This post was written by Rosamelia Andrade, Project Research Assistant, with additional content from Reena Lazar, Executive Director of Peace it Together.
When it comes to stimulating dialogue, increasing understanding and building peace amongst individuals who are traditionally considered as “enemies”, filmmaking has tremendous potential. The Vancouver-based organization Peace it Together strongly believes that filmmaking is a creative way to engage, negotiate and reach consensus while working towards a common goal. The mission of the organization is to empower youth to promote peace through dialogue, filmmaking and multimedia.
Executive Director Reena Lazar was motivated to initiate Peace it Together in 2004 due to her strong Jewish identity and diaspora connection as well as a personal experience with facilitating peace dialogues between Israeli and Palestinian youth. The organization has since brought together young people from Israel and the West Bank of Palestine to connect with Canadian youth in a 30-day filmmaking boot camp where small teams collaborate to produce short films addressing issues of race, conflict, violence and peace. The program begins by building trust within an environment of mutual respect and understanding.
“Canada provides a neutral and safe environment for these young people to be together, especially because the conflict is so rooted in issues related to the land,” says Reena. “They would not be able to get together in their own countries. Israelis are not allowed to step on the West Bank and Palestinians require a permit to go to Israel. But most of all, Canadian participants play a very important role in this experience because they act as third-party ‘mediators’ and witnesses…Canadians are a bridge that allows for this interaction to happen,” Reena says.
Participants have to show motivation, creativity and leadership. Efforts are made to choose people from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds. An important requirement for Israeli delegates is to participate in the program prior to their mandatory 2-year military service.
Peace it Together believes that if youth have the chance to work with their stated “enemies” they’ll be more inclined to end the cycle of violence later on, while supporting peace and reconciliation. Participants recognize that these experiences have changed their lives. In a compelling letter to support the organization’s fundraising efforts, Avner, a 2008 Summer Program participant from Israel, expressed his thoughts about his learning experience: “The seeds we put into the ground now will be our back yard and fields in the future, and if we will invest in peace, in dialogue, in a ground that will enable change today, we will be able to see the harvest and live its fruits in the future.” Avner is currently completing his mandatory military service as a combat soldier in the Israeli Army.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has impacted the lives and hopes of people on both sides of the border. The videos produced by the Israeli and Palestinian participants and supported by their Canadian counterparts, show their beliefs and emotions about a conflict that is equally devastating for both parties.
All the films are available on the Peace it Together website.
Peace it Together’s 2011 summer program is from July 7 to August 4. The films will premiere on August 2nd at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver at 7:00pm and will include a Q&A session with filmmakers. For more information and to get tickets for the event, visit the Peace it Together website.
Meet Reena Lazar, Executive Director of Peace it Together, at “Human Insecurity and Peacebuilding: Diaspora Perspectives and Roles”, a public dialogue at SFU’s Wosk Centre for Dialogue on July 13, 2011 at 6:30pm. This is a free public event, but RSVP is required here.