Incidents of violence and war fill the news and set forth a ripple effect that leads to more violence and more war. Shock, fear, and despair result; people of good avoid the news, seek safer places, feel overwhelmed, pray for safety, and wonder if it is even possible to make a change for good. As peace negotiations languish or fail, even the word ‘peace’ loses meaning. At its worst, it breeds hopelessness and disillusionment in youth, who put their own lives at risk in deadly attempts to kill the soldiers around them. How does one re-awaken caring, hope and constructive resistance? How can one rebuild the fair rule of law and assure safety? How can a society that has no hope reclaim and reestablish the word, peace, and make it their own? In Helena Cobban's book, The Moral Architecture of World Peace, the eight visionary recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize who gathered at University of Virginia for two days of extraordinary dialogue describe the need for personal transformation and community organizing as the starting point for world peace. In his book, Fighting the Mafia and Renewing Sicilian Culture, Leoluca Orlando writes of the importance of fair rule of law, as well as the importance of the arts and culture in helping people find the bravery to reach out to one another once again. If the Nobel Laureates are right, we must find a way for communities experiencing violence and war to nurture inner peace. Sicily’s experience suggests that art and culture have an important role to play, as does the rule of law.
When we first introduced the Pinwheels for Peace project to Palestinian communities, the children wrote simple things that were so inspiring to us all. The pinwheels helped calm their fears. Social worker Fatma Nawaja has since found that the pinwheels also open communication with children in a way that makes it possible to provide psycho-social support and intervention for a wide variety of concerns arising from the high stress of Occupation as well as from extreme poverty. Somehow, what the children are writing reminds adults of our responsibility to realize their visions of peace: safe homes, schools, a way to walk to school free from fear of being attacked, a place to play. What we never expected is that the children’s words would touch members of Congress in the way that they have. When, in 2008, Senator Boxer’s staff (now her Chief of Staff) saw the pictures of the children and their pinwheels, he said, “We never intervene on matters like this, especially not when a court case is pending, but my kids are in kindergarten. I would be upset if someone were to demolish it. I’ll make the calls you are requesting to the Israeli Embassy and the US State Department to keep Al Aqaba Village standing.” It worked! Even though demolition orders are still pending against Al Aqaba and some 12,000 other Palestinian homes in the West Bank’s Area C, Al Aqaba is thriving. Now we’re bringing the Pinwheels for Peace program to children in Susiya, Umm Al Kheir, Isawiya and a handful of other villages in Palestine. We will soon be asking youth groups in Israel to join in too. Children in churches and mosques (and soon synagogues, too) in the US have been joining them in solidarity. Parents in the U.S. have called this a life-changing experience.
Last year, when we brought three children and parents to Congress for the first time, their delivery of their Pinwheels for Peace and their presentation of what peace means to them was extremely moving, especially because they and everyone in their villages have received demolition orders against their homes. In fact, the children's visit to Congress was the most effective speaking tour that Rebuilding Alliance has ever organized!
Rebuilding Alliance is currently organizing our 2016 speaking tour entitled "I care about Peace," set for the week of September 21st, International Peace Day. On this special day, we are scheduled to host a Senate briefing in the Hart Senate office building, room 902, during which three children and their parents from at-risk Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank will speak. The children will describe their Pinwheels for Peace, and distribute the pinwheels made in their villages to everyone in the audience. We hope that President Obama will also meet with our delegation this year.
We seek to bring the Pinwheels for Peace project to Palestinian after-school programs in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, working in partnership with mental health professionals to expand psychosocial support and intervention for the children, their teachers, their families, and also for our coordinating staff. As participation grows, it becomes evermore important that the children see value in what they are doing. Rebuilding Alliance will soon be using our new mobile app to help constituents ask elected officials in the U.S. to urge Israel to halt the demolition of Palestinian villages. Someday, the Government of Israel will recognize Palestinian planning rights and stop demolishing Palestinian homes. In the year ahead, the first 8,000 children in the #ICareAboutPeace program will be given a creative outlet to share their narratives.
"Pinwheels for Peace are easy to make, they express hopes, feelings, joy, and when you can blow on them and make them spin, it somehow just feels good- empowering for the child in all of us."
-Mares Hirchert, longtime Rebuilding Alliance supporter
Pinwheels for Peace simply require a paper and a pencil - and it helps to have crayons or markers. Here are the instructions. On one side of the paper, children write down what peace means to them, writing their feelings about war/peace/living in harmony. On the other side they draw their feelings about peace. Parents working with their children have described this as life-changing ... it is amazing how deeply the exercise touches adults ... it awakens our responsibility to realize their very real vision on their behalf.