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
- 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."
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish
Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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