Today's Online Peace Talks: http://www.mepeace.org/events/online-peace-talks-august-29
On a 'listening tour' of the Balkans to benefit the Middle East, I described MEPEACE to RTM Online, a leading media network in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Thanks to Adnan Hasic, mepeace.org peacemaker, for setting up this interview and hosting me in Mostar.
Comments and thoughts welcome. Exclusive / To take peace process out of politicians’ hands; Easy to find differences, but they set us apart
M. B. 19.08.2010. 18:30
Eyal Raviv (photo: RTM.ba, Dragan Arap)Mostar (RTM) – Establishing peace starting from the top, meaning from political elite, towards the bottom, is not producing any results. People need to be empowered, so they can work for peace themselves and articulate the solution.
It is easy to look for differences, and if you do look for them, you will find them. But differences are what separate us.
This was said in an exclusive interview for RTM.ba portal by Eyal Raviv, young Israeli peace activist, peacemaker, as he calls himself and his associates. He started an Internet-based platform, called the “Facebook of Peace” by Israeli newspapers. This platform gathers so-called ordinary people, Israelis and Palestinians, abut also people from all over the world, providing them with the possibility of meeting one another, but with one goal only – establishment of peace!RTM.ba: At the beginning, could you introduce your NGO? Its name is mepeace.org, what it is really about?
Raviv: mepeace.org is a network for peace. It is also called “Facebook of Peace,” because it is similar to Facebook and dedicated to peace. Peace everywhere, but it started with Middle East. ''Mepeace'' is short for Middle East and Peace, but it is also a combination of words ''me'' and ''peace,” because we believe that peace starts with every single one of us.
It is called “Facebook of Peace,” but it is really dedicated to three purposes. First is to prove peace that we want to see. Second is to empower individuals and organizations to work for peace and reconciliation. And third is to make possible and mobilize movement for peace from the bottom up.
Mepeace is a network with thousands of peacemakers and millions of visits to the site. Everyone is invited to join the network Mepeace.RTM.ba: Still, where is the Mepeace network’s base?
Raviv: Mepeace.org is a new medium. It is located at the Internet. Of course, its origins are in the Middle East, in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, but we have thousands of peacemakers in Israel, Palestine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and really all across the world – in some 200 countries in the world and 50 thousand cities.We are not waiting for the politiciansRTM.ba: You mentioned that you are the movement that wants to find a peace solution according to the principle “bottom up.” Why that way? Why not from the top downwards to the bottom?
Raviv: Because the way from the top downwards does not work. We imagine how it could be. Communication has always been going from the top down and, to be honest, it does not produce results. We believe that, in times of Facebook, in times of Mepeace, new media, communication is actually happening in parallel way. I call it parallel learning – we learn from our friends, we teach each other.
And what makes us stronger, along with what’s really possible, is movement from the bottom up that will make peace possible. So we are not waiting for the politicians. We are the leaders we have been waiting for. That is the difference.
RTM.ba: Could you explain why you personally are in all this? Could you also tell us who are the people from the Middle East who are in this project with you?
Raviv: Well, I am in all this because I am the person who wants peace. I came from New York to the Middle East six years ago and, to be honest, I saw that in that region many people truly want to live in peace. What I realized is that, in times of Facebook, we have the possibility to connect and offer one completely different inspiration.
I came looking for inspiration and then I saw that it is possible to offer inspiration. What I did was that I created an Internet-based platform that truly provides me and others with the possibility to inspire one another.
At the beginning it was the network for Israelis and Palestinians, for overcoming barriers towards peace. Very soon, thanks to the Internet, Muslims, Jews and people of other religions, started getting together. Because this makes overcoming of obstacles through Internet possible, we have people from all over the world, including people from Mostar.Former fighters from both sides are also membersRTM.ba: Is it true that, among your members, there are people who used to fight in the Middle East?
Raviv: Yes, it is true, because we are the platform that truly provides people with the idea of a better future. So, we have people with different backgrounds. Some of them were members of Israeli Army, some fought on the other side. Those are the people who threw weapons aside and said “something different is possible.”RTM.ba: Did all this influence your personal attitudes? Actually, what were you like before, and what are you like now in sense of opinions and attitude towards the problem?
Raviv: I’ll tell you how this affects me personally. I was the person who believed that anything is possible and that’s how this network was born. Now I can see it. People often ask me “Do you really believe that it is possible?” And my answer is always the same “Yes, I believe that we’ll have peace.” And now my answer is “All you need to do is visit mepeace.org and see it is happening in real time.”
Because even as we speak, during this interview, people are on mepeace.org, talking. Those are people from all over the world, people of different religions, and they make peace happen. That is why we call everyone on this network a peacemaker, because the power to bring change around is in hands of these people.RTM.ba: Could you name several most important projects that mepeace.org implemented lately?
Raviv: This is a peace network that exists on Internet and in the field. On Internet, like Facebook, mepeace.org has its profile – pages, interaction, information and inspiration. We act through more than 2000 discussions that happen live, on Internet. We also act through conversations in real time. For example, we will have live peace talks on Internet, also people from many countries will talk in real time.
As for the events in the field, for example, mepeace.org organizes evening meals during Ramadan fast, which is a great opportunity for Muslims and Jews, as well as people of other religions, to learn about one another. During last Ramadan we had an evening meal which gathered Muslims, Jews and others. Over 100 people came to learn about the religion of the others.
How did we do it? We prepared evening meal during Ramadan on Friday evening, which made it possible for Jewish people to learn about customs of Muslims, but it also made it possible for Muslims to learn about Jewish Sabbath. It took place on September 11 last year, which truly made it possible for us to send a message into the world. Media were also present, to tell the story about peace.
Ramadan evening meal in Middle East organized by mepeace.org (photo: mepeace.org)We make it possible for people to come up with better solutions than politiciansRTM.ba: As an NGO, how do you see a solution for Middle East? Political vocabulary must be used, because it must be tried to articulate the solution, to define it. Just to remind you, many authors called the Middle East conflict “never-ending conflict.”
Raviv: We act thinking it is possible for us to find the solution and a way forward is to find the solution together. What we give is a platform where people can come with their own definitions and their own solutions and idea for conflict resolution. We make it possible for people to meet one another, to exchange their solutions and to participate together in bringing those solutions to life.
Of course, we have challenges, those are political challenges, and very difficult ones, that we face in Middle East, but those are challenges that Muslims, Jews and others are facing all over the world, including Mostar.
What I see is possible is the exchange of information with people and making it possible for people, peacemakers to share information and to come up with better solutions than the ones politicians were able to come up with. If we are able to mobilize “the base,” if we are able to develop a movement, we believe that politicians will have no choice but to listen, because after all, they want people to like them.
So we have a very simple formula: make people stronger, make them stronger with interaction, inspiration and we believe then the politicians will follow.RTM.ba: You are in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina these days. Are you here to find inspiration for Middle East solution or contrary?
Raviv: I am here on a fact finding mission. I call it “listening tour.” I feel that there is a lot I could learn from the experience of people here. I am here to find out what happened and what it is that I could learn from people’s stories, what I can bring with me to the Middle East.
These could be practical lessons, experiences, but also hope, hope of the people who have been through some rough times. What I have learned during this trip is that the conflict is not over. I have learned that every day there is a challenge and that people do not give up, every day. That is truly inspiring for me personally, because it encourages me to be persistent, to find the solution and help others. But I also think that this is a lesson which will inspire many people in Middle East.I am inspired by the projects of the Centre for Peace and Multiethnic cooperation
If I can also add one short story about how I came to Mostar. I am dedicated to peace in Middle East. And I will go where ever it takes to fulfill that mission and to learn more. Knowledge is the power. Knowledge is so important. Last August I participated in one conference in Jerusalem and there I met one young man from Mostar, Adnan Hasić.
He came to share his experience from Mostar and to find what he can learn from us. That young man shared his experience with us, with Palestinians and Israelis. And I learned about the conflict I knew nothing about. I learned about this bridge, which is a very simple story, but at the same time so strong and so inspiring. I said ”I have to go there and meet more people.”
So I used the first opportunity I had to come to this region. I started with Sarajevo and then I came to Mostar. Where ever I go, I ask people “What is your story and what can I learn?” One of the things that inspire me here in Mostar is Centre for Peace and Multiethnic Cooperation.
Two projects especially: possibility of construction of new synagogue in Mostar, and also Museum of Tolerance. Those are the projects that I want to support when I am back to Middle East. I want to talk to people about these projects so they too can be inspired, that they see that there are people in other places who are working on bringing Muslims and Jews together.
RTM.ba: It can often be read in media that Middle East and Balkans are two very comparable areas, politically. Are there really so many similarities between these two regions?
Raviv: There are. And there always will be, if you are looking for similarities. I have a feeling that we have to look for similarities because that is the only way to learn about each other. It is easy to find differences, and if you are looking for them, you will find them.
But differences are what set us apart. Differences are the reason we have this conflict. What is possible for us as Muslims, Jews and persons of any other religion is to find what we have in common.
By finding what we have in common, we can start to appreciate each other, respect each other, and learn from each other. And then we can actually work together for better future.
That is what we at mepeace.org do. We just provide a simple platform so people can learn from each other, to see that there are other people that believe it is possible too.
Your thoughts and comments are welcome here and at email@example.com.