Focus Israel presents ‘Letters to Terrorists’

From the clutches of terrorism in the Mideast comes a spark of hope for peace thanks to the efforts of Jewish and Arab Israeli students. Two of these students will discuss their feelings about terrorism which they expressed in a series of letters that has been turned into a book, Israeli Kids’ Letters to Terrorists: Teens Seek Answers for Peace (Scocar Publishing LLC, 2008.) The program begins at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16, at Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road. The dialogue and book signing are free and open to the public.

This dialogue, which provides a forum for open discussion and interaction, is co-sponsored by Knesset Israel, a collaborative program of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis’ Focus Israel initiative, the Jewish Agency for Israel and Makom, the Israel engagement network. As part of Focus Israel, four local congregations, Temple Israel, B’nai Amoona, United Hebrew and Shaare Emeth, have been participating in Knesset Israel to assess and enhance the “place” of Israel in their congregations. Jewish Federation’s commitment to the success of Focus Israel and Knesset Israel serves as a catalyst to make Israel a central component of Jewish identity in the St. Louis community.

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The students who will be speaking will explain how they created a four-hour course which encouraged young people to explore the causes of terrorism and to promote discussion of their feelings: what it’s like for Israeli teens who live under the constant threat of terrorism, what it is like to grow up as an Arab in Israel, and solutions for peace in the region. As part of the course, under the direction of John Shuchart, a Kansas City businessman who is a former St. Louisan and educator, students wrote letters to imaginary terrorists that became the basis of the book.

Some 1,300 students in six Israeli cities participated. Shuchart said that, “Communication is a recurring theme in the letters. The kids are confident that if they understand what terrorists want, they can offer positive ways to achieve those goals.”

“Israeli Kids’ Letters to Terrorists” has a foreword by Israeli President Shimon Peres. “The process that created this book is unprecedented,” says Robert Socolof, the New York City-based regional director in the U.S. for JAFI. “In Israel, there’s never been a project like this where children create curricula. The book underscores the major role young people can play in their education when given the opportunity,” Socolof says.

Books will be available for purchase at the event, and there will be an autograph session following the students’ presentation.

Jewish Federation of St. Louis is the central fundraising and planning organization for the 60,000-member St. Louis Jewish community. Funds raised are distributed to 51 social service and humanitarian agencies, programs and services in St. Louis, Israel and around the world.