This is a guest post contributed by Kiva lender and activist Steven Beck. Today, he's launching a matching program on Kiva, doubling loans made to Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. Read why he believes microfinance is a powerful tool for peace.
Click here to find all Middle Eastern loans being matched.
Greetings from Tel Aviv! My name is Steven, and I've been lending on Kiva since 2009. Through the nearly 400 loans I have made, I've seen ambitious entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe create opportunities for themselves and their families.
I live in a part of the world that's famous for many things. Israel is known as a country that excels in sciences, arts and high-tech innovations. That said, unless you've been living on the moon without a television for the last 60 years, you're aware that this is also a region of conflict. Even as I stare out my window on Tel Aviv's idyllic Mediterranean tranquility, I'm reminded that I only need to travel a few hours in almost any direction to find many people living without hope.
There are millions of Palestinians and Israelis who believe they will never have the freedom that all people deserve or the security that all people need. It's hard to believe that only 15 years ago, we all thought this might end and everyone's lives would go back to "normal." But hopes rise and fall, and people generally prepare themselves for more of the same.
The conflict in this region is about more than just religion and politics. It's an example of how poverty -- and the feeling that there's no way out of it -- can lead to extremism. People on all sides of the divide recognize that, without economic opportunities for everyone, the marginalized on both sides will continue to fall prey to voices urging violence.
Microfinance is a tool for peace. I've seen the benefits of micro-lending with my own eyes as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Access to small amounts of capital allowed the women's groups I worked with to sell clothes they made and expand their foods stocks to sell in the local markets. That money, in turn, made it possible for their children to go to school and dream of a better future. It all started with small loans for modest supplies.
For a long time, I've wanted to do more than just talk about how poverty is the unspoken ill of the Middle Eastern conflict.
Today, I'm putting my money where my mouth is by launching a matching program for loans made to Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. Every dollar you lend to entrepreneurs in the region will have twice the impact.
Microfinance is by no means the magic bullet that will end this conflict. But it is a key tool in the process of creating an environment where all sides can believe in a hopeful future, instead of one filled with pain and disappointment.
Bethlehem is visible from the rooftops of many homes in Jerusalem, and that will never change. Without borders, Amman would be a 90-minute drive from Jerusalem, and that distance is permanent. My own home in Tel Aviv may feel a lifetime away from all of these issues, but the reality is that history and provenance have linked the fates of Arabs and Israelis, and Jews, Christians and Muslims to each other forever. We're different people, but we're one region, and we have to build it together.
Please consider taking advantage of this matching program by lending to one of the region's entrepreneurs.
Steven working with Ethiopian immigrants in a small town near Jerusalem.
Steven Beck is a human rights activist living in Israel. He currently works in Jerusalem at the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Progressive Movement in Israel. He also sits on the board of the African Refugee Development Center, a nonprofit organization that assists, supports and empowers refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. Recently, Steven founded One Region One Future to support economic development projects in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, and African refugee communities in Israel. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.