CHEVY CHASE, Md. (DC News Now) — As the death toll rises in and around the Gaza Strip, the calls for peace are growing too.
“We don’t know what peace will look like, but we know there aren’t many good options. And that, as you can see today, and in these times, the status quo is not working,” said Jake Shapiro.
Shapiro, a Chevy Chase native, lives and works in Tel Aviv.
He’s spent the last five years working on “people to people” peace, bringing young Israeli and Palestinian people together through technology building and deep dialogue. He is currently in the United States by chance, visiting on vacation when the war broke out.
“I feel quite helpless. Going through a range of emotions, sadness, fear, anger, hopefulness,” he explained. “I’m Jewish, so I feel scared as a Jewish person. And defensive. And also, as someone who understands the Palestinian side and has many close Palestinian friends, it’s getting torn apart in two directions.”
Through his work, Shapiro said he’s tried to teach compassion and help people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict find common ground.
“Folks living over there have a lot of fear, anger, frustrations, grievances, traumas. Mostly they grew up only knowing one side of the picture. That their side is right, their side is good and the other side is bad and wants to kill them,” he said. “So, the first thing that really has to happen is humanization.”
Through deep dialogue in person or by Zoom, Shapiro believes change can happen and peace can occur.
“It’s really important that people speak the truth, because if we always have questions about each other and always have these suspicions and doubts then we can never really know each other,” he said.
He believes this message is as important as ever. Otherwise, violence will lead to genocide.
“There’s two people on the land, neither of them are going to leave, neither of them has anywhere else to go. So, if we think about ending the conflict through violence, notwithstanding a complete genocide, violence is not going to force either person to leave,” he said.
“That leaves us with only one option: engagement,” he continued. “And really mobilizing a significant number of people on both sides who demand an end to the conflict.”
Shapiro is encouraging people to talk to one another, instead of just posting to social media. He’s hopeful through compassion, people can find a peaceful way forward.
“I want the world to know people are still talking. We need support. We don’t know what the world will look like on the day after. We don’t know what the world will look like when the dust settles, but it gives me hope that there are these Israelis and Palestinians that will be there when the dust settles,” he said.