In early November, our Middle East Alumni Club held a two-day seminar in Nazareth that was attended by 28 participants from five different years of Hands of Peace. In addition to two powerful dialogue sessions, the seminar was packed with service and learning activities that began early in the morning and ended late at night.
Activities included a flower pot art project with blind children from Al-Manarah Association for the Advancement of Persons with Disabilities, a political and historical tour of Nazareth, the screening of the movie “A Two-Sided Story,” a workshop on women’s rights with a Palestinian organization called Women Against Violence, and a workshop with Davi Windholz from the Alternative Center, an Israeli non-profit. Davi led creative games that built connections between participants from different years of HOP as well as an "activism activity" in which participants began to conceive and plan their own grassroots peace projects.
Following the seminar, Basel, a 2013 Palestinian participant, eloquently summarized his feelings. He said:
“The seminar feels like watching an awesome movie, then you end the movie by returning to your ordinary hard life. But when I think about it, I realize that in HOP, we are not watching friendships and happiness and love only while we are together in a seminar or a summer program. In HOP, we produce our own movie, with us as the actors and with the staff and the organization as the directors. In HOP, we make the movie that someday is going to be the same as reality— the movie that someday is going to be the life of every Palestinian and Israeli.”
Below are more beautiful quotes from our alumni, which reflect their thoughtful introspection and deep commitment to peace-building. We are so grateful to all of our supporters and volunteers who make the HOP experience possible. Through the new program we are launching this summer in San Diego, and through the ongoing outreach work of our Alumni Club, we are spreading the hopeful message of Hands of Peace—person by person.
“In my daily life, I keep dreaming about when the next seminar is going to be. I feel it’s the only place where I can speak my mind about the conflict and how it affects my reality. Every time I leave the seminars, I know that hope still exists.”
-Jasmine, 2011 Palestinian Citizen of Israel participant, 2012 XL
“The Alumni Club seminars make me stronger, and make me wake up and face the reality that I need to change. Besides the dialogues, I really loved the movie, ‘A Two-Sided Story.’ It shows the thoughts and opinions from all sides, and it’s honest.”
-Niv, 2013 Jewish Israeli participant
“The tour with [our guide] Jonathan was amazing! He gave us a lot of new information about a place (Nazareth) that I thought I knew well….I know that, no matter how much I try to distance myself from the conflict and avoid confrontation, it is not possible. Hands of Peace will always be here to give me and my fragile hope for peace a second chance.”
-Samar, 2006 Palestinian Citizen of Israel participant, 2007 XL
“In this seminar, I learned that we have to look at the future and not dwell on the past....I want to do more active work, like the activity with the blind. This activity was really special.”
-Uriel, 2013 Jewish Israeli participant
“This is the most important thing I do in my life….We are completing our journey that we started in Chicago through these dialogues. I love seeing my friends and meeting the new participants.”
-Lara, 2012 Palestinian participant
“I learned about things that make both of the sides fearful and afraid….The activism activity was the most meaningful to me, because we expressed our feelings in a different way.”
-Tal, 2013 Jewish Israeli participant
“The seminars make you able to stay in touch with the people who changed your life, and be able to say everything that you have been suppressing, expose your fears, and be yourself....From the art activity with the blind children, we learned that no one is perfect, and that disabilities don’t actually disable you. This really touched my heart.”
-Leen, 2012 Palestinian participant