Words from our Partner: Search for Common Ground (Interview with Sharon Rosen)

1. Can you tell me about Search for Common Ground (SFCG)’s Jerusalem Office and the projects you are working on?

SFCG is the world’s largest conflict transformation NGO with 50 offices in 30 countries. Set up in 2000, the Jerusalem office conducts activities in the fields of media, leadership development, health, and interfaith in order to promote positive relationships among Palestinians, Israelis, and Arabs in the region (click here for more information). I, an Israeli citizen, together with my Palestinian friend and colleague, Suheir Rasul, co-direct the office and hope that one day our team’s cooperation under one roof will not be considered as extraordinary as it is today.

2. Can you explain the role of SFCG Jerusalem in the Palestinian and Israeli Emerging Leaders Program? As a partner, what types of activities do you incorporate and how have they evolved over the past four years of this program?

SFCG Jerusalem recruits participants and manages the program locally in addition to providing expert facilitation through SFCG’s chief facilitator, Shawn Dunning whom many consider the program’s “father”. In the first year, six Palestinian and six Israeli civil society leaders participated in a 10-day overseas expedition, which was followed by a 4-day retreat and activities in the region, including workshops and joint meetings. With the success of the program, both SFCG and OBCP decided to expand to further cadres- political, business, and religious leaders, respectively. In the second year, we added an annual retreat called Connecting the Hub, where alumni from all the sectors could meet and implement their own activities. The program has thus evolved into the building of a cross-sector/cross-national network of leaders.

3. How do you think the OB Peacebuilding expedition component within the wider Leaders Program helps in creating space for opposing viewpoints to exist side-by-side in peace?

The Outward Bound Peacebuilding expedition component is exceptional in rapidly breaking down barriers between people and building deep bonds. Taking the participants outside their comfort zone to a place where they have to rely on each other to “survive” is a brilliant way to not only to learn leadership skills, but also to enable each person to see the common humanity of the other and respectfully hear the other’s point of view.

4. What do you envision as long term goals for the Leaders Program?

We would love the Leaders Program to become a self-sustaining network of at least 100 senior Palestinian and Israeli leaders who are actively networking, both cross-nationally and cross-sectorally, and who, through their connections, are supporting a flourishing, peaceful existence within their societies.

5. What does peace mean to you?

The Hebrew work for peace is shalom. Its root, shalem, means ‘whole’. For me, peace is present when we celebrate both our connectedness and our diversity. When we can live with ‘and/and’ instead of ‘either/or’ we will see peace flourish.