do not know each other’s language. They have grown up as neighbors, so close yet so so far away. This one from a Palestinian village, this one from a nearby Israeli settlement. The blond one with the braids knows only Hebrew, the black-haired one speaks Arabic. But they are fast friends.
There would have been no chance in the world that they would ever meet and become so close. No chance, except here, at the Roots Summer Camp, where the counselors double as translators.
My good friend Ibrahim seems to have brought his preschool daughters to the camp. He is wearing a bemused smile from ear to ear. I didn’t know that at his age he still has little ones in the house. Could they be his grandkids? They walk all about with him, not letting go. I guess they are a little shy.
My granddaughter and I sit down to make something out of clay, and I strike up a conversation with a young mother. She tells me the name of the settlement where she lives. I think to myself – Wow, we’ve done a good job! Who would have expected that a family from there, a community considered to be a hotbed of Jewish religious extremism, is here at our camp, building bridges of understanding and friendship between Palestinian and Israelis …
I point out to her Ibrahim and those two cute little girls not leaving his side. Yea, they are really cute, she says — they’re my daughters and they’ve really taken a liking to him!
In America we send our kids to Jewish summer camp to strengthen their Jewish identity, and to imbue in them Jewish values. We want them to make friends with other Jews. It’s crucial; I’ve been there, done that.
And here I am after almost 40 years in Israel, helping create a summer camp that will ensure that our kids’ friends are not exclusively Jewish. A camp that opens their hearts and their minds to the “other” that they have never met and under the prevailing circumstances would never meet.
We need both types of camps. They are both inculcating Jewish values. It all depends on context and circumstances. Because what we so desperately need is balance. We must stand separately, and we must hold hands as well.
*This article was originally published at:
In early August, as many as 60-70 IDF soldiers came to the Gush Etzion area as part of an educational week. The group met with Hanan Schlesinger for two very intense and powerful hours. Hanan shared his life story and then talked about "meeting the other" and openness, peace, and reconciliation. The message was very hard for most of the soldiers to hear, but they did listen well. They clearly heard some things that they had never heard before. In Hanan's assessment, the meeting was "very meaningful and very worthwhile."
Below is the statement delivered by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger at the Prayer Vigil that was organized by the Roots organization following the arson attack by extremist Jewish settlers against a Palestinian family living in the village of Kfar Duma. The attack took the lives of the father and his 18-month old boy. These words express the heart and the convictions of the Jewish members of the Roots/Shorashim/Judur project.
Fewer than two days following the burning death of a Palestinian 18-month old boy when his home in the West Bank was firebombed by extremist settlers, the leaders of Roots/Shorashim/ Judur, organized and held a large prayer vigil near the Gush Etzion junction which was attended by hundreds of Jewish settlers. The speakers, many of whom are prominent Orthodox Jewish rabbis who live in the West Bank, denounced the act of terrorism, called for justice to be pursued, and prayed for the Palestinian family, three of whom remained in the hospital in critical condition at the time of the vigil.
On Wednesday, July 29th Ali Abu Awwad and Hanan Schlesinger met with a diverse group made up of Jews from San Diego, CA, Israelis from southern Israel, and Arabs and Bedouin from southern Israel as well.