I would venture a guess that my ingress into Tikkun Olam is different than most, as it emerged from a place of hate.
Five years ago, when I was ten year old, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge, launched. I was old enough to follow the narrative, and I found myself frustrated and disillusioned by the account of the conflict told by the media and by public opinion. Israelis were being vilified for protecting their citizens’ lives while Palestinians were working to maximize their own civilian casualties to sway world opinion.
I remember crying from frustration. I could so plainly see the situation and felt powerless against it. For the first time in my life, I really thought I understood hate. Hate for an entire people that I have never personally encountered. Add to the current situation that my maternal grandfather is Iraqi, was ousted from his home in 1952, stripped of all possessions, and absorbed by Israel as a refugee. My paternal grandmother was also forced to leave her home in Morocco due to persecution.
My mother was not sympathetic. While she understood how I arrived at my current state of mind, she made it clear that I was too young for declarations of hate. Ultimately, my Israeli mother said, Israel wants to protect her children, and for that she needs peace with neighboring countries. Instilling hatred in children will make that goal less likely. She turned on Matisyahu’s One Day and left me alone with my thoughts.
And so, in 2015, I wrote my first song for peace (shameless plug time: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ari-abramovitz/1066960399; and shoutout to puberty, because you can really follow the journey of my changing voice over the three songs), and, when it came to choosing a bar mitzvah project, looked to combine my love for sports with the new task from my mother of finding a better way to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
My bar mitzvah project, with the support of my community, launched Crossovers for Coexistence, where my Jewish friends partnered with Al Aqsa Academy, a local Muslim school, for a game of basketball on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center prior to a Sixers’ game. More importantly, the teams were mixed, allowing for bonding and collaboration, and we had the opportunity to sit together to eat dinner prior to the Sixers’ game. The kids I met that day included Palestinian refugees and Muslims born and raised in the Philadelphia area.
Since that day, my Jewish school and my synagogue have maintained ties with Al Aqsa Academy’s clergy and students, and I learned the valuable lesson that each of us can impact change in our community.
This year, as part of my Tikkun Olam journey, I joined a team of like-minded teens through the Jewish Federation, known as the Teen Giving Project. The program teaches us about fundraising, introduces us to potential causes, and ultimately tasks us with raising money for the cause of our choosing, the environment. As we are nearing the end of our first year in the program, we are in the process of raising money.
I thank you for reading this, invite you to learn more about my journey, and, if you would like to help, donate through my page here: www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/ari-abramovitz/teengivingprojectfirst19-2
Thank you in advance for learning about my project