One of the best parts of the Breaking the Barriers conference, which was hosted by the Friends of Sabeel in the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church, was meeting so many people who focused on how to make a difference in human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Many attendees were present at the conference, whom were drawn together to listen and deliberate on opportunities for Middle-east peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
During the workshop sessions in the afternoon, I was lucky to have listened to two great speakers. Anna Baltzer, Jewish-American Activist for Palestinian Human Rights, offered insight into Palestinian life with her presentation Facts on the Ground. She spoke, among other things, on the adverse facts of Israeli occupation in the Palestinian West Bank, such as the frequent use of check-points throughout this region. During his presentation Laundering the Occupation: The Role of Public Relation, Sydney Levy, Director of Advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace, spoke about how Israel tries to clean up its image as a violator of Palestinian human rights through misleading various public relations campaigns.
As part of the Rebuilding Alliance, I was also there to help Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director and Founder of the Rebuilding Alliance, and Meghan Wrublewski, Coordinator for Rebuilding Alliance Fair Trade, to sell our organic olive oil and talk about the Rebuilding Alliance. The extra virgin olive oil and Za’atar from Palestine, both Fair Trade, was really popular! We were able to sell over a $1,000 worth of what we brought with us.
Donna, who spoke at the conference on Saturday, was excited to talk about Rebuilding Alliance’s greatest endeavor, Rebuilding to Remain. This project seeks to build 30 homes in the Palestinian West Bank town of Al Aqaba through donor contributions, while providing advocacy to protect them and the village from Israeli demolition.
Everyone at the conference was as eager to share their insights and feelings as they were to make a difference. Sydney Levy offered one of my favorite points was when he said, “It cost much more money to hide facts, than it does to expose them,” This illustrated for me the underlying fact how Israel is manipulating information.
The energy of making positive change and creating hope was echoed throughout the day by several speakers. Ultimately, the message I received was of hope and goodwill. I left the conference feeling inspired with the ideas and determination of both the speakers and attendees.