Photo credit: Gili Getz
Let me tell you about the week I had. From the moment our friends, the co-directors of Standing Together (עומדים ביחד – نقف معًا) Sally Abed and Alon-Lee Green, landed here in the US last Monday morning, we haven’t stopped meeting, talking, presenting, shaking hands, being interviewed, being photographed, and making change.
We are in a moment of exceptional polarization around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here in the US. As Alon-Lee kept saying, “We left one war zone and arrived in a different war zone.” In the wake of Hamas’s brutal massacre and mass hostage-taking of Israeli civilians and as Israeli warplanes bombard Gaza, leaving mass death in their wake, many people feel they have to pick a side. They are being made to feel that this conflict is a zero-sum game: either you #standwithIsrael or you demand #freePalestine.
But we and our grantees, including Standing Together, are saying something very different. We know that the only way to get through this, that the only way all peoples will survive, is if we do it together.
Standing Together are a movement that has gone into hyperdrive over the last month, since that fateful day of October 7th, and whose members—led by co-founders Sally Abed (an Arab citizen of Israel) and Alon-Lee Green (a Jewish Israeli)—are doing something that seems to others like a fool’s errand: they are insisting on peace, solidarity, and a shared future. The thing is, they’re gaining followers by the thousands. And not just in Israel.
One of the things Sally kept emphasizing was the integral role that Palestinian citizens play in the fabric of Israeli society, while also being Palestinian. And right now, so many of them are in an almost impossible situation: The country where they hold citizenship, which is supposed to care for their wellbeing, is bombing their friends and relatives, and killing them. What’s more, many Israeli Jews look at them with profound suspicion, because of Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians and the fear and anger that provoked. What Sally often says, though, is that what those suspicious Jewish Israelis don’t understand is that Hamas also targeted people like her—Palestinian citizens of Israel. And for Sally that means that the only way forward is together both in the shared present, and in a shared future.
Right now, an atmosphere of fear pervades Israel, and the threat of violence hangs in the air. Every day activists are being doxxed, threatened, and physically attacked, sometimes for nothing more than an empathetic Facebook post. Alon-Lee and Sally are gathering groups of local people together—so that they can get to know each other, and learn and work together, but also for training in de-escalation tactics. They are building the thing that, they believe, could truly save lives, and stop them from being the next victim of hate-filled violence—they call these “Arab-Jewish Neighborhood Solidarity Watch”, and their plan is to have them in every one of Israel’s mixed cities. So for the last month they’ve been traveling across Israel and organizing mass meetings to introduce themselves and their ideas to new members. These events have been packed—hundreds upon hundreds at each one: Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Lod, Abu Gosh, Baka el-Garbiye. Their ideas are spreading like wildfire. They represent Israeli society’s best bet for a peaceful future.
In fact, they left their convening in Baka el-Garbiye to join us here in the US, literally dragging their suitcases directly from there to here. From New York to Washington to Boston, from the pages of the New York Times to the sanctuaries of major synagogues, to the basement meeting rooms of movement spaces in Brooklyn to the Congressional offices of Bernie Sanders, AOC and more—people here not only heard them, but resonated with their message of “both/and”—both Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs—in a way I have never quite experienced before in my more than 20 years of doing this. NIF took a bet on Standing Together when they were just an idea eight years ago. We seed-funded their initial growth and have been by their side every day since then, helping them with resources. And now they’re here helping us carve out new space for the message we have always known and always said: any real future in this troubled region must be a shared future.
Join me in gratitude,
Sally Abed is a staff member and an elected national leader at Standing Together. In recent years, she has become a prominent progressive Palestinian voice in Israel. Sally is a recurring guest on The Promised Podcast and the co-host of the new podcast Groundwork—a mini-series co-sponsored by the New Israel Fund, about Palestinians and Jews refusing to accept the status quo and working together for change.
Alon-Lee Green is the national director and a founder of Standing Together, the Jewish-Arab grassroots movement that mobilizes people around issues of peace, equality, and social justice. He got his start organizing Israel’s first trade union of waiters in a chain of coffee shops and went on to found Israel’s first National Waiters Union. Alon-Lee emerged as a prominent leader of Israel’s social protest movement in the summer of 2011, and subsequently served as a political adviser in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.