Vartan Panossian. Letter to the Aurora Prize Hero

Dear Ms. Marguarite,

I am currently studying in Armenia however my home is back in Jerusalem where I was born and raised. Having a Palestinian mother and an Armenian father did have its ups and down but the worst part was not being able to see my mother’s family whenever I pleased. Being a child in a place where war constantly happened every few months, where rockets flew over our houses, where the people have nothing other than the hope that it will all be over has had its consequences.

I remember during wars where the Jews and Palestinians who live in the same area start walking in fear from one another, when the occasional street will be locked-down due to an “unidentified object” (bomb) being placed on the street. Where tensions got so high that going to a store to buy the daily necessities was only done out of desperation. I remember once while I was visiting my grandmother in Bethlehem and there were gunshots outside, thinking it was fireworks I ran to the window to watch while my mother grabbed me and pulled me back. Not understanding what was going on I was left confused but as I became older I confronted my mother and she told me the story.

When times were at ease it was easier to go and see my grandparents in the west bank, though watching the wall being built around my second home throughout the years was heartbreaking. After that I was able to see my grandparents only during Christmas and Easter.

Growing up in such a place would ether leave a person hating the other and refuse to listen to anything other than their point of view, or will influence the person to do whatever they can to help and fix the problem, or at least prevent it from going any further. I used to participate with MEET (Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow) where they do not show any discrimination between the people and try their best to bring both Palestinians and Israelis together to abolish the hate. YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and other such organizations hosted events, camps and seminars to gather people of different backgrounds in a safe environment where both can interact with each other, the goal is to help people understand the differences and that living in harmony is not just myth but a possibility.

After hearing about the Maison Shalom (House of Peace) in Burundi, Rawanda. I was delighted to hear that there were other people in different parts of the world who take people in and try to trump the hate within the people through education and exposure to diversity.

I just wanted to say that I am immensely thankful for what you have done and are still doing to those in need.


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