“I think of Magen, Hamze, Dina, Khader, Reem & Sara…these are who we need in our classrooms.”

Jess Brandler

Note: Jess reflects on our work over the last six months, for our #PeaceBuilderVoices matched fundraising campaign. Until April 30th, all donations via our Big Give campaign will be doubled.

Over the last six months, I've had the privilege of working closely with the Palestinian & Israeli speakers who volunteer their time, against so much internal and external pressure and judgement, to speak together in British classrooms against hatred, violence, war crimes, and polarisation. Together, they have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to call for a better future for everyone in the region. We could not do this work without them and we need your support to ensure that we can continue to do this work with their voices, experiences, and perspectives at the core of it.

Every single Israeli & Palestinian person I know has been personally affected by October 7th and the Gaza war, with some of these speakers losing loved ones. Together, they have walked into classrooms and shared personal experiences and perspectives, and have even sometimes come up against denial, justification, or questioning. But, it’s not just SNS or that individual who responds to the students, it’s the other speaker, who stands up and calmly educates and explains the reality of what happened or is happening, and how to show empathy, compassion, pragmatism, and allyship during these times. It’s also the other speaker who dismantles the conspiracy theories that have spread across British society via social media.

Magen, from Israel, and Hamze, from Palestine, standing together at the front of a classroom before a workshop  this week at a school in North London

Magen, from Israel, and Hamze, from Palestine, standing together at the front of a classroom before a workshop this week at a school in North London​​​​​​

Whilst I've been working in this field for almost ten years and have worked with hundreds of incredible activists during this time, I did not expect to still have so many people applying to volunteer with SNS when divisions, mistrust, hatred, and sentiments of revenge seem at an all time high. If they can carry on doing this work, then so can we. I think of Magen, whose parents were killed at a kibbutz on October 7th. I think of Hamze, who feared for his son’s safety as soldiers pointed guns at them near Ramallah. I think of Dina*, who sat on a Zoom session with her child and had to run to a shelter during the session as bomb sirens went off in her town. I think of Khader whose family members have been killed in Gaza. I think of Reem, who gave birth whilst fearing extreme settlers attacking Palestinian property in her village. I think of Sara, who came on a tour a couple of months after a close friend was killed at the Nova Festival. I think of all of them and their bravery. 

Last week, we took a group of 20 people to Northern Ireland to learn about conflict resolution, empathy, and how divided societies can start to heal after violence and so much trauma. Amongst the group were eight Israeli and Palestinian speakers. Whilst five of them made it to Northern Ireland without issues, three of them had their flights cancelled due to the attack on Israel from Iran. I called them to let them know that we can try to find alternative routes once the airspaces open again, but they may prefer to stay at home and avoid travelling at this time. Instead, they stayed up all night looking for alternatives, and got on a flight to Prague and promised to find their way to Belfast one way or another. Three more flights later, they made it. That is how dedicated they are to learning, listening, understanding, and to conflict resolution. They travelled for 48 hours to spend just three days with our amazing group of alumni from the Bridge Builders Programme, before turning around and going home again. That is resilience and this is who we need in our classrooms. 

You have just 5 days left to double your donation and help us bring 25 more incredible speakers like these to share their stories with young people here in Britain next year.

* - Some names have been changed for our speaker’s privacy.