Join us in Denver on Friday, April 17th for our 10th annual Circles of Change Awards event. By celebrating others’ accomplishments each year, we hope to demonstrate that positive change is possible and that the courageous acts of one expand into circles of change. We also hope to pass this belief onto Building Bridges participants and teach that the tireless acts of individuals are what create more just, inclusive societies.
Colorado and MEUS participants are teaching others the Building Bridges skills and approaches they have learned.
Colorado and MEUS participants are teaching others the Building Bridges skills and approaches they have learned. Since school resumed last September they have: facilitated open race dialogues in school; brought Building Bridges activities to a student council when they noticed all the voices weren’t being heard; organized a student walk-out in response to Ferguson; conducted Building Bridges activities in their social studies classrooms – and all of this before they begin to execute their planned change projects later this spring.
Planned change projects include photo projects, race dialogues, class discussions, public murals, youth worker training and more. Check back on the site for updates on how those evolve.
To our Building Bridges community:
After we made the heartbreaking decision to cancel our summer Middle East/U.S. program, we were overwhelmed by the kindness and support you showed us. We were excited to tell you about the 22 alumni who quickly came forward wanting to join us instead, adults from Israel and Palestine who wanted to reconnect, re-engage, and continue our work in a new way.
Sadly, multiple flight bans were put into place last week and we were forced to cancel even those alumni sessions. Our U.S. staff and facilitators were already on the way to Turkey, along with a couple of Israeli and Palestinian facilitators coming from places other than Tel Aviv. We decided not bring anyone else to Turkey because we can’t be sure that we could get them home safely. Additionally, we believe that the emotional fatigue caused by the ongoing and worsening conflict would make it challenging to do the work. Those facilitators who are in Turkey now are receiving advanced training in facilitation and program leadership, and are planning for the coming year, including:
- Using innovative on-line tools to allow our current participants to continue their cross-community work,
- Planning and recruiting for the MEUS 2015-17 program, and
- Growing and strengthening our Legacy alumni program.
It is a huge disappointment that the violence is preventing our work from happening in the way we had hoped, but our commitment is unwavering. It takes enormous strength and courage to seek out other perspectives in a time of conflict. Together, we must strive to make the voices of our participants, alumni and facilitators heard. They are the voices of people who do not wish to perpetuate the cycle of hatred and violence, and are seeking a different path.
We will keep you updated as the year progresses.
The Building Bridges Staff
Amani, Amy, Deme, Erin, Jen, Jes, Mimi, Rawan, Tulie, and Yafa
and the Building Bridges Board of Directors
In Jerusalem, Odessa, and Ferguson, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and even within our families, the assumptions we make about one another drive us apart. Building Bridges believes that segregation is at the heart of the hatred, discrimination, and violent conflict that impact lives all around the world. Our participants sit down face to face to listen, really listen, to people who look, talk, and think differently from themselves. They do it to be able to understand the ‘other’ more deeply. And when they do, it transforms conflict from a problem to solve to a relationship to cultivate.
We call this the Practice of Empathy.
It’s a practice, because it takes a lifetime to learn, and because it’s really, really hard. It’s empathy because it assumes that every human life has equal worth, and that assumption will lead to a more just and inclusive world. The practice of empathy begins when you are ready to listen. Let us know you are ready.
Click here to donate and unlock a $25,000 gift on indiegogo, and hear more from Building Bridges staff, alumni and participants, and share the campaign with your community.
Hear what Amani has to say here.
Last week was heart-wrenching. We made the difficult decision to make a major change to the nature of our upcoming Middle East /U.S. summer session. In consideration of the escalating conflict in Israel and Palestine, we have decided that instead of bringing current American, Israeli, and Palestinian participants to Turkey, their facilitators and alumni will meet for intense training, dialogue, and planning.
We firmly believe that this is the most important time for our work of building relationships across divides and creating opportunities for meaningful communication. It is so tempting to bring these teen girls out of a situation of violent conflict, even if only for two weeks, but 20 years of experience tells tells us that:
it is extremely scary and unsettling for participants to be away from their families during times of violence, and taking them away, making them feel safe, and then sending them back into active conflict can cause emotional trauma.
Our top priority is always the physical and mental well-being of our participants.
Despite this change, and the situation in Israel and Palestine, we are bringing renewed energy and commitment to this work.
Home groups will meet together as soon as possible.
The school-year program, which will include in-person meetings and innovative on-line programming across groups, residential retreats, and leadership projects in their communities will begin in September.
We hope to bring all four home groups together next summer.
The Building Bridges office in Jerusalem is open and equipped to conduct year round support and programming in Israel and Palestine. The Denver office will continue to support the U.S. home group.
The facilitator training and alumni work in Turkey will help us deepen our ability to support participants and alumni. After our time there, we will have even more trained facilitators ready to support each another and our participants and a stronger plan for how best to implement MEUS programming in this era.
Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you’ll join us in this life-affirming work. It is the way forward.
With love and appreciation,
Amani, Amy, Deme, Erin, Jen, Rawan, Tulie, Yafa, and the Building Bridges Board
This beautiful film was created by Oscar award-winning documentary film-maker Daniel Junge during our 2013 summer intensive.
To our Building Bridges community,
Along with the rest of the world, we are watching the violence in Israel and Palestine with enormous fear and sadness. And, we are in contact with our staff, alumni, and participants offering what support we can.
One question we are grappling with is the role that Facebook is playing in moments of violence. It’s such an easy way to keep in touch that it sometimes seems necessary. But it is also an easy place to hit ‘like’ or ‘share’ without a great deal of thought, or even a close reading of what’s being passed along, so it gives a distorted image of people’s ideas and moods.
The way we approach conflict at Building Bridges is essentially the opposite of that. We focus on connection through sharing personal experiences and truths. We call what we teach the ‘practice of empathy,’ that is the lifelong practice of operating under the assumption that other people are full human beings, and that they have reasons for acting and thinking the way that they do that are possible to understand. The practice of empathy involves seeking out perspectives different from your own, and being willing to sit face to face, as we ask our participants to do, and listen to another person’s point of view, even when it is hurtful to you.
This approach transforms conflict from a back-and-forth struggle to decide who is right, into collective problem solving where the goal is understanding.
In difficult times like these, the practice of empathy is harder than ever. It is much easier to choose a side and shout as loud as you can. It is easy to generalize and stereotype. We believe, however, that the practice of empathy is the way forward that leads to life over violence.
Our work continues with a sense of urgency:
- We completed part one of our pilot Colorado program in July.
- We are gearing up for our second facilitator training and summer program for MEUS (Middle East/U.S.) in August.
- We are expanding our Legacy programs for all alumni.
- We are designing new facilitator training and dialogue opportunities for adults.
- We are planning for new programs in 2015.
And much, much more.
Join us. Support our work through your donation of funds, time, or expertise. And join us by reaching out with the intention to practice empathy, and strive to understand someone with a perspective different from your own.
All of us at Building Bridges and Building Bridges East