"Young people have a tremendous power to bring about change," writes Yossi Sarid, former member of the Israeli Knesset, leader of the Meretz party and a veteran fighter for human rights and peace between Israel and Palestine, predicated on an end to the occupation and the creation of an independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, based on the 1967 borders. "This is a truth that you [young people] are not told, just in case you use it to its full advantage."
Following the Gaza War in the winter of 2008-09, Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) Editorial Board member Dr. Simcha Bahiri suggested that the PIJ initiate a youth essay competition devoted to issues connected with the quest for peace. The first competition in this series was on the theme "The day after the Gaza War: What can young people do to strengthen the prospects for peace?"
In response, we received a number of very powerful, thoughtful, innovative and courageous essays from young Israelis and Palestinians aged 17-24. A ceremony was held on Aug. 11, 2009, in Tel Aviv to award prizes to the winning authors and citations to all of the young participants.
We are pleased to have this opportunity, in cooperation with Dr. Meir Margalit and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), to publish a number of the essays selected from those submitted for the competition.
We are sure that you will find these essays inspiring. They are a clear demonstration that there is, on both sides, a younger generation ready and capable of continuing the struggle to end the occupation and to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace and coexistence on the bases of mutual recognition and respect.
Dr. Bahiri, who, as a PIJ Editorial Board member, was a colleague of long-time co-managing editor Dan Leon, and Dr. Margalit, who recently joined our Editorial Board, agreed that this volume would be dedicated to the memory of Dan, who passed away in December 2009. The issue contains tributes to Dan from his friend, author Lynne Reid Banks, excerpts from the script of a soon-to-be completed movie about his life by his eldest son, Yosi Leon, and some examples of his writing in the Journal itself. We believe that Dan, who greatly valued the power of the written word throughout his life and the importance of the role of youth in building future bridges of peace and understanding between our two peoples, would have appreciated the fact that these youth essays are being published in association with his memory.