WASHINGTON -- When Waleed Issa walked into the Americans for Peace Now (APN) Washington, DC office on the first day of his summer internship in June, the 25-year-old Palestinian from the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem was startled by what he saw.
"I never saw so much blue and white in my life," he says. "Everywhere you look, there's a Star of David and the colors of the Israeli flag. As a Palestinian, I thought to myself, 'This is not good news. How am I going to work here for the next six weeks?'"
That's the beginning of the article Jewish, Palestinian American groups 'swap' summer interns, originally published in The Times of Israel. Palestinian Waleed Issa has been interning with Americans for Peace Now, and Israeli Or Amir has been interning with The American Task Force on Palestine. Waleed grew up in Dehesha refugee camp in Bethlehem; Or is a former officer in the IDF's medical corps, formerly stationed outside of Gaza. Both are in the States this summer as part of a unique program:
Or and Waleed are among 10 young people - five Israelis and five Palestinians - brought to Washington this summer by a group called New Story Leadership which, according to its website, "introduces a radically different approach to peace-building, one that does not pretend to solve the historical controversies or mediate between antagonists."
Instead, the group offers what it calls a "narrative-based program" that wants participants to focus on creating new stories based on mutual interest and cooperation, rather than "stories that endlessly recycle old grievances, inflate differences and inflame passions."
The whole article is worth reading. Every time I hear about a program like this one, another tendril of hope takes root in my heart.