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March 2007

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Ami's Letter - March 4

I got the letter from Ami Dar at Idealist that I had promised to share.

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Dear Reader,

Would you share your socks? Let me explain.

Last month, at Idealist/Imagine, we invited everyone on Idealist to imagine a better world and to help build it together.

The response was overwhelming. People in 70 countries organized 300 start-up meetings in less than three weeks, and more meetings are planned for the weeks of March 12-18 and April 23-29, at Idealist/Meetings.

After seeing some photos from these meetings - at Idealist's Flikr page - I thought this might be a good moment to tell you about an experience I had when I was 19. This led me to start Idealist.org, and it's still the best way I've found for expressing this whole idea.

I was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Peru and Mexico. At 18, I was drafted into the Israeli army for three years.

I was stationed on the Syrian border, where every day I had to spend hours on a watchtower, looking through a telescope at the soldiers on the other side, who, in turn, spent their day watching us watching them...

On weekends the Syrian soldiers got some time off, and one afternoon they played soccer for a while. Watching them play made me see them as I never had before, and sparked a thought that seemed so crazy it made me laugh out loud, and yet it's stayed with me ever since.

That week it had been raining hard, we had been soaked for days, and I had been thinking about how in my unit, and in every other unit I knew, there were "good guys" who I could trust with my life, and who would give me their last pair of dry socks if I ever needed them, and some other guys who would not.

As I was thinking about this, and watching my "enemies" play across the barbed wire, it suddenly occurred to me that the same must be true on the other side - that in any Syrian unit I would probably find people I could immediately trust, if only I had the opportunity.

This should have been obvious, but when you live in a place that's been involved in a conflict for a long time, the "others" are often so dehumanized you rarely think of them as people just like yourself.

But as soon as that thought hit me, everything changed. I looked across the border, and I thought: "Wait a second, this is all wrong. This fence is running the wrong way. Wouldn't it make more sense for those who share socks, on both sides of the border, to get together...?" And that's when I laughed out loud.

Life is a bit more complicated, of course, but the desire to reach across the border - any border - never left me, and later it led to Action Without Borders and Idealist.org.

I believe we are living in a very special moment. For the first time in history, we have the means to reach across every boundary and difference that separates us, and find new ways of working together.

We can do this, and we can do it now. Please share this message with anyone who would give you their last pair of socks (or to whom you'd give yours) and invite them to join us at Idealist.org. Together we can build a global network of people who want to make our communities and the world a better place, starting right now from our neighborhood, school, or workplace.

During the week of March 12-18, and again during the week of April 23-29, people all over the world will be meeting face-to-face to continue building this network, and it would be great if you could attend a start-up meeting wherever you are.

To find or host a meeting in your area, and for more details about this whole initiative, please go to Idealist/Meetings.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing this message. We look forward to working with you and seeing what we can all do together.

If you want to reply to this message, feel free to do so. We can't always write back, but we read everything we receive.

All the best,

Ami Dar and the Idealist.org team
See us at: idealist.org/en/about/gallery
Ami.Dar AT idealist.org

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As I told Ami, I'm not much good at setting up meetings, but I am more than happy to share the information. And I definitely know to whom I would give my last pair of socks.

Text copyright 2000-2007 Becky