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“Yesterday at dawn Ro’i was murdered… The quiet of the spring morning blinded him and he didn’t notice the ambush in the field… let’s not accuse the murderers today… for eight years they have been sitting in their refugee camps while we build our country in front of their eyes on a land of their old villages and forefathers… a group of Jewish youngsters, sitting in Nahal Oz, are carrying on their shoulders the heavy gates of Gaza…. This is our destiny and this is our only choice of life here: to be ready, to be armed and to be tough… we have to be able to defend ourselves…. Let’s face it: If the sword falls out of our fists, our lives here are cut off.”

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Presentation: Netivot Shalom, Berekely

Presentation: Netivot Shalom, Berekely

I delivered a presentation in Netivot Shalom synagogue in Berkely, CA.

The flyer made me laugh:

“Peace Between Intifadas: Challenges to Public Opinion in Israel”

Nico Black, 31, served in the military in a unit composed of Palestinians and Israelis as a liaison to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza.  With a country jolting violently between hope and terror, he recounts how coexistence, peace and war have pushed many Israelis his age into confusion and some to apathy.

Growing up in a hyper-political family from the Israeli left, his family’s’ political outlook contrasted sharply and violently with the realities outside his doorstep. His childhood and teen years were jolted by the first Intifada, “the knifing period”, First Gulf War, the murder of Rabin, and the suicide bombings of 1996.

Ultimately Nico’s experience as a liaison helped him to bridge the cognitive dissonance he experienced between pro-peace dogma and right wing extremism. Through relationships with his Palestinian colleagues, he developed understanding into the fundamental schism between the Jewish and the Palestinian national movements, from the ground up.

Nico advocates for the liberal, centrist position for Israel and the Palestinians while rejecting partisan extremism.  He obtained an MA from Tel Aviv University and currently works as an online marketing strategist. He lives in Alameda with his wife.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear an Israeli who grew up and worked with Palestinians and has been a PERSONAL friend to the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister.

Nico Black gives a talk on Israel peace process in Netivot Shalom

Nico Black gives a talk on Israel peace process in Netivot Shalom

This was the very gracious letter I got from the organizer after the event:

You overwhelmed our attendees today. Your presentation was so well prepared and so powerfully delivered. I was really moved as were so many others. Thank you so much for all your efforts in preparing such an impressive talk. I hope that you are open to working with SWU and repeating your presentation for college groups; it is so mesmerizing. Many more people need to hear your story and presentation. I hope that you recognized the impact you were making. I can’t recall seeing such rapt attention from our group. Your personal anecdotes made it so real and the way you constructed your slides with the movie titles and with the “peace index” drove your message across very clearly. You seem to be a natural marketeer.

I was very particular about who we would have as our first speaker for our Israeli Speaker Series – I wanted to set the tone for a dynamic, powerful series. You exceeded all my expectations and I received so many positive comments from those who attended.

Todah Rabah not only for the talk, but also for being willing to share your story and reliving so many difficult memories.

All my appreciation and best wishes for success in your new position. I hope we get to see you again.

Presentation: at Shorewood High School

Presentation: at Shorewood High School

Invited to speak at Shorewoord high school last Tuesday, after memorial day, was a pretty exciting prospect for me. David Shayne and I were sent to this via StandWithUs, Seattle (although I wasn’t aware that I was representing them at the time).

First time in a non-Israeli high school. So it was interesting to see the front office, which seemed very service oriented, with waiting chairs, and trophies in the background.

The rest of the school unfolded as you walked behind it. It reminded me of an army base where classes are actually just collections of buildings joined together after being placed on an asphalt tarmac.

The big shocker of course that the school had multiple entrances, no security guard or guards and no one even looking and who comes or goes. I suppose there is a camera system and teachers keep a look out, but how different!

Back home schools are fenced off, with an armed guard at the entrance and a single point of entry. Their normal sense of security for me feels like an anomaly.

We gave our talk in the library, with two classes joining together each time. They seem to have a weekly Middle East conference where each student is given a country from the region to represent (they included also the non Arab Middle East, not sure if Afghanistan made it in). The topics they seem to be debating in terms of our silly conflict were:

– One state versus two state solution

– Refugees

– Settlements

And a few other things (don’t remember them all), thus basically adopting an Arab (extremist) narrative (there are more moderate ones, not calling for a one state solution or the return of refugees), I didn’t see any Israeli concerns on their whiteboard, which was disappointing.

Sadly I couldn’t record the Q&A session, which was interesting. Will do better next time.

As requested, here is the power pointPeace-in-Israel-and-Palestine