Chicago AFSC volunteers are living out the motto made famous by anthropologist Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In 2010, Chicago’s Middle East program produced a mock Congressional Hearing in Chicago, exploring the question: “Does US policy on Israel and Palestine uphold our values?” (chicagohearing.org). Hundreds attended (with hundreds more viewing on a live webcast) a four-hour “Hearing,” featuring witnesses from Israel and Palestine giving testimony about freedom of movement, property rights, and the impact of US military aid to a panel of academic and religious leaders. This event – organized with the dedicated help of 8 Chicago volunteers and AFSC staff -- is summarized in a 28-page report (including graphs, photos, and further documentation) and in a new DVD, featuring one hour of excerpts and supplementary material about US policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On March 7-9, 2011 the same Chicago volunteer committee traveled together to Washington, DC to take our message to the halls of Congress and White House. Every US Senate office was personally delivered a copy of the Chicago Hearing summary report and DVD, and an additional 100 US Representatives also received visits and complimentary DVD’s and summary reports.

The AFSC staff and volunteer group also organized a Congressional Briefing, featuring testimony from a Palestinian and an Israeli. Laila el Haddad, blogger and author of the new book Gaza Mom, spoke poignantly to congressional staffers and DC-based advocates about her family who lives under siege in Gaza, while Elik Elhanan spoke about his decision to refuse Israeli military service. To see the briefing online visit: http://tinyurl.com/4plwul7

Another highlight of the visit to DC was getting an appointment with the Office of Public Engagement at the White House. Inspired by the movements for democratic change in the Middle East, our group remains committed to changing the world – or at least trying to influ- ence those who are elected to represent our views on Capitol Hill. To obtain a copy of the DVD and summary report shared in Washington, D.C. contact Miryam at mrashid@afsc.org.

-JENNIFER  BING, Regional Coordinator of Programs