“Peace is a collective action, it will never come from division”
By Sharona Shnayder
We invite diverse voices to contribute to our blog. The opinions in this blog reflect the personal views of the author and not One Young World.
For context, I’m Nigerian/Israeli, and I’ve been living in Israel for the past two years.
At the time of the first attack on 7 October 2023, I was based in Tel Aviv. Two of my friends were murdered at the nova party in the south, one was a close friend.
After the twelfth day of war, I was able to leave the country for some time on a pre-planned expedition with National Geographic in Croatia. I returned to Israel on Tuesday 21 November 2023.
Q: How does the current situation feel to you, and what, if anything, is helping you to deal with it?
A: In the beginning, I didn’t know if I would survive it. I tried everything in me to keep moving, to distract from the pain, to hope that eventually I would be okay. I’ve never felt pain like this. The way every breath is a mission, and it feels hopeless. Every second I feel like I’m breaking. I am breaking.
In the moments when I busy my hands and navigate the despair to help others, I feel calm, and then suddenly, we hear rockets in the distance, and the sirens go off again and my world crumbles. The unspeakable reality unfolds with every passing minute, revealing unimaginable losses—friends, home, a sense of security. So much loss it’s inconceivable. Nobody should know this horror. No words can describe the depth of this feeling. To have no more air in your lungs because the tears are suffocating.
Every day I’ve been praying we will wake up. That the collective suffering of all the innocent in the region will be over. Because grief is such a crippling thing. You can feel oceans but only be able to express a drop of emotion. You can be okay one second, and the next, it hits you like a sledgehammer. The only way I’ve been able to cope is by finding means to shift my environment. To focus on the things I can control and what can be done to help those in need while protecting myself. I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering and advocating for the collective safeguarding of everyone affected. But nothing truly fades the pain. It’s something I will have to learn to live with. I just hope it will make me stronger.
Q: What examples have you seen of effective peace promotion?
A: Peace is a collective action, it will never come from division. To achieve peace, we have to bridge the divide, and I think the single most powerful force for this is our shared environment.
I believe just like the Earth does not belong to one individual or sect, we are all one and this land is ours. Our futures are not mutually exclusive. This mindset is what has destroyed our planet since the beginning of humanity. Survival is not about conquering, it's about coexisting…with people, with animals, with the natural world as it stands.
We cannot afford the human, environmental and financial costs of war. The consequences are devastating to people and the planet on every scale. I believe that anyone who seeks to further disconnect our species from the natural world is the problem, but in this also lies the solution. The one thing we can all agree on in the region is that climate change doesn’t discriminate, it will affect all of us, and it’s a perfect foundation for bridging peace, and trust, and reestablishing civil communication.
I’ve seen a lot of effective peacebuilding stem from environmental diplomacy, for example, EcoPeace Middle East--an environmental peace-building organisation I spent four months training with alongside a cohort of Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian participants on the water crisis in the region, that allows diverse individuals to put aside their collective issues to fight for shared survival.
I believe that by centering our humanity first, showing love for each other, and collaborating for a better future, we can achieve freedom and dignity for all.
Q: What would you like to see world leaders doing to promote peace more effectively?
A: I implore all world leaders to foster a paradigm shift in how we approach conflict resolution. We must move away from divisive "us vs them" rhetoric and humanise one another. The destructive notion that supporting one side necessitates opposing the other only perpetuates the cycle of violence, it robs everyone of a future. Civilians on the ground, caught in the crossfire, are not the ones at war, yet everyone pays the ultimate price. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as in many others, coexistence is the only feasible reality.
What we truly need is a new generation of leaders—youth who possess the skills, confidence, self-awareness, and cross-cultural understanding to build an equitable future and transcend the decades of hate. I urge global leaders to create platforms that amplify the voices of us youth on the frontlines of crises, providing us with the opportunity to shape a world where dialogue and systematic justice triumph over violence.
Q: What can the One Young World Community do to build peace?
A: Keep providing opportunities for our voices to be amplified.
Sharona is a One Young World Ambassador, climate, activist, and founder of Tuesdays for Trash.