NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES National and Global Transparency, and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.

Others are Us: Symbols, Stories and Making the Window Bigger

Is it Dead?


Do you know how the Dead Sea got its name?  Can you imagine twenty-three different explanations for why it's called "Dead"?  A grade 3-4 class in a New York City public school did.........in under five minutes.......and every idea was clever and imaginative.  Here are some highlights from their remarkable demonstration of quick thinking:

"There's nothing alive in it so they called it Dead."

"It's really polluted...people didn't care for it and so it died."

"There are tombs with mummies surrounding this sea."

"It might have been an underwater burial place."

"It's in the desert where it's too hot for anything to be living."

"There must be some legend about it or a historical battle that happened nearby."

And ..."I know!  It's full of sharks so that everyone who swims there ends up dead."  (This comment elicited a loud chorus of "NOOOO!  Then it would be the Red Sea because of all the blood in the water.")

This summer my 10 year old daughter, Chloe, and I had the great good fortune to visit the schools and organizations in the Middle East that had partnered with OTHERS ARE US during the pilot phase of Imagining You and Your World.  I told students we met that the most frequent question American children had when they looked at a map of the Middle East/North Africa region for the first time was "Is the Red Sea really red?" The question immediately asked in reply was "Don't they also ask if the Dead Sea is really dead?"  And thats how the 23 explanations came to pass.

Besides being fun and acquainting children with places they've never heard of, it's easy to see how a simple activity like this one can generate a science exploration, a creative writing activity or a research project.  And for schools that love the arts, there's a musical theater production or a puppet show just waiting to happen.

OTHERS ARE US created Imagining You and Your World to serve a dual purpose.  The first is to promote children as leaders in building bridges of communication and tolerance between people in the United States and the Middle East/North Africa.  The second is to develop a learning-saturated program showcasing our world as a vast learning-laboratory and research center.  Educators struggle to create meaningful "real-life" curricula... so why not go to the source! Can you imagine those 3rd and 4th grade New Yorkers actually getting to know a child who lives near the Dead Sea and who has, maybe, taken a float in it?  Excitement, awe and curiosity are what I imagine— not hatred, fear or stereotyping. And don't you think these children would be happy to learn more? 

Whenever I spend time at a participating school in New York City, I know that something right is happening through Imagining You and Your World.  We've put a little window in a thick, solid wall and our children are eager to look through.  We at OTHERS ARE US hope to turn this little window into one with a broad and expansive view, making it easier to see more clearly and fully what our world is about.  And we're inviting you to help by participating in two new forums.

An Unfinished Story and A New Language

Imagining You and Your World is in large part about adults listening to the voices of children as they explore and learn to shape their world and our future. And that's what I did during my visit to Jordan, Israel, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Egypt—listen to children.    There were two ideas that I heard over and over, which have now become part of our forums for the 2003-2004 school year.  The first is Start a Story, Finish a Story and the second is A Language for All.

In Start a Story, Finish a Story children from different parts of the world complete a story written by another child who shared the beginning of his/her story but kept the ending secret. Through this forum, children who have never met and who are from diverse cultural backgrounds focus their thoughts and creativity on a common topic. Will all the endings be similar, will they be completely different, will they reflect cultural differences, different flora and fauna and geographical characteristics like the climate or desert? The activity promises to be fun and the results will undoubtedly be surprising and eye-opening.

To inaugurate the forum, OTHERS ARE US chose an illustrated story, A Tale of Two Frogs, written by a 12 year old student.   It's about two frogs who are tired of being green and long for a change.  If your school or youth organization is interested in participating in this activity, please contact OAU at projects@othersareus.org and we will send you the first five pages of the story. The more children who participate, the more fun we will all have.  We would like to have stories in English, Arabic and Hebrew.           

Page 1:  Once upon a time in a beautiful Green field lived two frogs, Croaker and his wife Green Paw.  Both of them had been green all their lives.     Page 4: Green Paw chose a red tulip for a .dress and a mushroom top for a hat.  When she was all dressed up, she admired herself in the mirror and thought, "I always knew frogs should be red.


The second comment echoed by children in every school we visited was "Why can"t there be just one language for us all?  It would make things so much easier!"  We have the beginnings of this "one world language" all around us... symbols, a language in pictures that mean the same things to people everywhere. We want to take this beginning and expand it.

It's an old cliché but when children are struggling with literacy skills, learning a second language or don't share a common language, a picture really is worth a thousand words.  In A Language for All, we invite students to find commonly used symbols in the world around them, establish new symbols based on their own culture and even invent a few of their own.  Here are three that we’ve added to our dictionary—one commercial symbol and two that children extracted from their artwork. 


Ancient and traditional peoples evolved highly sophisticated pictorial languages, like the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians.  We are incorporating those into our visual language as well.  Once we have gathered enough symbols, with their meanings, and shared them in English and Arabic, we will create and exchange visual messages and other artwork to discover how we can understand one another without words.

- . _

Please contribute to the creation of this language of peace and tolerance by sending symbols as you find or invent them to imagining@othersareus.org.  Both projects will be ongoing and we hope to expand them to more corners of the world over time. 

For additional information about OTHERS ARE US or Imagining You and Your World, please contact us@othersareus.org or visit our web site, http://www.othersareus.org. (We have a new look thanks to webmaster, David A. Hirsch, who is donating his time and expertise to OAU!)  

Others Are Us by Tariq A. Al-Maeena

 ©2004 OTHERS ARE US, Annette Swierzbinski, November 18, 2003   

This issue is dedicated to: CHILDREN OF THE WORLD & WHEN PEACE COMES
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YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES National and Global Transparency, and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.
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THE BRIGHTEST AND HAPPINESS YEAR OF MY LIFE IN ALL MEANINGS... Everything has been emerging since the beginning of this year... B.Ü. June 26, 2004