2006, 2007 – American
A participant in 2006 and 2007, Adam is the first alumnus to serve as a Hands of Peace Board member. He found his passion for Middle East international relations during the summer program and has made it his life’s work. Adam majored in Arabic and diplomacy at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. After graduating, Adam worked in foreign policy, starting with the public sector and then he moved to the Middle East to work for a U.N. funded organization in Israel and the West Bank. He studied abroad in Syria and Jordan and then worked at a think tank in Washington, D.C. during the Obama administration, advising the State Department and Department of Defense on Middle East foreign policy.
Adam is also a journalist – writing for Forbes, the Atlantic, and other publications. Interested in approaching peacebuilding from an economic perspective, Adam received an MBA from Stanford Business School and is currently working at Facebook in product strategy, launch, and internationalization.
To see more of Adam’s story watch the Hands of Peace “What’s Possible” video here.
“Hands of Peace is a spark, it’s an inspiration, it’s a call to action.”
ALIZA & YASMIN
2015, 2016, American & Palestinian Citizen of Israel
Aliza and Yasmin met as participants in the Summer Program. Wanting to make a difference in their own communities, these alumnae created a pen pal program between Aliza’s Jewish Day School in New York City and Yasmin’s Palestinian School in Israel. This pen pal program is integrated into a Dual Narrative history class that was created at both sites, where students correspond with each other via email.
“We are teenagers hoping that peace is attainable by humanizing the conflict through understanding, and by bringing these two communities together our goal is to start building bridges one teenager at a time.”
2014, 2015 – American
As a participant in the summer program, Alyssa learned about the personal cost of the conflict. She also learned how to change one mind at a time through empathy and human connection. As she got older she found myself despairing at the intractable nature of the conflict. “With so many people hating each other for so many years, how could any solution be viable enough to consider?”
After her experience at Hands of Peace, Alyssa found herself without an outlet for the nuanced dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that she had become accustomed to. She sought a student organization at George Washington University that focused on a dual narrative, but was disappointed. Alyssa then applied for an internship at J Street and was selected as a Public Engagement Fellow.
“As an American, I feel as though I have a duty to try and influence my government and encourage it to support a solution to the conflict rather than extension of it. I can take the personal lessons I learned from Hands of Peace and turn them into political influence at J Street to take us one small step closer to peace.”
2011 – Palestinian
Anan was the 2015 recipient of the Don and Ellen Clark Scholarship Award. This award is presented annually to an alumni who demonstrates a commitment to the goals and ideals of the Hands of Peace program. Anan received his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Birzeit University, Ramallah. Anan was also a Chaperone for the 2015 Summer Program in San Diego.
“Working for Hands of Peace as a chaperone was an extraordinary experience. The shared responsibility and the passion of every member, the caring and the giving back what you were once given, and most of all the loving atmosphere surrounding the program, was something I will always have in my heart to remember and to cherish.”
Courtney says “After Hands of Peace, my life completely changed directions. I was on track to pursue a career in the arts, and was merely curious about studying world religions and volunteer work. Suddenly I found myself completely enraptured in what used to just be my side interests, and actively pursued a way to dedicate my life to this.”
Courtney landed in New York City and began taking medical certification courses to become a nurse, hoping to work with international medical organizations. Courtney was then accepted to work as a medical aid volunteer at Project Hope in Nablus and then became a leader in their Youth Arts Department.
“There is a perfect harmony between the arts and international cultural engagement, and that building bridges and platforms for growth within communities can be a direct effect of encouraging children to utilize their artistic abilities. Children are the forever tomorrow, and investing our time, money, and confidence in their artistry is investing in stronger visions and solutions for the future”
2004, 2005 – Palestinian Citizen of Israel
Elias says he can’t imagine how his life would be now without Hands of Peace as a starting point. A 2004 Hand and 2005 XL, Elias has returned to the Summer Program as a Chaperone and as a dialogue facilitator multiple times. The recipient of the 2013 Rooftop Consciousness Award, Elias says, “You often hear that you come to Hands of Peace wanting to change the world, but you find yourself being changed. Well, that was me!”
Currently, Elias is a doctor specializing in family medicine at Tel Aviv Hospital, after finishing a double study medical program at Technion University in Haifa, which took him nine years, granting him both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in medical research.
To see more of Elias’s story watch the Hands of Peace “What’s Possible” video here.
“I joined Hands of Peace to make a positive change in the world. Hands of Peace teaches you that to make things happen, you need to be active about it. It’s not about changing the world on a macro level, but it’s helping individuals change their life in some way, and I think that’s the real impact.”
2015, 2016 – American
Emily credits her Summer Program experience as the catalyst that empowered her commitment as a change maker on both a local and a global scale. The recipient of the 2020 Rooftop Consciousness Award, Emily’s senior thesis at Tulane University focused on environmental peacebuilding. Today, Emily continues her studies at Tel Aviv University where she will earn a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation. She has also been to the region three times as a participant in peace projects: the Mandel-Palagye Program for Middle East Peace, the Hands of Peace/Eco Peace Project and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies was located on Kibbutz Ktura in the Negev Desert, Israel. Arava curriculum blends dialogue among its diverse student body with hands-on environmental and political courses that emphasize the concept that nature knows no borders. While studying with Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and other international students, Emily advanced her knowledge of the importance of dialogue and multinational resource management. This academic opportunity allowed Emily to work with other inspiring young adults who are in pursuit of a future where humanity is united by our mutual love for the environment.
The Hands of Peace/Eco Peace project also focused on environmental diplomacy, developing a training program for alumni to explore the interdependent regional nature of environmental resources. With all of her experiences inspired by Hands of Peace, Emily hopes to become an expert in addressing the growing set of challenges at the intersection of environmental change, natural resource management, violent conflict, and reconciliation.
“My experience at Hands of Peace makes me feel hopeful. Specifically, I find hope in the many alumni who dedicate their time to advocate for political justice, gender equality, racial equity, and so much more. Hands of Peace also makes me feel motivated to continue down my chosen career path and to become a changemaker on local and global scales.”
2010, 2011 – Palestinian
Hands of Peace was Fadwa’s first experience with different nationalities and allowed her the courage to critically analyze the situation she was living in. Fadwa found her voice and now believes she is truly doing something positive. Working as a facilitator, she challenged herself to look at situations where conflict arises and helping others process these difficult challenges. The next step for Fadwa is to pursue a masters degree in human rights because she has decided to be a force of influence for positive change.
“Hands of Peace encouraged me to break the taboo of meeting the enemy and I realized I can be Palestinian and raise the voice of my people without losing my identity as a Palestinian.”
2012,2013 – American
In the spring of 2017, Jason interned with the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) in their D.C. office. ALLMEP is a consortium of almost 100 peace organizations that connects and advocates for members abroad and in Congress.Now, Jason works in D.C. in Middle East consulting with a focus on finance.
“Hands of Peace made me direct almost all of my academic study and extracurricular work towards diplomacy, the conflict, Israel, and Palestine. It is the reason that I applied to Georgetown as an Arabic Major, the reason that I worked for MK Erel Margalit, and the reason I will work for the Alliance for Middle East Peace. It has convinced me of the potential for peace and cooperation in Israel and Palestine.”
2013, 2014 – American
Growing up in North County, San Diego, near Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, Josh witnessed firsthand the impact prosthetics could have to change lives. That inspired Josh to graduate from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Josh is now a junior sales rep at Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies offering innovative products and services in Orthopaedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine to improve patient and hospital outcomes.
“Hands of Peace gave me a leadership opportunity at a very young age and gave me the confidence that my voice matters – in dialogue and in the workplace.”
2010, 2011- Palestinian
Loai graduated from Kasr Al-Ainy Medical School and is serving his first-year internship during the pandemic at a hospital in Jerusalem. His experience in Hands of Peace bolstered the courage and resilience he demonstrates every day. It was his sister, Lama, also an alumna and a doctor, who encouraged him to take part in the Summer Program.
Even as he was completing his medical studies, Loai made time to return to Hands of Peace as a chaperone for the Palestinian delegation so he could help younger Hands get the most from their experience.
“Hands of Peace is the single most influential experience of my life.”
2016, 2017 – American
Attending the Summer Program as a 10th grader complicated Louisa’s goals for her future in a powerful but very unexpected way. Louisa had been dancing since she was five and dreamed of one day having a professional career. But she also knew she wanted to help others – she just wasn’t sure how. Hands of Peace was an incredibly transformative experience for Louisa. It sparked a growing interest in conflict resolution, international relations and the different and unique ways one can promote healing in the world.
Louisa discovered the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in her senior year and was so excited to train for five months on Kibbutz Ga’Aton in the north of Israel. The goal of KCCC is to use dance as a way to build bridges between people of differing ages, backgrounds and perspectives. Training with KCDC and living on a kibbutz in Israel was the perfect place for Louisa to begin her journey of integrating her passion for dance as well as gain new insight into the reality that her friends in the region face on a daily basis.
“I had a wonderful, intense, and very eye opening experience in Israel. Living there allowed me to delve deeper into my Jewish identity as well as explore the conflict, my role in it, and the different ways I can affect it. I left feeling more connected to this part of the world than ever before and more intent on being a force for change, understanding, and healing in this region and at home.”
2015, 2017 – American
Hands of Peace alumna Maeve Plunkett was awarded a $1,000 Study Abroad Grant from the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi – the nation’s oldest and most selective college honor society – to support her semester study in Rabat, Morocco. Maeve was one of 25 students nationwide to receive the award.
According to Maeve, “I studied migration and transnational identity in Morocco and the Netherlands, learning Arabic, living with a host family, and interning with an international NGO combatting illegal migration of minors. The experience connected several themes I had noticed from Hands of Peace: notions of belonging based on historical connections to land, different religious groups clashing over misunderstandings and stereotypes, and arbitrary decisions about who can and cannot cross geographical borders which impact people’s lives at their very core.
Everywhere Maeve has travelled in the world she has seen groups work to go beyond labels like “insider” and “outsider” and push people to find the benefits of migration, the benefits of neighbors practicing a different faiths, the benefits of colleagues speaking another language.
“Sometimes this means we don’t understand each other, we don’t know what peoples’ intentions or values are. But a rather encouraging lesson I’ve learned from experiences like Hands of Peace and this semester in Morocco is that all you have to do to understand is to ask questions, listen, and share your own story. ”
2006 – Jewish Israeli
Maor started his journey with Hands of Peace in Chicago as a 2006 participant, and has continued his engagement throughout the years. In 2018 he returned to Chicago as a chaperone during the Summer Program. Maor was one of our keynote speakers at the 2019 San Diego Benefit. To read his speech, click here.
“Hands of Peace made me more involved in my society, a person who asks questions and does not settle for immediate answers. Always looking for greater truth. It gave me strength to know that there is another way. Because I did it. I was there talking, playing, laughing with the other side and I saw what can be done together.”
2009, 2010 – American
Max received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and went on to work as a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a social justice advocacy organization located in Washington D.C. He recently served as the Senior Campaign Associate for the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets Campaign, organizing thousands of Americans to advocate on Capitol Hill for increased American investment in eradicating malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Max is currently a second-year Rabbinical Student at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.
“I was relatively uneducated on the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It was for this reason that I knew hosting Jafar, a Muslim Palestinian, had the potential for being intellectually and culturally enlightening. Jafar remains a huge part of my life. I consider him a brother, and my parents call him their second son. Knowing him has enriched my life both culturally and politically, and I truly have Hands of Peace to thank for that.”
2009 – Jewish Israeli
After the Hands of Peace Summer Program, Mina participated in a delegation of ‘School Across Borders’ in Ireland to study their conflict and its resolution, to share her Jewish-Israeli perspective, and her experience living in a conflict. She has also remained an active part of the Hands of Peace family by returning on staff for two summers as a Jewish Israeli chaperone.
“Seven years ago I started my journey with Hands of Peace. My experience as a participant changed my life completely as I began to perceive the situation in a more complex way. I started developing the skill and quality of consciousness that I didn’t have prior, and felt obligated to the two societies who are existing in a conflict. I chose to stay and not to ignore what is happening. Finding ways to change the situation is one of my life goals and I’m trying to find ways to be more active and more influential.”
2013, 2014 – Jewish Israeli
Niv earned the Tel Aviv county “outstanding volunteer” prize for leadership. She has served on the Jewish-Arab parliament, joined a youth movement called “Hashomer Hatz’air”, and initiated numerous peace projects. Niv, a recipient of one of four Hands of Peace scholarships in 2020, is currently studying social work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Niv has also served her country, working with troubled teens that come from broken homes or have been kicked out of school. Her job is to prepare them with the tools they need to reach their fullest potential as they enter adulthood. She also spent a gap year working to preserve nature in the country.
“Hands of Peace made me realize I can do things that do matter. The biggest trip starts with a small step, that one person you reach. After Hands of Peace I understood that what I love to do is work with teens and kids and be that person they trust to open up to. It was the first step on a road I am still taking… I grew up and now I want to help others find what they are good at and what they should do. I am more confident and feel like I can belong anywhere as long as I bring who I am to that place.”
2011, 2012 – Jewish Israeli
In October of 2015, amid escalating violence in Israel/Palestine, Noam noticed a disturbing photo posted on Facebook by an IDF soldier. The soldier had written on her hand: “Hating Arabs is not racism. It reflects values.” The photo generated 20,000 Facebook “likes” within hours. Noam was horrified by the reaction to the post, which he felt showed that “the mood in Israel was turning towards hate” For Noam, Palestinians were not “other” people. They were close friends with whom he had exchanged personal and often painful stories and with whom he regularly reunited at the Hands of Peace alumni seminars. Many of Noam’s Facebook friends were Hands of Peace alumni, some were West Bank Palestinians and Palestinian Citizens of Israel. Noam and a couple of his friends decided to launch a Hebrew language counter-initiative asking people to post photos of their hands with the tagline: “Hate is not a value. Racism is not the way.” The campaign inspired thousands of Israelis and Palestinians to post these anti-bigotry photos and take a stand among their friends and communities.
Watch Noam’s keynote address at the Hands of Peace 2019 Chicago Benefit, where he talks about “Giving Hope to the Next Generation of Hands.”
“Dialogue is a way of bringing people from a place of not having any hope to a place where they see the human being on the other side and feel there’s a chance to make peace. When things are worst, that’s when you need dialogue the most.”
2010, 2011 – American
Nour graduated in 2017 from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Since then Nour worked in a variety of industries including consumer goods and healthcare. Currently, she is a first-year consultant and workstream leader at EY-Parthenon, the strategy consulting arm of Ernst & Young, with a focus on serving education clients, from higher education state systems to education technology companies to philanthropic institutions. Nour also serves on the Hands of Peace Community Circle Committee, helping to plan monthly events.
“Dialogue plays a critical role in my day to day work, in two ways. First of all, the way we do work, we think about telling a story and telling it in a convincing way so that our clients are brought on to our ideas. Second, how we manage different stakeholders. There are instances where people either from our team or from the client team don’t agree with each other, so navigating that and making sure that the ideas that we represent, represent all of the input and all of the feedback we’ve received is pretty critical, so I think that’s something that I’ve definitely carried with me throughout my career. Something I suspect will continue to be critical going forward.”
2007 – Jewish Israeli
Or participated as part of the Jewish-Israeli delegation in 2007. Or specializes working with marginalized groups – facilitating women’s youth groups to create dialogue opportunities for Jewish-Israeli, Palestinian Citizen of Israel, and Palestinian women and working with youth to help create a less transphobic society. Through her many jobs, Or is driving positive change in her society. She is challenging societal conventions by creating mechanisms and facilitating dialogue for people who are pursuing different paths.
“My goal is to change society by making society more diverse and accepting.”
2003, 2004 – Palestinian Citizen of Israel
Rana was a 14-year-old teenager from Haifa when she came to Chicago for the first Hands of Peace Summer Program in 2003.
A Palestinian Citizen of Israel, Rana stayed in a house with another participant, a Jewish Israeli. Not only was Rana staying in the same place as “the other, ” she shared a room with her. During the day, Rana learned about the conflict during painful dialogue sessions. At night, she had honest conversations with her roommate, where she realized they shared the same hopes, dreams, and fears.
“Gretchen Grad was bold enough to think that she could change my reality,” says Rana. “I lived the change, and I witnessed her success. It made me realize I wanted to be that woman one day, that amazing woman who has the power to change realities.”
Two months later, a suicide bombing at Maxim, her cousin’s restaurant in Haifa, killed 21 people and injured 60. The restaurant was a place where Israelis and Palestinians could sit and dine together. On that day, says Rana, “The floor ran red, with Arab and Jewish blood. It was mixed, it was the same, it was one.”
Rana returned to the Summer Program in 2004 as an XL, then in 2008 as a Chaperone. In 2009 Rana became the Regional Manager for the Palestinian Citizens of Israel delegation.
While managing her delegation, Rana received a BA in pharmacy and currently works as a pharmacist, while also studying for a master’s degree in clinical pharmacy.
Rana credits her ability to help her family and community fight the COVID pandemic to the compassion, confidence and leadership skills she learned at Hands of Peace.
“I am a warrior. I am not afraid to face the unknown. As Hands of Peace teaches us, we have the power to change our society and our reality, and that’s what I do every day.”
“I have grown up with Hands of Peace, and it has grown up with me.”
2010, 2012 – Palestinian Citizen of Israel
Rawy was part of the 2010 and 2012 Palestinian Citizen of Israel delegation and has remained an active participant, attending almost every alumni seminar and returning as a chaperone in 2019. Rawy also participated in the Hands of Peace environmental diplomacy seminar in partnership with EcoPeace.
A freelance videographer and editor, Rawy chooses projects that are meaningful to him because of their positive impact on his community. A successful entrepreneur, Rawy markets vintage clothing online, providing job opportunities for other Palestinians.
“Skills that I’ve learned in dialogue and through the process over the years have gotten me to a point where I now think and process things in a different way, constantly using the tools I learned through Hands of Peace in my everyday encounters.”
2014, 2015 – American
Roxanne, a participant in the San Diego program in 2014 and 2015, graduated with honors from Williams College with a degree in economics and Arabic Studies. Her passion has led her to explore and broaden her knowledge of the Middle East and the Arabic language. Roxanne lived in Amman, Jordan, working on literacy and readership projects for Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi children before studying and teaching an English course for Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon.
Roxanne’s senior thesis focused on analyzing humanitarian aid allocation and the transition of power from international to local agents in the development sector. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in England in development studies, focusing on the mechanics of poverty in the Middle East and its historical, cultural, and political sources.
“I am motivated every day by my experiences at Hands of Peace and a desire to approach the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from an economic perspective.”
2016, 2017 – American
Caring, compassion, and empathy are some of the many lessons Sam learned at the Hands of Peace Summer Programs. Another important lesson learned says Sam, “The program does not teach us to ignore our differences, but that we can learn from them and accept their presence. During the program, we were able to discuss and debate our beliefs when the time was right. Still, we also recognized the importance of celebrating our commonalities, as well as our differences.”
Instead of getting ready for his first year of college during a pandemic, Sam was convinced he needed to do something to persuade young voters to go to the polls despite their lack of enthusiasm. The Chicago native created the Instagram account “Settle for Biden” to drum up support for a candidate his friends weren’t particularly thrilled about. According to Fortune Magazine, “the concept blew up, and the account now has more than 277,000
followers—including public figures like actor Kerry Washington—and a team of young people working on it.”
“It’s amazing to me how the Summer Program participants, as people from three different regional groups, can find so much in common. After our difficult dialogue sessions, we would come back together, and we would have fun − we would play games together, talk together, dance together, and laugh together. What unites us truly transcends what divides us.”
2004 – American
Stav was only 14 years old when she participated in the first Hands of Peace Summer Program in 2003. Stav’s passion for the environment motivated her to create Plastics Free Israel, a grassroots organization that promotes a zero-waste economy, less plastic waste, and more public action. Stav has traveled the world as a microplastics researcher, protecting endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica and studying coastal resource management in the Philippines. Stav, who holds dual American and Israeli citizenship and speaks four languages fluently, is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Climate Change at King’s College in London. Stav is also working for Clean Air Villages, creating solutions for better air quality.
“I will always remember Hands of Peace for teaching me to look beyond the conflict and at the individuals. Hands of Peace showed me that I could be friends with even the most unexpected of people. We are all human, and often it is the desire for the same things that leads to compromise.”
2004 – Jewish Israeli
In 2004, Stav was 14 years old when she participated in her first Hands of Peace Summer Program. Stav currently works as an assistant in the Mayor’s office in Tel-Aviv, managing the welfare portfolio; she is also a social activist working on domestic violence.
In 2018, Stav – with the help of two friends – created a Facebook event calling on women to protest domestic violence in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of women joined strikes all over the country – at hospitals, schools, businesses. At the main rally in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, more than thirty thousand women of all ages, colors, and nationalities participated. It was the first and largest women’s strike in the history of the country.
See more of Stav’s story in the Hands of Peace “What’s Possible” video.
“When I recall that summer in 2004 in Chicago, my heart expands with hope and excitement. I am grateful for what I learned – that if there is a problem, conflict, injustice – to solve it, you can’t run away and avoid it. Instead, you must gently and sensitively treat the wound, acknowledge past pains, and look forward to the future with positive energies of doing and creating.”
2012, 2013 – American
An American Hand in 2012 and an XL in 2013, Yasmeen is helping empower refugee teens. As a part of her social work degree, Yasmeen has had the opportunity to work with Bethany Christian Services, working in foster care with a specific focus on refugee children. Some of her tasks include organizing health appointments, home visits, reunifications with family members, obtaining official U.S. documents and ensuring the youth are placed in safe and uplifting homes. Yasmeen is currently pursuing a Master’s in social work.
“When I participated in Hands of Peace I found myself building close relationships with teens who lived such different lives than me, yet we easily bonded over similar interests and hobbies. It was in that moment I realized how strong and resilient Palestinians and Israelis could be, despite the atrocities they faced back home. I told myself that one day I would help people in similar situations, and I could not be happier in my line of work.”
2009 – Palestinian Citizen of Israel
A 2009 Hands of Peace alumna, Zinat believes that Hands of Peace was a starting point for the last 11 years of her life, and taught her how to connect with others in a place of conflict and crisis. She continues to use this knowledge as she pursues a career in Internal Medicine. To watch her keynote address from the 2019 Chicago Benefit, click here.
“Hands of Peace taught me how to connect with the people around me without cancelling anyone’s identity – mine or the other.”
2013 – American
Zoe spent this past summer participating in the National Council on US-Arab Relations summer internship program and worked at The Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center in Washington, DC.
“When I joined Hands of Peace in 2013 I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on me and the path my life would take. As I look at what I am doing now, it all goes back to Hands of Peace. Studying Arabic, which started as a hobby in hopes of surprising my middle-eastern friends, landed me in Amman, Jordan. If I learned anything, it is that the key to any conflict resolution, big or small, is honest and clear communication. When reuniting with alumni in Amman and Tel Aviv during my time abroad, we all agreed that Hands of Peace changed everything for us, and as I look at my interests and potential life path, it is clear that this is no exaggeration.”