Jewish Voices for Peace

Tuesday 7 August 2012

  Podcast available HERE
  (MP3) 32Mb (or right click and select 'save target as' to download)

Jointly presented by the Australian Friends of Palestine (SA), the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (Victoria) and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre

Bradley Forum, UniSA City West campus, Hawke Building, level 5, 50-55 North Terrace, Adelaide

The Australian Friends of Palestine (SA) and the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (Victoria) are bringing to Adelaide two Israeli Peace Activists: one a 'refusenik' who was imprisoned for refusing her mandatory military service, the other a veteran of the Israeli Defence Forces, who co-founded Breaking the Silence and has since gone on to co-found and now co-directs Grassroots Jerusalem, a project that maps social inequalities, justice issues and environment problems together with community projects that address them in and around the Jerusalem area.

These speakers are touring Australia to bring their experiences to the debate about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Micha Kurz was born and raised in Jerusalem. After more than 10 years training teenagers as community leaders with the National Youth Movement, Micha worked extensively with new immigrant communities in Israel, mainly youth from Ethiopia and the Caucasus. He went on to implement one of the first leadership training programs with Bedouin youth in Israel. At 19 Micha was drafted to the Israeli Military as a combat soldier, and after 3 years stationed in Palestinian cities including Hebron he attained rank of Master Sergeant and received an honourable discharge. As a result of his experiences in the army, Micha co-founded "Breaking the Silence" in 2004 with a small group of soldiers from his unit. The organisation of former Israeli soldiers has since grown to collect hundreds of testimonies describing the realities of controlling a civilian population under military rule. It serves as a moral mirror to Israeli society. Breaking the Silence has been instrumental in the ongoing debate around occupation and military policy within Israeli society. Micha went on to travel and began meeting with grassroots community organisers internationally, recognising that effective local community organising is often the best strategy to deal with political inaction. In 2009 he returned to his home city and launched Grassroots Jerusalem and its Merkaz Al Kul (Centre for All), a project that maps social inequalities, justice issues and environmental problems together with community projects that address them in and around the Jerusalem area. Micha has spoken internationally, including with Jewish and Palestinian communities in the United States and Europe. His efforts to link Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leadership with supporting communities in the Diaspora are geared towards weaving a common strategy for realistic lasting peace and justice in Jerusalem.

Sahar Vardi has lived in Jerusalem her whole life. At 14 she began working with Ta'ayush (Living Together) a movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of segregation by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership through concrete joint action. Much of Ta'ayush's work focuses on accompaniment for West Bank agricultural communities facing settler and military violence. At 18 Sahar was conscripted to the Israeli Military and refused to serve. She spent several months in Military Prison for her conscientious objection and wrote at the time,

"I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct … I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer."

Sahar has worked with "New Profile" for more than 7 years as a group leader for Israeli youth programs aimed at demilitarisation and addressing the social cost of conscription. At 19, she became assistant to progressive Jerusalem City councillor Meir Margalit, an outspoken critic of Jerusalem's discriminatory city planning regime that he says has impoverished Palestinian communities and led to hundreds of home demolitions in the city. Sahar went on to work with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and has guided hundreds of international NGO, religious and government missions to Jerusalem. In 2010 she launched a Human Rights and non-violence education program at universities across Israel and this year became Israeli Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee where she is developing and implementing a demilitarisation and equal rights program with Israeli partner organisations.

Sahar and Micha co-host a weekly radio program in Jerusalem discussing current affairs and community action in the Holy City.

About the event partners

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society is a member-driven organisation with an elected committee. We support social justice and human rights in all countries, non-violent conflict resolution and a negotiated solution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. We particularly aim to offer a considered and alternative viewpoint to members of the Jewish community and others in Australia, a viewpoint that stays away from the stereotypes and fear-mongering that are all too common in public debate on both Left and Right. The hard line taken by many so-called official Jewish organisations does not in fact reflect the diversity of opinion here, or indeed in Israel itself.

The Australian Friends of Palestine 
The Australian Friends of Palestine Association is a voluntary, not for profit organization which has as its primary object the promotion of peace in Palestine based on international law and relevant UN resolutions. A subsidiary objective is the promotion of Palestinian identity, heritage and culture to Australians.