In summer 2016, Lincoln, MA residents Barbara and Steve Low created the GRALTA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation because we care about the Jewish and the non-Jewish people living between “the River and the Sea.” (That’s the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, of course.)
We also formed GRALTA because we know that the 70-year Israel-Palestine conflict not only affects the people living in that region; it affects all of us as Americans. Consider how our lives have been changed by 9/11 and other terrorist attacks linked to America’s Mideast policies, two Middle East wars, $38 billion in military aid to Israel, and years of derivative Mideast instability. Think, too, of how the conflict has divided America’s Jewish community—especially its younger generation.
GRALTA sees a vital need to change U.S. policy that has too long been driven by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and partisan politics to one that promotes human rights, justice, and peace for all people in the region. Success means not only improving the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, but advancing America’s security and strengthening the Jewish Diaspora.
We believe that effecting a change in US Mideast policy can only happen when a grassroots outcry drowns out the loud voices of powerful Washington lobbies that have dictated agendas on behalf of their international, sectarian, and corporate sponsors.
To this end, GRALTA launched its “Lincoln Project” in August 2016 to test a community-based approach for raising awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict at the local level. We are an educational—not an advocacy—organization and work hard not to impose our personal views about the conflict on our neighbors, but rather to expose them to a broad range of information and experiences that help them reach their own opinions at their own pace.
GRALTA is an acronym for Grass Roots Awareness, Learning, Travel and Advocacy. The “ALTA” part of our name reflects a four-phase process for mobilizing the grassroots and converting them from apathetic Americans into informed and critical thinkers by:
- Making people Aware of the conflict and its nature
- Offering them opportunities to Learn more about it
- Traveling with them to the region on a wide-ranging fact-finding mission
- Helping them to consider personal actions to Advocate for replacing years of failed American policy with new policies that lead to a durable peace
If our experiment is successful, we hope that the GRALTA model can be replicated in other communities under leadership from other new or existing organizations that possess the capacity to expand it.