A Grassroots Organization with Both Israeli and Palestinian Members
While vociferous organizations from one side of the Israel-Palestine conflict or the other may be highly visible, organizations that have members from both sides working together may be missed. Roots is a grassroots organization consisting of both Palestinians and Israelis. The organization offers speaker programs that support its articulated values and principles, which include recognition and support of each other’s identity on all levels.
The organization was cofounded by Rabbi Schlesinger, who has written extensively about bridging the gap and meeting Palestinian families — and how a particular meeting, organized by a Protestant pastor, had an enormous impact on his understanding of Palestine.
Roots aims to develop and cultivate solidarity despite ideological differences between members. It hopes to dispel stereotypes and initiate constructive discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Initiatives for Building Trust and Understanding
Roots’ unique initiatives help in the effort to build trust and understanding — especially pertinent in the age of COVID-19. Roots also offers virtual programing via Zoom, allowing it to host virtual seminars and panel discussions with a global audience of supporters and activists.
Additionally, Roots organizes small learning groups, lectures, and events that provide a setting for dialogue between religious communities. These groups include a Jewish-Christian group, a Jewish-Muslim group, and a women’s group for Israelis and Palestinians, all of which meet on a regular basis.
Interreligious exchange may be a path toward resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Roots’ partnership monthly lectures — given in both Arabic and Hebrew — may help Israelis and Palestinians learn about each other’s societies and cultures.
Israel-Palestine Conflict: Diverse Identities of Participants
Roots maintains several other initiatives:
- A Joint Iftar (break-fast meal held during the month of Ramadan that brings together more than 60 people from all sides of the conflict)
- A youth group of 20 local Israeli and Palestinian high school students (organized and facilitated by Israeli and Palestinian university students and an advisor)
- Meetings that include discussion groups, recreational activities, and day trips to heritage sites that are integral to the identity of its diverse participants
Roots also offers an after-school program where photography workshops bring together Palestinian and Israeli youth in ongoing meetings throughout the year. These meetings are unique opportunities for Palestinian and Israeli young people to connect over a shared activity they enjoy — and mitigate against the fear and distance otherwise between them.
In addition, Roots runs an annual summer camp for children ages 5‒12. Since starting in the summer of 2020, 160 local children have attended the week-long experience of photography, crafts, cooking, playing with animals, and dance to encourage positive interaction between Israeli and Palestinian children.
Promoting Solidarity and Condemning Violence
In its efforts to condemn violence in Palestinian territories, Roots offers a response team that shows solidarity and support by visiting the site or family involved or hurt in violence. The organization also coordinates rallies to send messages condemning violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Spreading the message is perhaps one the most important goals of Roots, and salon meetings (roughly translated to Chugei Bayit in Hebrew) are one of the main forms of outreach. Speakers visit groups in the host home to engage new communities. In addition, nearly every day, and often multiple times a day, Roots is visited by Israeli think tanks; youth movements, including Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hachadash, Shaharit, and Kochvei Hamidbar; education networks; and Yeshivot staff.