Literacy has all kinds of benefits that we might not associate immediately with reading and writing. The stories we read and write and share have the power to transcend physical borders as well as boundaries of race and religion. When we share stories about friendship, family, courage, and kindness -- stories about our human experience -- we find that we are not so different after all. On World Read Aloud Day, we're celebrating the power of words to help us leave behind our differences and celebrate our similarities. Here, our LitWorld Ambassador to Israel Leah Joseph shares with us her perspective on the uniting power of story in Jerusalem:
"When I moved to Israel, I was prepared to confront challenging issues, to experience firsthand the events that made worldwide headlines. I was ready to face the conflict. What I wasn't prepared for, what has caught me off guard, is the intense humanity of the situation. These are not simply populations fighting an age-old war; these are not just headlines come to life. The Jews and Arabs who live here are real people confronted with extraordinary circumstances on a daily basis.
"While terror and inequality are certainly facts of life here, there is tremendous work being done by educational institutions, grassroots organizations, and NGOs across the country. Schools like Hand in Hand increase peace, coexistence, and equality through progressive bilingual education. Israel has one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East, at 97.1%. There is a growing realization that equal educational opportunity is the best hope for a peaceful future."
Leah created this video featuring the poem "Colors" by Shel Silverstein. The aim of this project is to illuminate the beauty and hope that, though fragile, fills the complicated and beautiful city of Jerusalem. Read by nine Arabs and 10 Jews, this poem about equality, imagination, and possibility displays a mosaic of Jerusalem's beautiful diversity. While the peace process may be stalled and headlines often lead us towards cynicism, this poem, these faces, their loving generosity in helping us create this film, remind us that the path to peace isn't lost; it simply "has not been invented yet."