Just before Hanukkah, we shared our thoughts with you regarding eight of the past year's most inspiring individuals and organizations working for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and we encouraged you to share your thoughts with us. Not surprisingly, many suggestions were received. So we expanded it to 18 -- the number that corresponds with "chai," the Hebrew word for "life."

Please read the following brief introductions, click on the links to learn more, and use these ideas and those from our original message, "8 Lights of Courage," to open up a dialogue with friends and family and encourage involvement in the many-faceted advocacy that will be necessary to effectively urge President-elect Obama to aggressively seek Israeli-Palestinian peace. 

  • Avner Haramati led a yearlong project with Israeli leaders from across the political and religious spectrum to imagine a variety of scenarios for an Israeli future that is environmentally sustainable, and sees an active engagement between Israel's Jewish and its Arab citizens, the country's Palestinian neighbors, and the wider Arab community.

  • Hagit Ofran from Jerusalem-based Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) documents and publicizes the extent of settlement activity across the West Bank as part of Shalom Achshav's "Settlement Watch" project. In her words: "Love for the land of Israel ought not blind one to the best interests of the state of Israel and to the moral values on which it stands."

  • Eyal Raviv is a 20-something Israeli who has created a social networking site with over 1000 members, predominantly young people who share an interest in working for peace across borders.

  • Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, head of the Naqshab and Sufi order in Jerusalem, and Israeli-American Eliayahu McLean work together at Jerusalem Peacemakers, a network of religious leaders and grassroots peace builders in the Holy Land. Aziz, a leading Muslim voice for peace and reconciliation in Jerusalem, believes that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have significance in God's message, and "no basis of religion asks people to kill each other." McLean travels internationally to promote co-existence between Arabs and Jews.

  • Ibtisam Mahameed and Elana Rozeman are religious women involved in various interfaith dialogue and peace initiatives.  Ibtisam, a devout Muslim from the village of Faradis near Haifa believes that "if I consider myself a peace activist, then all my words and actions must be devoted to peace. For me this is Jihad, and if I die doing this I will be considered a martyr."  Elana, a Jew, became involved in interfaith peace work in order to help bring an end to regional violence, following the recovery of her son from a Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem, in 1997.

  • Ihab Balha and Gabriel Meyer work together at the Sulha Project, which fosters healing and reconciliation among the "Children of Abraham". "Sulha" is an indigenous Middle-Eastern ritual used to heal the past and end conflict. The organization hosts an annual multicultural gathering, "On the Way to Sulha" that incorporates listening circles, multicultural workshops, sacred interfaith rituals, and celebration through music and dance. 

  • The Israeli and Palestinian singers and musicians who perform the Hebrew-Arabic song "Hevenu Shalom Aleinu" (We Brought Peace Upon Us) - "Ma Ana Ajmal Min Salam" (There is Nothing More Beautiful Than Peace). Sung in both Hebrew and Arabic (English subtitles provided), this song inspires us to overcome stereotypes and see the common humanity of Israelis and Palestinians.

  • The Arab and Muslim communities in metropolitan Detroit, home of the largest Arab community outside of the Middle East, have long partnered with the Jewish community in building bridges of understanding through dialogue and other programs.  Activist Brenda Naomi Rosenberg writes, "May my Arab friends and I serve as an example and inspire other individuals and communities to work together and replace ignorance, fear and hate with understanding and hope."

  • Organizations devoted to preparing the next generation of leaders to live together in peace: Seeds of Peace, Givat Haviva, Neve Shalom/Wahat Salam and the Ketura Institute in Eilat.

  • Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (RTE) is a grassroots campaign for the protection of foreign passport holders residing in and/or visiting occupied Palestinian territory. Israel increasingly denies entry and/or re-entry to many foreign nationals who want to visit, live, or work in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially those of Palestinian descent. RTE provides counsel to visitors and family unification applicants, documents cases, and advocates for policy change.

  • Combatants for Peace are former Israeli and Palestinian combatants who are now committed to a peaceful two-state solution. This past year, they built "Abir's Garden," a playground dedicated to the memory of Abir Aramin (daughter of co-founder Bassam Aramin), killed in 2007 by Israeli soldiers as she walked home from school. "The opening of the playground symbolizes our joint opposition and resistance to the present reality in the occupied territories."

  • Gisha is an Israeli organization that seeks to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of Gaza, as guaranteed by international and Israeli law, through legal assistance and public advocacy. Because freedom of movement is a precondition for exercising other basic rights, their work has a multiplier effect in helping Gazans access education, jobs, family members and medical care.

  • The women of Machsom Watch volunteer at military checkpoints throughout the West Bank, monitoring the behavior of Israeli soldiers and border guards. They have been spat on, mistreated, and verbally abused, but their presence has changed the atmosphere at the checkpoints, as well as the behavior of those guarding them.

  • Makom BaGalil Circus brings together Israeli Arab and Jewish youth in a circus-skills training workshop, giving them the opportunity to learn to take risks, overcome fears, and share responsibility as equals.

  • Peace X Peace is an international organization which connects women directly to one another across cultures to create a more balanced, peaceful world. In the safe environment of its online Global Network, Israeli and Palestinian women (as well as women from other backgrounds) form supportive friendships, educate and mentor each other, share expertise, design projects and initiatives, and deepen their commitments to peaceful conflict resolution.

  • PRIME (Peace Research Institute of the Middle East) is a project which organizes Israeli Jewish and Palestinian high school teachers to write parallel narrative histories of the important dates in their conflict. The resulting document is used by each side to teach both narratives to students on either side of the divide.

  • Shiministim is a loosely orgainized group of Israeli-Jewish conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the Israeli military in order to not support the ongoing occupation. Many have served, or are serving, jail time for their act of civil disobedience.

  • Ultimate Peace organize Israeli and Palestinian youth in Ultimate Frisbee teams in order to allow lifelong enemies to learn how to play together, forge new connections, and develop a deeper understanding of one another, bonding through shared athletic experience.

Thank you to the following people for sharing their inspirations: Rainer Waldman Adkins, David Barkan, Elizabeth Block, Marc Gopin, Bobbie Gottschalk, Robert Gutman, Judith Kaye, Judith Markoff Hansen, Brenda Naomi Rosenberg, Saffiya Shillo, Sue Swartz, Elissa Tivona, and Sue Wolpert.

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