The first half of 2019 was focused on the preparation of our second fund raising gala. The gala was held on March 11th at the Intercontinental Hotel. A full room: with almost 500 guests from the Geneva Jewish and Arab communities, international expats and Swiss locals. The amazing speakers moved us to tears. They represented the voices of different initiatives we support both in Israel and Palestine: Raz Kones (Israeli peace activist), Yara Amayra (Palestinian peace activist), Huda Abuarquob (the regional director of Alliance for Middle East Peace/Allmep) and Ali Abu Awwad (Founder of Taghyeer/Change). Maz Jobrani (Iranian American actor and stand up comedian) on the other hand made us laugh to tears! The evening was a great success in terms of atmosphere and fund-raising. The message we try to pass on: let’s be pro-solution and help those who are paving a path for peace was well received by our community of supporters.
Right after the gala, B8 of Hope took the opportunity of John Lyndon (European Director of Allmep in Paris) and his regional director Huda Abuarquob’s presence in Switzerland to take them to Bern for a meeting with members of the Swiss Conseil National (parliament) and Department of Foreign Affairs. The Alliance for Middle East peace lobbies governments in order to build an international fund in favour and support of Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations paving a path for peace. ALLMEP believes that the civil society and the work of grassroots activists can have a strong impact – from bottom up – on a sustainable peace process. We are very supportive of ALLMEP’s work and grasp opportunities to help our fellow colleagues from this important organisation.
In April, Yara Amayra came back to Geneva on the occasion of a screening of a documentary called « Guerrières de la Paix » by film director Hanna Assouline. The screening was hosted by the association Giving Women and in partnership with B8 of Hope.
Later in April, Professor Zachary Metz, from Colombia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) invited B8 of Hope to give a presentation about our work to his students of Masters in Peace Building.
In May, our chairwoman, Mehra Rimer went to Israel for a short trip to meet the activists of an organisation B8 of Hope decided to include in the pool we support: The Road to Recovery (a network of Israeli volunteer drivers who take Palestinians patients from check points to Israeli hospitals). During that same trip, Mehra also attended the Combatants for Peace Alternative Memorial Ceremony – which is supported by B8 of Hope. She wanted to see for herself the impact and power of this ceremony where bereaved parents share their sorrow and pay respect the their late beloved children.
Later in May, B8 of Hope partnered with the International Oriental Film Festival around the screening of « The Field », a documentary about the beginnings of Judur/Shorashim/Roots, an Israeli-Palestinian joint initiative of dialogue and bridge-building. B8 of Hope served as a liaison for the festival and hosted the director of the film Rav. Mordechai Vardi, who responded the audience’s questions after the screening. The associations J-Call and Cercle Martin Buber were also partners of the Festival for that specific screening and invited their circles to join the screening.
In June, another of B8 of Hope’s newest protégés The Jerusalem Youth Chorus came to Switzerland to participate to a program by the Swiss association Coexistences – which is based in Lausanne and which we sometimes partner with. The members of Coexistences are dear friends of us and we have much respect for their work. On top of their week long program with Coexsitences, The Jerusalem Youth Chorus performed 2 concerts – in Lausanne and at the UN in Geneva. During this same month we also had our first interns : three brilliant students from the Geneva Graduate Institute, Mc Gill in Montreal and Wesleyan in Connecticut.
July was a busy month for Jean-Marc Liling our officer on the ground in Jerusalem and our chair Mehra Rimer who spent a month in Israel and Palestine, participating to many workshops sponsored by B8 of Hope in Nablus, Gush Etsion, Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion and meetings all over the land from Tel-Aviv to Jericho. New potential organisations were explored. Mehra and Jean-Marc as well as another B8 co-founder David, organised a small event on the ground, focused on a “synergies project” to create links among the pool of activists we support.
September was a month of big changes : our chair Mehra Rimer and our new administrative assistant Chrystelle relocated from the Rimer family’s kitchen table to a bigger and better workspace in Chêne-Bougerie. This workspace has also been donated by the Rimers. However, that our official address remains the same: Avenue de Champel 4, 1206 Genève (courtesy of co-founders Leila Hawa and Arun Chandrasekharan).
In October, Mehra Rimer attended the J-Street Conference in Washington D.C.. This was a premiere for our chairwoman and a good opportunity to be supportive of several of the representatives of the NGOs in our pool, who participated in the panels this important forum.
November was busy with the visit of activists from of A Land for All Two States One Homeland in Geneva. The representatives of this movement presented their vision in a conference co-organised by B8 of Hope and the University of Geneva. We also organized several meetings with diplomats and key figures in Switzerland. This trip was an opportunity for A Land for All Two States One Homeland to get more visibility and receive feedback about their vision in order to explore it further.
2018 started for B8 of Hope with more screenings of Disturbing the Peace at Ecole Moser and Institut Florimont during the month of February 2018. Each time, three of B8 of Hope Steering committee members were present to answer questions of students after the screenings. We were also given the opportunity to talk about our work as a Swiss-based association promoting grassroots initiatives of dialogue, bridge-building and non-violence in Israel and Palestine. A heartfelt thank you to Ecole Moser and to Institut Florimont for having us ! We are hoping to extend the experience to Geneva public schools.
The message of this film is universal and could only benefit to the future generations in Switzerland and elsewhere :
“At a time in our world when societies are becoming more polarized and painfully few people are speaking of nonviolent solutions to our conflicts, popular movements like combatants for peace have the potential to capture the public’s imagination and shift the conversation from the inevitability of conflict, to the possibility and process of establishing lasting peace. Disturbing the peace evokes universal themes relevant to us all and inspires us to become active participants in the creation of our world”.
Please contact us (info@B8ofhope.org) if you are interested in organizing a screening!
In April, Mehra Rimer, Chair of B8 of Hope, participated in the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, where she had networking opportunities with other philanthropic foundations and social entrepreneurs. This was an opportunity for the B8 of Hope chair to learn from more experienced NGOs on the ground in different countries and to make more connections with Israeli and Palestinian organizations present at the Skoll World Forum.
In May, we hosted one of Combatants for Peace Israeli co-founders, Avner Wishnitzer for a short and an informal visit and encounters with our team and some of our supporters.
Avner Wishnitzer told us that “ Hope is like a candle, the current situation like a hurricane, we must do everything we can to keep the flame alive”. A very inspiring visit that motivated all of us to pursue our mission of hope.
In May, we also hosted Ali Abu Awwad for some work session around his work at Taghyeer(Change) and the improvement of structures at the Karama Center.
The summer and fall of this year was the pick of our activities.
In July, Mehra Rimer, Chair of B8 of Hope, spent a whole month on the ground checking on the projects we sponsor and exploring new possibilities and new intiatives to take under the umbrella of our organization. The high lights of the trip were a visit to the village of Jubbet Adh Dib, around the non-violence development activities such as the greening of the village,
a gathering with Women Wage Peace under their tent in the Rose Garden in Jerusalem next to the Knesset, the Photography workshop at Roots with Saskia Keely and Mehra’s group of friends and supporters from Geneva who were part of the first week of the trip. More exciting meetings with the Combatants for Peace, 2 States 1 Homeland. The visit of Hand in Hand School and Inon Kalati from the Beit.
In August, we participated in a beautiful project by Coexistances
Coexistences’ area of expertise is to organise stays for Israeli-Palestinian groups in Switzerland so that these groups can continue their bridge-building work away from the conflict in intensive coexistence.
This summer they invited a Youth Group of Roots to Switzerland to go through one of their programs. Since we had funds aside for Roots, we covered the costs of the flights for the 16 Palestinians and Israeli teenagers.
At the end of the program, the kids told B8 of Hope and Coexistences members : Before coming to Switzerland we were participants of a program, today we are friends. If each Palestinian and each Israeli had a friend from the other side, they will never look at things the same way.
At the end of the summer, Ali Abu Awwad and Riyad Al-Halees came for a visit to Switzerland for networking and encounters with B8 of Hope supporters and to work and share with us the draft of the Palestinian non-violence declaration soon to be signed with a large numbers of other Palestinian organizations sharing the same values of non-violence.
In October, B8 of Hope organized another series of screenings at Ecole Internationale de Geneve and Ciné 17. The documentary about Women Wage Peace called “Les Guerrières de la Paix” (The Warriors for Peace) was produced and directed by young and brilliant film director Hanna Assouline. B8 of Hope participated in the funding of this inspiring documentary. The screenings were in presence of Hanna and 2 protagonists.
In November, Mehra Rimer is invited as a guest speaker at the University of Tel-Aviv in a conference about Innovations in Conflict Resolution and Mediation.
As we move towards the end of the year, the whole B8 team is getting ready for our next gala in March ! Stay Tuned for more information about the gala date in March 2019.
March 2017 was the peak of our activities since our creation.
Ali Abu Awwad (co-founder of Roots and founder of Taghyeer) participated in a panel about Israelis and Palestinians working together to pave a path for peace at the Geneva Festival et Forum du film des droits humains and at the University of Geneva Global Studies
Huda Abuarquob (regional director of The Alliance for the Middle East Peace/Allmep) and Yael Treidel (Women Wage Peace) were invited to speak about Women Wage Peace at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.
During that same month, B8 of Hope launched its first series of activities in Paris :
Presentations about Roots were given by Ali Abu Awwad and Jean-Marc Lilling (Israeli lawyer and Roots activist) at the Ecole Jeannine Manuel, Science-Po Paris and Cercle Bertrand Lazare and the Mouvement juif liberal de France. A small fund raising evening was organized at a private home. The funds were partially allocated to essential construction work at the Karama center where Roots activities take place.
Our main event was the B8 of Hope Gala,
On March 23 at the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, in the presence of activists from Judur/Shorashim/Roots and Women Wage Peace, and 470 guests from the Geneva Arab and Jewish diasporas and others. The activists talked about the work on the ground. Shaul Judelman (co-founder and co-director of Roots) gave a moving description of why Roots ‘ work is needed. Huda Abuarquob (Allmep) gave her perspective on the work on the ground. Yael Treidel talked about the high light moments of the Women Wage Peace march in October.
The Jewish and Arab Israeli singers and musicians Yael Deckelbaum, Miriam Toukan, Adam Ben Ezra and Liron Miyuhas lend their art and voice to the service of Peace and contributed to the exceptional atmosphere of the evening.
Thanks to the immense generosity of our guests, we were able to collect enough funds to help different projects of Roots, Taghyeer, Women Wage Peace and a specific Children’s program by the Peres Center for Peace. Updates about the projects are in the first edition of our newsletter.
In June 2017, B8 of Hope members went on the ground to meet with the activists and follow up on the projects which we raised funds for at our gala and also to make new connections. A nice gathering was kindly hosted upon our request by Ali Abu Awwad at the Karama (Dignity) Center in Gush Etsion. Karama which is built on a land belonging to the Abu Awwad family, is becoming a hub for non-violence activities, an incubator for non-violence developments. At the gathering in June, different activists (including from Women Wage Peace) and members of other organizations (including US Friends of Roots and US Friends of Taghyeer Movement) and international and local visitors were present. This is part of B8 of Hope’s efforts to create a synergy between the initiatives and supporters abroad.
During that same trip, B8 of Hope also met with the directors of two music institutes: the Polyphony foundation in Nazareth and Keshet Eilon in the North of Israel, in the framework of a common bridge-building project carried by both institutes. The inspiring meeting, followed by a wonderful private concert given by the students of Polyphony led to B8 of Hope’s decision to sponsor substantially the budget of the bridge-building musical program.
During the summer different workshops of Women Wage Peace, Roots, Taghyeer which we sponsored took place on the ground.
B8 of Hope in collaboration with the Threshold Foundation also introduced The Forest Trust/Earthwoms – a Swiss foundation specialized in ecological issues to the Karama center where a “greening project” was initiated as part of the non-violence developments that the center would like to promote.
In September 2017, Ali Abu Awwad and Jean-Marc Liling were back in Paris for more presentations about Roots. They were invited by Le Monde Festival to take part in a panel – the link of their full intervention is under our media section. Ali and Jean-Marc spoke also at Ecole Jeannine Manuel, The American Graduate School and Sciences-Po Paris. They also visited an under-privileged vocational school in the suburbs of Paris where they spoke to educators about antisemitism and islamophobia and their words were very impactful and the example they set through Roots, was inspiring to their audience, in the context of France’s integration issues.
Ali Abu Awwad and Jean-Marc Liling were back in Paris for more presentations about Roots. They were invited by Le Monde Festival to take part in a panel – the link of their full intervention is under our media section. Ali and Jean-Marc spoke also at Ecole Jeannine Manuel, The American Graduate School and Sciences-Po Paris. They also visited an under-privileged vocational school in the suburbs of Paris where they spoke to educators about antisemitism and islamophobia and their words were very impactful and the example they set through Roots, was inspiring to their audience, in the context of France’s integration issues.
Thanks to our networking efforts, singer Miriam Toukan and musician Idan Toledano (both involved in peace work respectively with Women Wage Peace and Combatants for Peace) were invited to perform at the Ecole internationale de Geneve, La Grande Boissière, on the occasion of the International Peace Day.
These same efforts also enabled the Cartooning for Peace Foundation, founded by French cartoonist Jean Plantu, to meet activists in Israel and Palestine with the aim of collaborating on a potential cartooning project on the ground.
In October 2017, the earlier June trip, which also included an inspiring meeting with members of Combatants for Peace at their headquarters in Beit Jala, resulted in the screening of the multiple award-
Disturbing the peace is about former enemy combatants – Israeli soldiers from elite units and Palestinian fighters who have joined together to challenge the status quo and say « enough. » The film reveals their transformational journeys from soldiers committed to armed battle to nonviolent peace activists, leading to the creation of Combatants for Peace.
Combatants for peace have the potential to capture the public’s imagination and shift the conversation from the inevitability of conflict, to the possibility and process of establishing lasting peace. This organization was nominated for this year’s Nobel peace prize.
We organized six screenings of the documentary which were followed by a panel with two members of CFP, one Israeli, Chen Alon and one Palestinian, Sulaiman Khatib, as well as film director and producer Stephen Apkon and producer Marcina Hale, who answered questions and talked about their personal experience. 1000 participants (including high school students) from Geneva and region were present at the different screenings which took place at the Ciné 17, Ecole internationale de Genève campuses of La Grande Boissière, La Chataigneraie and Nations and the Institut Le Rosey Concert Hall. The screenings and panels led to a significant fund raising for CFP activities on the ground.
End of October, Ali Abu Awwad and Huda Abuarquob (regional director of Alliance for the Middle East Peace) were invited to the Essaouira Jewish-Arab music festival where they were heard in different panels. Thanks to our connections in Morocco, we opened a window for them among a new public in the Arab world.
In November, B8 of Hope was in Paris again in support of Women Wage Peace representatives Marie-Lyne Smadja and Amal Rihane who participated in a panel on the occasion of a commemorative event organized by La Maison Itshak Rabin at the Marie du 20ème arrondissement. Huda Abuarquob’s and Joel Braunold ‘s (director of Allmep) presence in Paris in November was a nice occasion to connect and exchange notes about Allmep and B8 ‘s work.
We will end the year by bringing Ali Abu Awwad to Switzerland again, where he is coming for work sessions with the B8 of Hope team. He will also participate in a panel in the Zurich Human Rights Festival on December 7th.
Our work and our friends work in promoting our initiatives resulted in different media coverages:
A nice article by Julien de Weck in the Tribune de Genève about B8 of Hope.
Ali Abu Awwad and Shaul Judelman got a full page in Le Monde, a very sharp article by Piotr Smolar.
A small documentary by Stephane Amar was shown in the evening news on RTS.
The Israeli channel i24 interviewed Ali Abu Awwad in Paris in September.
Both Ali Abu Awwad and Huda Abuarquob were interviewed separately by France 24.
Our Association was registered in Geneva on May 20th, 2016 and in one year’s time we managed to mobilize a considerable network of contacts and number of events through which we have helped the initiatives we support.
From May until December 2016, our focus was individual fund raising activities in Geneva and in San Francisco. We dedicated the funds to the main projects and core budget of Judur-Shorashim-Roots (Israeli-Palestinian initiative of dialogue, transformation and non-violence) and Taghyeer-Change (Palestinian national non-violence movement).
We supported Roots by helping them put in place a better structure and administrative support so that the activists can concentrate their efforts where they are most needed, on the ground, as well as bringing greater transparency to the use of their funds.
Taghyeer-Change was launched in Jericho in September 2016. B8 of Hope covered parts of the expenses of the launching event that gathered more than 4000 Palestinians who rallied the movement.
Throughout that period, we also met with other activists, including members of Women Wage Peace (a movement claiming a return to table of negotiations), and we traveled to Israel and Palestinian Authority Territories in the West Bank, to explore new initiatives.