2023 Hanukkah Spotlight: Shiri Ourian, Executive Director of The American Friends of the Parents Circle

I started going to Camp Shomria when I was 12 years old. I spent 10 of my best summers at mosh.  But my ties to Hashomer Hatzair go back much further.  My grandparents were Hashomer pioneers that moved to Palestine from Romania in the early 1900s. They helped establish Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim not far from Tivon. Both my parents were born and raised on Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim. This past summer I brought my three daughters to mosh for the first time. I am also on the board of Hashomer Hatzair USA. 

I run the American Friends of the Parents Circle: Bereaved Israelis and Palestinians for Peace. The work I do brings attention to the human side of the conflict.  Behind slogans and flags and protests are human beings who are paying the consequences of this ugly cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.  These people have paid the highest price to the conflict.  They've lost their parents, children and siblings to senseless acts of war, occupation and terrorism. If they can choose peace, any of us should be able to .  

Growing up in the movement didn't teach me what to think, but how to think. It taught me to look at things critically and examine situations from a social justice lens. I am so grateful for that.  

Since Oct. 7, my values and beliefs have really been put to a test.  Do I really mean what I say about empathy and understanding of the "other side"? It has been a real challenge to hold on to my faith in humanity after we have witnessed so many atrocities on both sides, too painful to even recount.  I am worried about our youth; what kind of future is in store for them? I am worried about the future Israeli, American and Palestinian youth leadership. The movement reminds me about the power that youth has and the real difference that youth can make in the world. I am more confident about the state of our youth's future knowing that so many are being raised by Hashomer Hatzair. 

If I had to share one message with the rest of the shomeric community during these times, it would be: Put down your slogans, your posters and your social media posts.  Turn to someone at your college campus, in your workplace, or in your community, that might not believe as you do and have a conversation with them -- person to person. Try to understand where they are coming from, even if you don't agree. We can hold more than one truth at the same time.  

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