Important Dates to Remember:

Summer Program Dates for 2017 are
July 12th - 
 July 31st

Farewell Celebrations at both sites will be held on Sunday, July 30th

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April, 2017

Executive Director Update
HOP American alumni visit Israel/Palestine
In a Hands of Peace first, a group of 12 American alumni travelled to the Middle East during Spring Break to experience the multiple narratives in Israel/Palestine.  Chaperoned by Chicago Program Director Julia Duerst and San Diego Site Director Sarah Heirendt, the alumni visited towns and cities on both sides of the green line.    Equally as significant, the Americans experienced the hospitality of host families in the Jerusalem, Nablus and Haifa areas.   For many participants, their visit was transformational.   For Hands of Peace, the immersion marked another new chapter for our organization - and represented a pilot program we hope to repeat annually.

Building A Network, Increasing Collective Impact
Did you know that Hands of Peace is one of more than 100 organizations focused on peace between Israelis and Palestinians?   These organizations come in all shapes and sizes.  Some focus on sports.   Some are based in music or theatre.  Some build community-based projects in Israel/Palestine.  And some - like Hands of Peace - leverage dialogue as a starting point for building trust and momentum.  Regardless of approach, there is an increasing sense that we will be more successful if we raise our voices together - demanding freedom, equality, justice and peace -- instead of as 100 separate voices. The buzzword in the non-profit world is "collective impact".   To that end, Hands of Peace continues to reach out to organizations both in the United States and in Israel/Palestine to look for opportunities to increase our collective impact.  
During March, members of the management team attended two key conferences in Washington.   The first was sponsored by Telos Group, an organization that connects American faith groups with peace-focused NGOs.   The second was sponsored by Alliance for Middle East Peace, which gives peace NGOs tactical opportunities to work together on behalf of Israelis and Palestinians.  The Regional Managers also have meetings with new contacts and organizations on a frequent basis.  In late April, Rick Rosenfeld travels to the Middle East for meetings with contacts in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv.   All of these contacts are potential partners on programmatic or fund development components.

Summer Program Help
Do you want to personally get involved with our summer program? Young people in dialogue, team-building and leadership activities work up quite an appetite! Because neither of our sites allows for a built-in lunch program that meets these needs, all lunches during the summer program are catered by a team of amazing volunteers. This July we are offering the unique opportunity to provide a meal to our incredible youth during the summer program.  This entails supplying a meal and bringing it to the program site where you can enjoy it with the participants. Lunch is always high energy and fun and provides the perfect opportunity for you to get to know our participants and staff while helping contribute to our organization!  Meals can be purchased or home cooked but many of the appetites come with special dietary needs. Lunch on a typical day feeds 60 people. To learn more please contact Rhonda McCarty in Chicago or Sarah Heirendt in San Diego.

Volunteer Highlight -  Hands of Peace Volunteers Participate in a  Jewish-Muslim Sisterhood
Almost a year ago, two women who are Hands of Peace volunteers, Vera Ginburg and Marily Schonthal, attended an informational meeting about a new group that was forming in Chicago.  The group was a new chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS), a national organization with one small, but mighty goal of having women wage peace. How to wage peace?  The answer is seemingly simple - by creating relationships.  A small group of Muslim and Jewish women meet in each other's homes every four to six weeks and come to know each other's lives, religions and cultures.
In our current political climate waging peace is a vital task.  A quote from the 2017 SOSS Unity Vigil says it best, "We gather together ...  because ignorance of each other's traditions leads to divisiveness, while knowledge of the other encourages understanding.'" Doing this in a controlled and safe environment where every woman is guaranteed time to talk and share seems the best possible way for Muslim and Jewish women to get to know each other.  We have found that we have so much in common, and sharing rituals, foods, and stories that substantiate that similarity between us has been enriching.  From the concept of B'sherit or Kismet, to learning about fasting rituals, life cycle events, studying sacred language of our texts, and sharing family stories, we have slowly bonded and melded into a true sisterhood.

This past week we participated  in a Women's Seder. We read the Haggadah, sang songs using voices and tamborines, recited blessings in both Hebrew and Arabic and celebrated our common humanity as well as our sacred diversity. We continue to be reminded that there is strength in being together as one.

Middle East Updates
Regional Managers Rana Haddad, Hoda Barakat, and Hamutal Blanc
Thanks to the generous support of donors, in late March, the Board of Directors approved running a full size summer program in both Chicago and San Diego!!  This means that 20 Palestinians, 20 Jewish Israelis, and 12 Palestinian Citizens of Israel will be travelling to the United States in July - divided equally across the two sites.   When you add in American participants, we are currently expecting more than 95 total Hands and XLs this year - our largest group ever.   Three of the four delegations set or equaled records in terms of the number of applications received - showing that awareness of Hands of Peace and its mission are resonating with more and more teens.  
More great news:  Almost all of the Palestinian participants have already been approved for their visas!   Congratulations to Regional Managers Hoda Barakat and Hamutal Blanc for partnering to make this happen.  Hamutal made arrangements for permits for entry into Israel to visit the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.   Hoda gathered all of the required paperwork, photographs, and fees, and escorted the teens across the checkpoint to the consulate.  For the teens, this was a vital first step toward their coming to the U.S. this summer.  And the good news is that since visas are valid for three years, Palestinian XLs don't need to reapply for visas when they come back to San Diego or Chicago for a second summer.

Chicago Updates and 
Upcoming Events
HOPEducation Event
A Dish and a Story: a time of sharing  for the 
HOP community
Monday, May 15, 2017 -  6:00pm - 8:00pm
Glenview Community Church
This pot-luck time of sharing is a great opportunity for past and future host families to get better acquainted with each other, our staff and other members of the Chicago Hands of Peace Community. Please bring a dish that has some meaning for you, your family, or your cultural heritage. 
Everyone welcome!  

Important to RSVP for this event. Reach out to  Rhonda McCarty via email or by phone at 901-230-7119.

San Diego Updates and 
Upcoming Events
HOPEducation Event: San Diego Alumni Share About Their Israel-Palestine Trip 
Sunday, April 23, 2017 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Temple Solel
3575 Manchester Ave., Cardiff by the Sea
Please join us for an evening of reflection as our San Diego alumni discuss their recent visit to Israel-Palestine. For the first time ever Chicago and San Diego alumni went on a dual narrative trip to the region. Hear about the San Diego alumni experience and see photos of their incredible journey. Highlights from this trip include: staying with host families in the region, visiting fellow alumni and a packed itinerary that included time in Jerusalem, Nablus, Haifa and Tel Aviv.  RSVP to  Sarah Heirendt .

HOPEducation Book Club
Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 5:00pm
Residence of Jenny Parker
San Diego Book Club  is reading "Lawrence in Arabia" by Scott Anderson.  The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War I was, in the words of T. E. Lawrence, "a sideshow of a sideshow." As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power.  At the center of it all was Lawrence himself. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in Syria; by 1917 he was riding into legend at the head of an Arab army as he fought a rearguard action against his own government and its imperial ambitions.  Based on four years of intensive primary document research, " Lawrence in Arabia"  definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Please bring a dish to share, and  RSVP to  Eileen Maurer.

HOPEducation Night with Peter Bolland
Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 5:00pm
Christ Presbyterian Church
7807 Centella St., Carlsbad
Please join us for the next HOPEducation event featuring Peter Bolland! His lecture will explore building peace with insights from the world's wisdom traditions. What practical advice do the world's religions and philosophies offer when it comes to the vexing problem of mending old wounds and healing painful conflicts? It is often lamented that our religious diversity is the source of so much of the animosity in the world, but the fact remains, it is from deep within those very same spiritual and religious traditions that the medicine comes to heal our woundedness. Please join us for this insightful, thought-provoking and engaging exploration!  RSVP to  Sarah Heirendt .

Bolland is the chair of the humanities department and a professor of philosophy and humanities at Southwestern College where he teaches world religions, world mythology, ethics, and Asian philosophy. Bolland is also a columnist for both Unity Magazine and the San Diego Troubadour as well as an award winning singer-songwriter and poet. Bolland brings all of these threads together with frequent public speaking, performing, and teaching presentations in the wider community, including a bi-monthly Satsang (guided meditation workshop) at Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living. All of his published writing can be seen on his blog "Thinking Through," and a complete calendar of upcoming events is available at

EDArticleExecutive Director Update (continued)
American alumni at the 
 Separation Wall
The program was divided into three modules, each containing cultural visits, a debrief/dialogue session and alumni dinner with friends met during previous summer programs.
The first third of the trip focused on history, as the group visited Jerusalem's Old City, Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum), and the depopulated Palestinian town of Ein Karem - now an outlying Jerusalem neighborhood.   The middle of the trip allowed the alums to see life on the Palestinian side of the green line, with visits to Hebron, a refugee camp in Bethlehem, and Nablus.   The final portion of the trip focused on Palestinian Citizens of Israel, with a multicultural visit to Haifa, as well as a brief visit to Nazareth and an impactful afternoon in the town of Umm El Fahm.   
While the experience pushed everyone's comfort zone during the day, it was the evenings that helped make the program even more special.  The visitors were able to hang out and socialize with more than 50 Israeli and Palestinian alumni at different points during the week - many from the same HOP year and the same city.   Having a free evening with host families in each location gave our participants exposure to the generosity of the local community.
Perhaps the biggest benefit is that 8 of the Americans will be participating in the HOP XL program this summer, giving them a second opportunity to explore with peers in dialogue.  We can only imagine how rich the dialogue experience will be with Americans who have seen first-hand some of the nuances of the Israeli/Palestinian reality.
Congratulations to all HOP alums who participated in this pioneering achievement - on both sides of the Atlantic.  You should all be very proud!   Thank you to Julia and Sarah for their tireless effort escorting the group.   And thank you to our three Regional Managers and the guides for their extraordinary effort in managing each day to make it as meaningful as possible for our alumni.

Please feel free to reach out to me at any time at

Shalom, Salaam, Peace,  

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