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Holding On To Hope

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association hosted the event “Holding on to Hope” on Wednesday, Jan. 3 featuring the work of three courageous and dedicated activists for co-existence and shared society in Israel and Palestine.

The event was moderated by Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, B’nai Keshet Reconstructionist Synagogue, Immediate Past-President of the RRA, and current Co-chair of the JStreet Rabbinic Cabinet.

Organizational and Speaker Profiles and Links

Standing Together is a grassroots movement mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice. While the minority who benefit from the status quo of occupation and economic inequality seek to keep us divided, we know that we — the majority — have far more in common than that which sets us apart. When we stand together, we are strong enough to fundamentally alter the existing socio-political reality. The future that we want — peace and independence for Israelis and Palestinians, full equality for all citizens, and true social, economic, and environmental justice — is possible. Because where there is struggle, there is hope.

Alon-Lee Green is the National co-Director and a founder of Standing Together. He got his start organizing Israel’s first trade union of waiters in a chain of coffee-shops and went on to found Israel’s first National Waiters Union. Alon-Lee emerged as a prominent leader of Israel’s social protest movement in the summer of 2011, and subsequently served as a political adviser in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Hand In Hand is building inclusion and equality between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel through a growing network of bilingual, integrated schools and communities. Launched in 1997 with 50 children, there are now over 2,000 students enrolled in six Hand in Hand schools from Jerusalem to the Galilee. Hand in Hand was established to combat one of Israel’s greatest existential threats: the growing social alienation and lack of trust between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. We believe that education is key in changing this. Hand in Hand schools are public schools, recognized and overseen by the Israeli Ministry of Education, and open to all parts of the Arab and Jewish populations in Israel. This government funding is supplemented by philanthropy and parents’ fees, which enable our specialized bilingual, multicultural curriculum and community activities.

Mohammad Kundos, a Jaffa native, is principal of the Hand in Hand Kfar Saba school (located on the Beit Berl college campus). He has a B.A. in Art and Social Studies from Netanya College, and an M.A. in Film from Brandeis University, where he was awarded the Slifka scholarship. He recently completed the Kibbutzim College’s principals training program, and served as a fellow for the Mandel School for Educational Leadership. Mohammad previously managed the Alsaraia Jaffa Theater, and the Manar center for at-risk youth in Jaffa, all while contributing to a number of bilingual theater productions. Even as a child attending public Arab schools in Jaffa, Mohammad took part in Jewish-Arab coexistence initiatives, and has always sought to combine his social change work with the arts.

A Land for All is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization that strives to promote a new paradigm for solving the conflict based on trust and partnership rather than separation. The Two States, One Homeland initiative was born out of a series of meetings started by Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport and Palestinian activist Awni Al-Mashni. Together they offer a new way of addressing the conflict: “We, a group of Israelis and Palestinians, offer a new horizon for reconciliation between the two people, based on the existence of two sovereign states in one open land. The Land of Israel/Palestine is a homeland shared by two people – the Jewish people and the Palestinian people, each having deep historic, religious and cultural connections to the land. All people living in this shared homeland have an equal right to live freely, equally and with dignity, and any agreement must guarantee these rights, in light of the fact that the two solutions currently on the table – separation into two states or the one-state solution – are nowhere close to realization and lead us to a dead end. We believe that a new vision is in order.”

May Pundak is a feminist lawyer, activist and social entrepreneur. In her previous role, she worked at the New Israel Fund in the US leading campaigns for social change and building a community based on a renewed relationship between American Jewry and Israeli civil society. May was the director of the Polyphony Foundation, assisted in establishing a legal team to support political struggles in East Jerusalem and Co-founded an educational dialogue group program for Jewish and Palestinian teenagers in West and East Jerusalem. May is a graduate of the Mandel School of Educational Leadership and a graduate of Harvard University’s Leadership, Community Organization and Activism course. She holds a teaching certificate in civics and a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law in the field of public and international law, with an emphasis on human rights from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Reconstructionist Network