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 

For American Participant applications 

For Palestinian Participant applications
click here.

For Palestinian Citizen of Israel applications

For Jewish Israel applications 

For XL Applications 

Click here to purchase tickets
 San Diego Benefit Sunday, March 5th

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February, 2017

Executive Director Update
Being proud when our alumni are bold.
This past month, I've taken some time to sit back and observe our alumni in action.  Watching them continue to push their comfort zones is amazing to behold.   The efforts that they are taking to fight for Freedom, Equality, Justice and a Positive Peace for all Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans are worthy of sharing with the full Hands of Peace community. I hope you join me in being incredibly proud of the extremely important work they are doing. 

Click here to donate now...
Feeling the need to DO SOMETHING these days? When you donate to Hands of Peace you are empowering our youth to BE leaders of change - to raise their voices for peace, equality, freedom and justice.  NOW MORE THAN EVER!

New Hands of Peace Donor Salons!
Naples, Florida was the setting for the first HOP Donor Salon! Long-time supporters Lloyd and Kathryn Bettis opened their home and invited their friends to meet ED Rick Rosenfeld and Founder Gretchen Grad, to learn about HOP and hear the latest program developments.

A second Salon was held in Glenview on Feb. 1 co-hosted by Advisory Board member Dr. Peg Lee  and Host Family Michael and Laura Fine.

In both locations guests enjoyed an evening of socializing, had probing questions about HOP mission and impact and were inspired to offer their support. Proceeds will go towards our scholarship program for summer participants.

Interested in attending or hosting a Donor Salon? contact  Gretchen Grad  or call 847-707-7033.

Alumni Profile - Rob Klein, American Participant 
Rob Klein is just one of the many Hands who are making a lasting difference. He was able to take what he learned through Hands of Peace and establish himself at an institution where he was not alone. Through his journey, Rob met other students who felt the same passion as him, and who cared about issues not commonly confronted.  Here is his story in his own words:

"I've always wanted to do something different that not a lot of people were doing. By having family that lives in Israel, I wanted to learn more about the conflict to gain global competence. After participating in HOP, I knew that I wanted to surround myself with inspirational, aware and growth-oriented people. I was able to take what I learned, go to college, and establish myself there. I'm studying agricultural leadership and science education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I'm in the process of applying to PhD programs in psychology for when I graduate in 2018.

Unite Our Campus was the brainchild of a master's student, Jen Chan, who wanted to do something impactful on campus. Together with a group of eight other students, we planned an event on media representation of various social identities. After securing funding, we went out to find keynote speakers for our dialogue based group. We invited Anjul Nigam, a South Asian actor on Grey's Anatomy who spoke about what it's like to be an Indian actor in Hollywood; Dr. Janice Collins, an Emmy award winning journalism professor at UIUC, who spoke about how black people are portrayed in the news; and Dr. Renee Romano, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UIUC. After the keynotes, students went to breakout rooms to discuss contemporary issues on colorism, exoticism, gender, ability status, religion and nationality. We had over 70 people at the event. I worked to design an assessment tool that showed overwhelmingly that people enjoyed the program and learned something. From the qualitative responses, the most powerful was something along the lines of 'I don't need to be afraid of people who are different from me.' I believe we made lasting change. 

Currently, I'm working with an administrator in the office of International Student and Scholar Services, exploring some potential initiatives to pursue, including establishing prayer spaces for Muslim students and other students in campus buildings, connecting cultural student organizations with other student organizations and the administration to build connections and pool resources, and developing diversity and inclusion programming for members of Greek life, student athletes and other student groups on campus."

Middle East Updates
A final reminder that the deadlines for applications for the 2017 summer program are imminent.   Click here to apply now!

In addition, Hands of Peace has received many questions about the potential impact of the highly controversial U.S. travel ban on the summer program.  To date, seven predominately Muslim countries appear on the list of nations whose citizens are unable to travel to the United States for a 90 day period.  Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians are not impacted by this ban, which has been temporarily suspended by the courts.  This week, John Kelly, the head of Homeland Security, announced that no additional countries are being considered for the list.  While not a guarantee, this is certainly encouraging for Hands of Peace.  Still we have been asked by many of our supporters "What if . . . ?"   

We are at the early stages of working on contingency plans in the unlikely event that the summer program is impacted.  In addition, we are convening a small task force that will focus partly on alternatives for the summer program, but mostly on how to smooth the process for Hands of Peace participants when they first arrive at Immigration in Illinois and California airports.  If any of our American constituents have experience with Immigration/Customs, please reach out to Rick Rosenfeld  and he will add you to the task force.

For applicants from Israel/Palestine, it is important to remember that the Hands of Peace communities in Chicago and San Diego are warm and caring.  As always, they are extremely excited to host our overseas participants and we're seeing record numbers of host family applications so far this year.

Chicago Updates and 
Upcoming Events
New Independent Study Program
Chicago Program Director, Julia Duerst, has launched a pilot Independent Study at Glenbrook South High School in cooperation with Social Studies teacher, Daniel Rhoades. The course, entitled "Readings and Discourse on the Contemporary Middle East" was developed by Julia and will be led by her on alternate Tuesday afternoons. Participants will examine how historians, journalists, writers, political figures, and average Israelis and Palestinians have attempted to make sense of their peoples' past and future. Whether they watch a documentary exploring Zionism, take a field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum led by docent and HOP Mom, Lori Kaskowitz-Kenward, listen to a podcast segment on how Palestinians experience Israeli military presence in the West Bank, or read about the pitfalls and prospects of different solutions, students will continually assess sources' perspectives, scope, and their impact on our greater understanding of the situation in Israel/Palestine. They will approach each source not only as a means to information but also as an object of study itself - a contribution to the conversation. This innovative approach to recruiting and preparing American participants for Hands of Peace is also an excellent example of how our staff strives to educate and give back to the community. Thank you, Julia, and good luck with this relevant and meaningful initiative!

Semitic Commonwealth
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Silk Road Rising Theater
77 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 
Semitic Commonwealth is a  staged reading series comprised of six plays by Arab and Jewish playwrights exploring the human toll of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   Join Hands of Peace supporters for the reading of Motti Lerner's play "The Admission" on Saturday, February 11th at 8:00pm. 

Additional Activities include t he 4PM Reading of " Scenes from 69 Years"  by Hannah Khalil,  followed by dinner and stimulating discussion with HOP staff and volunteers at Roti Modern Mediterranean. 

Tickets for each performance are $10.00, and can be purchased at:

Please purchase tickets on your own,  but RSVP to Sarah Latif if you plan to attend one or both readings. 

HOPEducation Movie Night
"Disturbing the Peace"
Monday, March 6, 2017 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Mayflower Room, Glenview Community Church
Join us for an encore screening of "Disturbing the Peace", a film which follows former enemy combatants - Israeli soldiers from elite units and Palestinian fighters, many of whom served years in prison - who have joined together to challenge the status quo and say "enough". The film reveals their transformational journeys from soldiers committed to armed battle to nonviolent peace activists, leading to the creation of Combatants for Peace. This event is free and open to the public. 

Concert for Peace: We're Still Here
Free will donation to benefit Hands of Peace
Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 3:00 PM
Glenview Community Church
Photo Credit Marc Perlish
The Simple Gifts Concert Series of the Glenview Community Church hosts a concert exploring the theme of "peace" Sunday, March 19th at 3:00pm.  Violinist Katherine Hughes, saxophonist Kevin Kizer, the HAWK String Quartet (Carol Kalvonjian, violinist, Benton Wedge, violist, and Jill Kaeding, cellist), organist Gary Wendt, jazz vocalist Jade Maze, and the rhythm section of Kent Wehman, Ken Haebich, and Neal Wehman perform songs about peace in a variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary. Collaborating with these musicians will be representatives of different faith communities including Hazzan Roger Weisberg from Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove and participants from the Turkish American Society in Mount Prospect. And enjoy an accompanying art show, curated by Pat Albano from Aaron Galleries in Glenview.  A free-will offering benefits Hands of Peace.

San Diego Updates and 
Upcoming Events
HOPEducation Event - Ted Talks & Discourse
Sunday, February 12, 2017 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Temple Solel, Cardiff by the Sea
Please join us on Sunday, February 12th for our next HOPEducation event: Ted Talks & Discourse. Our very own alumni will be facilitating compelling dialogue as we preview Ted Talks centered around themes of non-violence then engage in a group discussion. We will explore what power, resistance and non-violence mean to us both in our current political state as well as abroad.  RSVP to  Sarah Heirendt .

San Diego Benefit Evening
Sunday, March 5, 2017
5:30pm - 8:30pm
Please join us for an unforgettable evening celebrating music, culture and cuisine "Under the Middle Eastern Sky" at the beautiful San Diego Central Library downtown. The evening will be packed with fun and meaning including:

-Music by Todo Mundo - San Diego's favorite world music band 
-Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi  - Renowned Klezmer, gypsy and Arabic sounds 
-Olive Branch Award winner Azim Khamisa for being a model of forgiveness in the midst of tragedy and impacting millions of people, including our San Diego participants
-Gourmet Middle Eastern cuisine
-Delicious locally crafted beer and wine
-Many more fun surprises

"Under the Middle Eastern Sky" directly benefits the San Diego Hands of Peace program that empowers young people as leaders of change in their communities.

A limited number of tickets are available and tickets will sell out! Purchase tickets now at

Peace Heroes Walk
Sunday, March 19, 2017 9:00am - 11:00am
Magee Park, Carlsbad
The Peace Heroes Walk is a joint initiative between the 21st Century Peace Literacy Foundation and San Diego Rotarians. Peace heroes are people from all walks of life who have taken risks to embody nonviolent ideas (justice, reconciliation, interconnection and rejection of vengeance) and have succeeded in making the world a less violent and more just place. We will honor heroes like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Malala and HOP Founder Gretchen Grad by carrying signs with their images and quotes. While Peace Heroes Walks have been held in other cities, this will be the first time for San Diego and we want you to be a part of it.  We have many common interests and we welcome your participation. 

This event is free and open to the public. Wear your favorite peace themed T-shirt. There will be live entertainment and a 2 mile walk starting from the Gazebo. If you have any questions please reach out to our walk organizers at

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.
EDArticleExecutive Director Update (continued)
Let's start with the January regional seminar in the Middle East.  For the first time ever, Hands of Peace held an overnight seminar in the Palestinian village of Beit Jala near Bethlehem.   In total, more than 60 people attended - roughly double the size of the winter seminar from last year.   At the beginning of the seminar, the program focused on checkpoints, settlements, and villages - as our alumni sought to learn about these difficult topics.   The program visited the Palestinian village of Al Walaja where alums had lunch in the home of a local resident - learning about his life and hearing about the uncertain future of the town, which is nearly enclosed by an expanding settlement and the separation wall.   This experience challenged Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in different ways. For the Jewish Israelis, many were visiting a Palestinian town for the first time in their lives. For them, the singular act of passing through the Tunnels checkpoint, was a bold statement.  For the Palestinians, the tour took them outside the entrance of the Israeli settlement of Har Gilo.  Standing in the proximity of a settlement, possibly for the first time, was a bold statement.  For the Palestinian Citizens of Israel, most have spent time in the West Bank/Palestine visiting relatives - most typically in the large cities.  But for many, this was their first opportunity to see first-hand a settlement and a neighboring Palestinian village - another bold statement. 

The dialogue sessions that followed the tour were robust and challenging.  For all of our Middle East alumni who attended the seminar, thank you for your willingness to be uncomfortable and to experience this visit together with your Hands of Peace colleagues from other delegations.  For those who missed it, we hope to have an opportunity to repeat this important half-day tour as a daytrip in the Spring.   Please watch for more details.   And to all of you who have helped with 2017 recruitment, a huge "thank you". 

The teens within our American alumni network have also been busy.  In San Diego, some of our alumni participated in the Women's March in January, helped to facilitate dialogues on non-violent resistance, and formed a Hands of Peace club at a local school.  In Chicago, a group of alumni worked to build the curriculum for a Bystander Intervention training program and helped facilitate the session with 20-30 adults. Others spent time at a local library selecting more books to ship to the Umm El Fahem library, which recently opened.  In both cities, alumni are assisting with recruitment and interviews.   

To all of our alums who are working toward Freedom, Equality, Justice and a Positive Peace:  Thank you for all of your bold work.  We are proud of you and are inspired by you!

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

Shalom, Salaam, Peace,  

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