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In the basement of a small house in East Jerusalem, I met with Maysa Baransi-Siniora, the Executive Director of All for Peace Radio. The station was established in late 2003 as a joint project between an Israeli and Palestinian organization with the purpose of having a media outlet for peaceful and alternative voices during the second intifada.

At the time, the mere thought of Palestinians and Israelis working together was shunned by the government and the public. While bombs diffused through Gaza and West Bank, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, there was no peace on the horizon. Furthermore, housing the station in the controversial East Jerusalem was not welcomed by both sides, when the other was clearly the enemy. “Despite these difficulties, we tried to talk to both side, what our intentions are, our goals are, what is the whole idea of having a peace radio station. And it took over a year for both governments to accept having such radio station” Maysa describes.

The radio station has multiple frequencies, in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English. “Our main vision for the radio station is to promote the freedom of speech, equality, democracy…One of our goals is to bring, or to fight, all the human rights abuse by both sides…and to give a stage for all alternative voices that are not heard on mainstream media on both sides.”

With 70 people running the station and hosting individual news segments, many are leaders and volunteers of leading organizations in Israel and Palestine. Maysa describes the range of programs: a morning program that translates the other side’s headlines of the newspapers, programs on women empowerment, having settlers speak about living in the West Bank, Rabbis come to speak of their opinions, and The Parent Circle: a grief program where Israelis and Palestinians come together to grieve instead of going to the side of revenge.

When asked how people react to All For Peace’s programs, Maysa replied, “People, when they start listening to us and understanding what our values are, people start accepting us more.” She spoke of how people really just want to listen and relate, and said proudly that listenership is up 130% from last year. “People are seeing the radio station as a stage for people to express and to talk about their activities and concerns.”

 “When we started the radio station we were very small, we had 12 people that started and we were a bunch of Israelis and Palestinians that saw a light in the tunnel and wanted to make a difference, to show the real picture of what’s happening and trying to find a way of making the other listen to the other.”

When I asked what she has seen change since All for Peace Radio has come into existence, she sounded hopeful, yet did not disregard reality:

“I would want to see more change. It’s the little incident we see: you’ve changed that person’s life or this person’s concept. There are so many organizations trying to put bits and pieces together in order to get an end for this conflict and try to find a respectful solution for both sides. But again, it’s like drops in an ocean with everything that’s happening around us…The more you don’t know the other the more you fear the other, the more you fear the other the more you lose that hope of wanting to be a good neighbor. We’re working hard, but the situation is getting worse, and our work is getting more challenging and that snowball is just growing sadly with negative stuff, not the fruits that we would like to see.”

She says, though, that despite everything that is happening, people, both Israelis and Palestinians are trying to improve their lives, “It is easier to destroy, and it will take a lot of time to rebuild.”

Maysa also gives warning to those forming quick opinions based on media reports. “People should not just trust what they hear, just trust this one channel that is affiliated with this person, or that group. People have the ability to learn, to search, to know, to learn about the other, to learn what is actually happening…I would love them to know more, to read more, to understand what is actually happening. I would say that more than 90% of the news they get doesn’t cover 1% of what is actually happening. I hope people of the West can see that, can stop taking sides saying that’s wrong or that’s wrong. Both people have the right to exist and they have to support a peaceful solution for both people to live side by side. People in the West should pressure the governments to have Israelis and Palestinians sit together.”

“The media just gives the big picture, not really what is actually happening, and they forget the positive stuff. We say here that ‘blood sells’ whereas positive stuff doesn’t interest them much. This is what we try to tackle here.”

Looking down the road, Maysa wants to see the radio station as the leading media for Israelis and Palestinians who want to solve problems in an admirable way. Simply put, “We’ve had enough wars in our lives.”

Maysa knows that in order to have a noticeable impact on the situation, the station needs to reach more people. She hopes this place gives a “voice for every Israeli to hear us and for every Palestinian to hear us, to know there are so many people who see things differently but that things can get better.”

To learn more about All For Peace Radio, visit: http://allforpeace.org/eng/

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