Peace-building & Social Media: Virtual or Real Changes? by Rafaela Barkai, Brazil

Last November, I had to write a paper for my Master’s in Jewish culture, about any aspect of Israeli society.

The war operation Amud Anan (or Pillar of Cloud) was taking place in Gaza, and I was getting involved in a Facebook group called “Turning a New Page for Peace”, linked to a community with the same name. I decided to write about peace initiatives in social media, regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and selected three communities, with different aspects, but the same goal: to promote interaction between people involved in the conflict, and humanize the relationships as a way to build peace.image I interviewed the admins of the three pages (Yair Bartal from Turning a New Page for Peace, Ronny Edry from Israel loves Iran and Joujou from Palestine loves Israel), and also wrote about my experience on participating in the Turning a New Page for Peace group. Below is an extract from my paper:

The year is 2012. This is a sunny Sunday morning, I can hear the bells from the church a few streets away, and the loud music playing at the Bricolage street market. It would be just another beautiful warm day, except for one detail – my mind, my heart and my soul aren’t here, but completely connected to people I barely know on the other side of the planet. In the last few days, they became an example for thousands around the world. They are witnessing a war, but differently from the majority, they are talking about love, peace, and coexistence. Among missiles, bombs, soldiers, siren alerts, fear and despair, they find strength to lead peaceful movements using just one weapon – the social media.

Sharing their sensations and beliefs, these young people are writing the history with new colors. The interaction provided by the social networks allows dialogue never imagined before and people from all over the globe respond with words of encouragement and enlightenment. This nurturing structure offers another way to solve ancient conflicts. If it will change the history, we still don’t know, but one thing is clear – as a silent revolution, it is teaching the humanity to be what it was supposed to be – just one.

Like many of the members, I got more and more involved in the group, and for many of us it became a second family. The shock of meeting the first Iranian turned into a deep love. The Egyptians, Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and even Libyans became friends. We spent hours on exchanging loving messages and creating an ambience of trust and friendship, even if sometimes we had to deal with very painful issues, what was very hard, but we overcame all of them.

Observing Ronny and Joujou, I notice love growing over hate. Ronny’s and Majid’s families just met. Everybody knows about that – a perfect meeting. Their families simply fit. Joujou went to Israel – we could feel her emotions in her every step. And many Iranians and Palestinians that were hiding behind pseudo-pictures began to show their faces and interact openly with the ‘enemy’. And now I write the word enemy into quotes, because something is going on.

The experience in our group is changing lives. Many members became my good friends, and we all agree that we love each other; love can move us forward and turn enemies into friends. One could say this is just a virtual life and doesn’t change what supposedly might be the real one. For those, I would say that something happens – as we created a new memory in our bodies and brains and they start behaving in another way in all levels of life. Once the paradigm is shifted, it becomes universal and we learn a new lesson.

This morning, I was telling a good Egyptian friend about the Jewish concept of Naase ve Nishma – what means something as to just let’s do, and we will listen to it. Start doing, and along the path you will understand it.

This is the way peace-building works – we don’t know exactly the way, we cannot predict where we will arrive, but on experiencing it, we build the path. And when I told a very good Palestinian friend I would write an article to be read by so many people, he told me – just do it.

Rafaela Barkai, Brazil

YaLa Young Leaders

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