Palestinian and Israeli girls from the leadership program visit Bay Area – J.
When Farah S. was 9 years old, her father was killed by Israeli soldiers at their home in the West Bank. Omri Dinur, an Israeli from the border town of Sderot, spent her childhood under constant threat of attack.
Next week, the two will speak at temples, schools and private homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, including the University of San Francisco, to promote a message of peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Farah S., who asked J. not to use her full name for security reasons, is a graduate of the Young Leader Program, a summer camp run by Tomorrow’s Women, an organization that bridges the gap between Israelis and Palestinians by engaging young women as leaders and peacemakers in their communities. Farah S. participated in the program in 2009 because she wanted to share her story with people on the other side of the conflict.
“I wanted to share my story about my father; I wanted them to see that I’m an average girl,” she said.
Each summer, the Young Leader program brings together 16 young Israeli and Palestinian women ages 15 to 18 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for an intensive three-week internship where participants live, cook and work together while participating in group dialogues and therapeutic art sessions. . The aim is to give young women a safe and neutral place to connect across borders, away from the conflict of their home regions.
The Young Leaders Speaking Tour brings camp graduates back to the United States to share their stories and raise awareness of both the program and the ongoing conflict in their home regions and to raise funds for the women of tomorrow. On tour this month with Farah S. are Omri Dinur, Yara Abu Al Hija and Tarrie Burnett, executive director of Tomorrow’s Women.
Dinur, 19, attended the Young Leader camp in 2019. After her stint with Tomorrow’s Women, Dinur decided to complete her required military service choosing to do National Service instead; she works with children with disabilities in schools. She joined the ongoing speaking tour because she wanted to educate Americans about the situation in Israel.
“It’s very important for me to show that there are Jewish Israelis who want change and who don’t believe in [many of the things] happening in Israel…because of our government, because of our army,” Dinur said. “This is the way to make a difference, through women and young people.”
Activism is vital for Yara Abu Al Hija, 21, a Palestinian living and working in Israel. It was during her participation in the Young Leader camp in 2016 that she decided to become a lawyer.
“I was really angry and wanted to change,” she said.
Abu Al Hija is in her second year studying law and psychology at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel, where she plans to major in human rights.
Executive Director Tarrie Burnett said the Young Leader program is “often life-changing” for the girls involved.
“Parents will tell us there was my daughter before, then there was my daughter after,” Burnett said.
The purpose of the speaking tour is to provide an additional leadership opportunity for participants as well as to raise funds and awareness of other Tomorrow’s Women’s programs.
In addition to the Young Leaders Camp, the organization runs the Ambassadors of Peace Program, for young women in Santa Fe, and Girls in Gaza, which connects and supports young Palestinian women in memory of young leader Bessan Abuelaish. of 2004, who was killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza in 2009.
“Our mission is really to engage young women, both in Israel and in the occupied territories,” Burnett said, “bringing them together to learn how to be compassionate leaders, learn leadership skills, and then put them to work. in practice by working together across borders and within borders.