Hands of Peace catapulted me into global citizenry. I, like so many other fellow alumni, could no longer allow our comfortable lives to result in complacency. We knew and cared too much not to act as stewards of a better world. My personal journey after Hands of Peace led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in International Politics at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. This included studying abroad in Jordan, where I lived with a Palestinian Muslim family. My life was full of enriching contrasts: a Jew becoming part of a Muslim family, and an American facing the unintended consequence of my country's war.
After college, I was awarded a year-long leadership development fellowship in Israel. I embedded myself in a handful of nonprofits to develop their conflict resolution programs. My year culminated in publishing a book called Words & Walls , which tells the story of the conflict through political graffiti. The next step on my Hands of Peace-inspired path was to work as a Yemen and Syria researcher at a policy think tank. With the expertise I developed, I wrote analyses for publications such as Foreign Affairs, The Jerusalem Post , and The Atlantic.
With the Middle East in political gridlock, I decided that the most tangible way for me to make a difference is through economic development. This led me to pursue my MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. My long-term professional goal is to ease suffering through private sector economic development
ALIZA & YASMIN
Aliza and Yasmin met as participants in Hands of Peace. 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 will 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.
Anan was the HOP 2015 recipient of the Don and Ellen Clark Scholarship Award. This award is presented annually to a HOP alum who demonstrates a commitment to the goals and ideals of the HOP program. Anan just received his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Birzeit University, Ramallah.
Hands of Peace was my wake up call - it helped me find who I am and helped me discover the opportunities that were given to me in life and embrace my skills and abilities. 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 and mind to remember and to cherish.
Bashar has earned a law degree and is working as an associate at a legal in Ramallah “to know more about [his] rights and duties and how to and better ways to protect freedoms through peace.” He earned a prestigious one-year fellowship with the McCain Institute for International Leadership and he serves as a Middle East consultant for Cure Violence, an international organization that approaches violence as a contagious epidemic that must be addressed from the grassroots.
For Emily, being involved with Hands of Peace has taught her how to confidently advocate for what she believes. Being able to learn and dialogue about the conflict is something that Emily is passionate about, and she has made it a priority to continue pursuing activities related to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as she enters college.
Last semester at Tulane University, Emily took a class called Arab/Israeli Conflict, which discussed the history of Jews and Israel, the Palestinian story, and the start and continuation of the conflict. She will be continuing this learning next semester by taking an Israel through Film and Literature course, as well as Hebrew and Arabic. These learning experiences have parlayed into Emily's latest endeavor, establishing a new interfaith Peace and Social Justice club that will allow students the opportunity to dialogue openly on campus. Working closely with an Israeli staff member to bring a more pluralistic view of Israel to campus, their first initiative was to host a screening of the movie "The Other Son," followed by a short dialogue about the ideas brought up in the film. She continues to spread the power of dialogue throughout her campus, making an impact in her community.
During her summer of 2017, Emily is excited to be reunited with her Israeli and Palestinian friends while traveling to Israel to participate in birthright and a peace-advocacy related extension program. She will also be returning to Israel/Palestine during her summer of 2018 to participate in the Mandel/Palagye Program for Middle East Peace study abroad program.
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, as “HOP 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.”
By raising her voice, Fadwa truly believes that she is doing something positive. Working as a facilitator, she is challenging 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, and is working diligently to achieve that goal!
Spring of 2017 Jason will be interning 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.
Hands of Peace made me direct almost all of my academic study and extracurricular work towards diplomacy, 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.
JAFAR & MAX
Max received a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and is currently working as a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a social justice advocacy organization located in Washington D.C.
Before Hands of Peace, 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 from the West Bank, had the potential for being intellectually and culturally enlightening. I could not have predicted, however, what those three weeks of intense dialogue and thought-provoking conversation would become. After the program ended, Jafar attended an American university about four hours from our home, and as such, became a frequent guest during winter, spring and summer breaks. After graduation, he lived with my parents and brother for a year while working at his first job, and then went on to receive a Masters in Business Administration and land a job at KPMG in the city. Seven years later, 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 HOP to thank for that.
Mina went on to participate 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 HOP family by returning on staff for the last 2 summers as one of our Jewish Israeli chaperones.
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.
Mohammed spent his summer at an advanced peace conference in the Netherlands working with other youth to draft a solution to the conflict.
Ever since I joined HOP everything in my life has changed...I have become more mature, more aware of the world, more aware of the conflict. It broadened my horizon and it made me who I am today which I am very proud of! I have recently obtained a full scholarship to do my fourth year in engineering at France and HOP deserves major credit for this achievement.
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 HOP’s year-round follow-up seminars. No fewer than 85 of Noam’s Facebook friends are fellow HOP alumni, about half of them 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 has inspired thousands of Israelis and Palestinians to post these anti-bigotry photos and take a stand among their friends and communities. It even attracted coverage from major Israeli and Palestinian Israeli news sources.
Jewish Israeli alumna Niv earned the Tel Aviv county "outstanding volunteer" prize for leadership! Niv has served on the Jewish-Arab parliament for the past three years, joined a youth movement called "hashomer hatz'air", and initiated numerous peace projects in her school.
Niv is serving 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 all the tools they need to reach their fullest potential as they enter adulthood.
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 HOP 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 into a road I am still taking. I know now that I change the world my way, using the power of listening and embracing. I no longer look at difference as something that is just present but as a much needed addition to society. I grew up and now I want to help others find what they are good at and what they should do. Also, I am more confident and feel like I can belong anywhere as long as I bring who I am to that place.
Even as a young girl, Or always believed that education was a way to create peace and reconciliation. After multiple visits to the West Bank, she learned about Hands of Peace and knew it was something she had to be a part of. What she liked most was “the fact that you left Israel/Palestine for a neutral space that allowed you to create hope in a difficult and complex situation.”
After volunteering for a year with young Ethiopians that live in Israel and Palestinians that live in Israel, Or spent over 4 years travelling the world and working in different peace programs internationally. She returned to Israel and worked for Coalition of Women for Peace, and is currently working for Windows for Peace, an organization that helps facilitate dialogue between Israelis and Palestinian youth.
Initially disappointed that some of her fellow HOP participants supported the Gaza war, Samar took a step back from dialogue, but soon realized that without engaging and speaking about the issues, no change can happen. This propelled her to change her mind about emigrating in search of a better future, and instead to find that better future in Israel.
After completing a masters degree in International Relations and Diplomacy Studies, Samar began volunteering at Mossawa Center – the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, where she now works as the coordinator of International advocacy and resource development. In 2016, Samar joined a program called “Training for Change Agents for Future Politicians”. This program strives to bring together promising young people for dialogue and negotiations in the hope that the future generation of leaders and politicians from all sides will be ready to end the conflict and establish sustainable peace.
Shira learned from Hands of Peace that narratives were an integral part of the peace process, reaffirming her decision to become a journalist. She currently works at BBC News Middle East Bureau in Jerusalem.
Stav is currently working for the US Peace Corps Philippines, where she recently began a 27-month commitment to help communities with issues pertaining to Coastal Resource Management, working with local government units in their conservation efforts through education.
I will always remember Hands of Peace for teaching me to look beyond the conflict and at the individuals. Despite differences in belief, history, and even 'sides of a wall' Hands of Peace showed me that I could be friends with even the most unexpected of people. At the end of the day, we are all human and often it is desire for the same things that leads to compromise. HOP showed me that a step towards resolution is often a step back from a conflict situation. If we just took the time to know the individuals on the other side of the story, maybe peace wouldn't be such an unattainable goal.
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 HOP. Studying Arabic, which started as a hobby in hopes of surprising my middle-eastern friends, landed me in Amman, Jordan last semester. If I learned anything from HOP, it is that the key to any conflict resolution, big or small, is honest and clear communication. When reuniting with HOP friends in Amman and Tel Aviv during my time abroad, we all agreed that HOP changed everything for us, and as I look at my interests and potential life path, it is clear that this is no exaggeration.