Important Dates to Remember:

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

Applications for 2017 Summer Program  are available on our website.

For Host Family applications click here.

For American Participant applications click here.

For Palestinian Participant applications
click here.

For Palestinian Citizen of Israel applications click here.

For Jewish Israel applications click here.

For XL Applications click here.

 San Diego Benefit Evening 
 "Under the Middle Eastern Sky" celebrates the music, culture and cuisine 
of the Middle East on 
 Sunday, March 5th at the San Diego Central Public Library.
Watch your mailbox for a Save the Date!

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December, 2016

Executive Director Update
Of Wildfires, Wilder Tweets, Wildest Dreams
Well, November was quite an interesting and challenging month.  For those of us in Chicago, the month started with the World Series title - a baseball championship for the Cubs after a 108 year drought!  But November progressed in some very unexpected ways.  The U.S. presidential election resulted in a "shift to the right" mirroring similar patterns in other parts of the world.  Later in the month, wildfires raged throughout northern Israel and parts of Palestine, sparking both cooperation and tensions.  Meanwhile back in the U.S., Americans celebrated Thanksgiving - our most iconic national holiday.   In this month's Executive Director notes, I will share some observations on each.  Please check out the rest of the newsletter!  My thoughts continue at the bottom.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace . . . and a very happy New Year,

Recruitment for 2017 Summer Program  
Do you know a teen between the ages of 15-17 who would benefit from our program? Or a family that would be willing to join our community of host families and host a Jewish Israeli or Palestinian for 19 days? Applications for our 2017 summer program are now available on our   website What sets Hands of Peace apart from similar dialogue programs is the incredible support of carefully vetted host families and brilliant student delegations that are made up of self-aware, critical thinkers. Referral is our best recruitment strategy, so please share the work of Hands of Peace with your friends and neighbors, and encourage them to apply. 

We are now scheduling host family and participant recruitment outreach at all sites. If you'd like someone to speak to your class or group, please contact Jewish Israeli Regional Manager Hamutal Blanc, Palestinian Regional Manager Hoda Barakat, Palestinian Citizen of Israel Regional Manager Rana Haddad, San Diego Site Director  Scott Silk, or  Chicago Site Director  Rhonda McCarty.

Meet Our New San Diego Site Director
Hands of Peace is proud to announce that Sarah Heirendt has joined the Hands of Peace staff as San Diego Site Director effective January 1, 2017.  Sarah served as our San Diego Assistant Program Director last summer as well as our leadership training facilitator. She will work closely with current site director Scott Silk as she transitions to this new role. To view our full press release,  click here.
#GivingTuesday Update
Thank you to all who participated in our first ever #GivingTuesday campaign. In just one day, we raised over $13,500 which includes a $1,000 Gates Foundation incentive grant and a generous supporter match. 
If you didn't have a chance to participate on #GivingTuesday, you can still make a difference during our year end appeal - a great way to DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT and support Hands of Peace - just click here!

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Hands of Peace has launched our new Instagram page - please follow us @HandsofPeace!

Middle East Updates
While winter may seem to be off-season for Hands of Peace, recruiting is underway for our 2017 Israeli and Palestinian delegations.  For our Jewish Israeli and Palestinian Citizens of Israel groups, our regional managers Hamutal and Rana are assisted in recruiting efforts by HOP alums.  Our alums visit schools, talk to teenagers and share HOP's inspiring message about freedom, justice, equality and peace for all Israelis and Palestinians.  This message resonates with many teens and we routinely receive significantly more quality applications than we have openings in Chicago and San Diego.  Later in the winter, Hamutal and Rana will focus on interviewing many of these applicants and then making hard decisions for the summer.

Our Palestinian delegation is different, and faces some unique challenges.  The Palestinian community as a whole is reluctant to embrace dialogue organizations - concerned that "peace" simply is a promise of "coexistence" without addressing the underlying issues.  While we at HOP and our alums understand our goal is a just and positive peace for all, our regional manager Hoda spends extensive time explaining to Palestinian families the importance of Hands of Peace and reasons why their teens should be involved.  The path is long and hard, as Hoda focuses on individual meetings in cities and towns throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  But by the time she is done, she will have assembled a top-notch, talented group of Palestinian teens to travel to the U.S.

Winter recruitment efforts aren't limited to the Middle East, of course.  Our U.S. site and program directors continue their aggressive outreach to schools and clubs in the Chicago and San Diego areas.  They search for students who are interested in learning the nuances of the many narratives that Israelis and Palestinians will share.   Successful candidates become lifelong advocates for social justice, both at home and abroad.

At the end of the long and time-intensive process, we will have assembled an excellent HOP Class of 2017!

Chicago Updates and 
Upcoming Events
Thanks to our Chicago friends for attending the December 5th special screening of "Disturbing the Peace" Several people  commented on the quality of the production, its importance and relevance, and its comprehensive scopeThe movie prompted a great discussion about theories of change, the impact of story sharing, and the importance of refining the focus of our dialogues and alliances in the current political climate. We also benefited from having the chance to talk at length about normalization and anti-normalization; although we, as a staff, have been dealing with this complex topic for the past year, our volunteers were less familiar with the daunting challenge presented by these opposing views. Giving keen interest, we are considering offering an additional screening for those who missed this opportunity. 

HOPEducation Event: "The Promised Band"
Thursday, January 5th - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
St. Mary's Parish School
50 N Buffalo Grove Road - Buffalo Grove
"The Promised Band" features a group of women with questionable musical talent, who form a band to navigate borders in Israel and Palestine. One cast member, Lina Qadri, is the mother of a Hands of Peace alumna. Join us for a repeat showing of this film that was written and produced by last year's Chicago Benefit Evening guests, Jen Heck and Maria De La O.  For more information or to RSVP, please contact  Rhonda McCarty.

HOPEducation Event: Bystander Intervention
January 23, 2017 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location TBD 
Have you ever witnessed someone being harassed or threatened with violence based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, etc.?   Have you ever been harassed or threatened? Learn how to safely address and de-escalate such situations at this HOPEducation event  led by our very own Chicago Alumni Club. 
San Diego Updates and 
Upcoming Events
San Diego Book Club
Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh 
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
San Diego Book Club  is reading "Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Yoru Family, Your Community, and the World" by Thich Nhat Hanh . Creating True Peace is both a profound work of spiritual guidance and a practical blueprint for peaceful inner change and global change. It is the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh's answer to our deep-rooted crisis of violence and our feelings of helplessness, victimization, and fear. As a world-renowned writer, scholar, spiritual leader, and Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most visible, revered activists for peace and Engaged Buddhism -- the practice he created that combines mindful living and social action. Having lived through two wars in his native Vietnam, he works to prevent conflict of all kinds -- from the internal violence of individual thoughts to interpersonal and international aggression. Thich Nhat Hanh uses a beautiful blend of visionary insight, inspiring stories of peacemaking, and a combination of meditation practices and instruction to show us how to take Right Action. A book for people of all faiths, it is a magnum opus -- a compendium of peace practices that can help anyone practice nonviolent thought and behavior, even in the midst of world upheaval. 

Next month's book club will continue reading "Laurence in Arabia".

Book Club will be hosted by Melinda Wyner. If you would like  more information, or to RSVP, please contact  Eileen Maurer.

HOPEducation Event:  The Role of Inner Peace in Peacemaking
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Christ Presbyterian Church
7807 Centella Street, Carlsbad
Given the changes and challenges that  confront us in our own lives , in our country, and around  the world , it's no wonder many of us feel  off-kilter, fearful,  and even  angry -and inner peace seems an elusive ideal.   However,  inner peace is possible with the right tools and strategies.  Please join us for this 2 - hour workshop exploring how you can navigate change and uncertainty-and find inner peace.. RSVP to Eileen Maurer.

Sunday, March 5th
San Diego Benefit Evening 
The San Diego Benefit Evening planning committee is underway, and the members are working hard to create a fabulous evening. "Under the Middle Eastern Sky" celebrates the music, culture and cuisine of the Middle East on Sunday, March 5th at the San Diego Central Public Library. Watch your mailbox for a Save the Date and please join us!

If you are willing to help on the committee, please contact Kim Lande.

ExecUpdateExecutive Director Update (continued)
Of Wildfires, Wilder Tweets, Wildest Dreams.

Wildfires.    Tens of thousands of people were evacuated in northern Israel and 800 homes were damaged in a tragic series of fires that burned in northern Israel.  Throughout the 4-day ordeal, Hands of Peace alums from across Israel, Palestine and the U.S. frequently checked in with each other to make sure everyone was OK.  We heard from alums in Haifa that they could see smoke in the distance from their windows as they awaited potential evacuation orders.  Word from alums in Umm El Fahm and northern towns in the West Bank was that things were hectic, but everyone was OK.  Outside of the HOP community there were many acts of kindness.  People helping people.  Regardless of background or nationality.  Arab communities reached out to shelter Jewish evacuees.   Jews and Palestinian Citizens of Israel worked side by side to salvage treasurers from a burning restaurant.   Palestinian fire brigades travelled from Jenin to help fight fires in Haifa.   Yet despite these many acts of kindness, some  people within and outside the governments  used the fires as a chance to spread something more dangerous than flames: Fear, anger, distrust and misinformation   Still, it is important to remember that the majority of those near the fires reacted bravely, supporting each other in time of crisis.  Most important, we are relieved that all in the HOP community are safe.   
Wilder Tweets.   Meanwhile back in the U.S., we have dealt with a firestorm of hatred not seen here in decades.  Regardless of which candidate we as individuals supported during the election, there is no doubt that incidents of hatred, racism, and bigotry have increased in the past month.  Swastikas painted on synagogues.  Muslim American women having their hijabs pulled from their heads in public, while being told  "go back to your own country".  LGBTQ Americans fearing that hard-fought rights would be taken from them.  Tweets and other social media outbursts targeting religious and ethnic minorities have gone too far.  #SiegHeil and #DeportMuslims hashtags offend not only Jews and Muslims, but all of us who are committed to equality and social justice.  Signs stating "Make America  Great  White Again" occasionally pop up online, behind the anonymity of the Internet.  Many American organizations, including HOP, are fighting back against this increasingly visible hatred - a hatred that is not new, but is just being spewed by an increasingly emboldened minority who feel it is now OK to stick their heads above the radar and condemn "the other".  The majority of Americans - regardless of which way they voted - reject hatred and bigotry.  Now is the time for all of us in the U.S. to stand up against the vocal fringes of our society. 

Wildest Dreams.    Despite the abundance of nastiness during the past month, I remain an optimist.  I firmly believe that the majority of people in every country, culture, religion support equality.   And I look to November's Thanksgiving holiday as a reminder of all I am thankful for.  I am thankful that we live in a world with diverse and rich traditions where we can learn what makes each of our cultures beautiful.  I am thankful for stories of kindness that I read every day of strangers helping strangers, without regard to their beliefs, social status, or race.   I am thankful that 2016 was the year that I got to meet so many of you, and learn about the things you selflessly do in your lives for the good of others.    

So at this wild time, let me thank YOU for giving me the opportunity to serve Hands of Peace.  And let me encou rage each of you - from teen to senior citizen and everyone in between - to look for opportunities to share peace, love, and compassion with those who are different from you.   In my wildest dreams I see us making a difference, both in our local communities and around the world.

Shalom, Salaam, Peace . . .  and a very happy New Year,  

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