Ten minutes before I arrive at Maples Collegiate, they have a complete power failure.Everyone…hundreds of students and faculty, are all outside milling about. I knew this wouldsomehow impact my scheduled meeting with Izzeddin Hawam.

Izzeddin Hawan is a teacher at Maples Collegiate. When we met he assured me the powerfailure was nothing and we should find our way into the school to find a corner so we couldtalk. This chaotic scene was not new to him. Izzeddin comes to Winnipeg from the Westbank ofPalestine and during our brief conversation I would learn that the only image he has of as anIsraeli is that of a soldier. In uniform. With a gun.

He said that peace was never taught in school so he never had an opportunity to learn aboutpeace, or for that matter, study it. His world was full of questioning what a Palestine would belike with out the checkpoints, without the walls, without the barriers. And when Izzeddin cameto Canada he began a journey of self exploration. He started that self exploration writingpoetry.

He knows the stories that exist about him as a muslim. But the stories he wants to share are theones that never get told…the ones ”we don’t see on tv… we don’t read about them”. He talkspassionately about the love of the land and how the family has nurtured it for generation aftergeneration. He fondly remembers his grandmother singing beautiful traditional songs whilepicking her olives.

Izzeddin acknowledges what the world knows and sees. That the idea of humanization betweentwo sides that have always been in conflict is extremely difficult and complicated. But he is alsoa big believer that it is best to advance towards peace through humanization by making smallchanges. He is the Founder of GASER/ BRIDGE, (https://gaserbridge.wixsite.com/gaser) aninter-faith dialogue group to create the safe spaces for people to come together and to worktowards building trust with each other. Through building trust he hopes to introduce empathyand humanity so people can open up through respectful dialogue. He believes that a good placeto start is to share the differences of who we are, in his words, “you may know one side of mystory or one small aspect of who I am but there are multiple aspects of who I am and I’m hereto share those things with you..”

I invite people to exchange conversation with me that is sometimes hard but necessary.” Wecannot identify ourselves as Palestinian without talking about the conflict and that is a scarythin g to do…but a lot of Palestinians and I guess the same thing for the Israelis …we don’t reallyknow who we are outside of that conflict”.