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 


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January, 2017

Executive Director Update
Finding my HOP Voice - and navigating how to use it
Within the first two weeks of starting as Executive Director in June, I had my initial bout of self-doubt.  I found myself surrounded by very smart people.  Within our international and U.S. staff.  On our Board.  Among our volunteers.  How could I possibly learn enough about the realities of Israel/Palestine to be able to make a difference?   I felt nervous and a little intimidated.  Instead of trying to bluff and pretend that I knew more than I did, I decided to embrace my naiveté.  I chose to ask questions, and to listen carefully to answers from a variety of perspectives.  And I found comfort and hope in four key words from our newly crafted mission statement:  Freedom. Equality. Justice. Peace.

Year End Appeal Update
HOP Year End Fundraising Appeal Qualifies for Record Match!
Hands of Peace relies on fundraising to meet over 90% of our annual budget, and our year-end fundraising efforts are a critical part of making this program possible. And you stepped up!  Generous donors (individuals, family foundations, congregations) answered the challenge of a long-time supporter who offered to match your donations and we qualified for the entire $100,000 match! Your generosity was multiplied!!!!  That will help us pay for the plane tickets, facilitators, lunches and all the myriad pieces that go into empowering 80+ teen peacemakers this summer.

While our base of supporters are found primarily near Chicago and San Diego, we were thrilled to welcome new supporters from Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Texas.  Word is spreading!


Highlight on Scott Silk - outgoing San Diego Site Director and newest Board Member
In 2005, while working as a volunteer mediator in Chicago, I had the good fortune of answering a job posting for a dialogue facilitator at Hands of Peace.  At the time, I was a professional mediator and  history teacher who had always been fascinated and saddened by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  That first summer had a profound impact on me.  I remember the faces, the words, the smiles, and the tears of the amazing young people who participated that year. Above all, I was struck by the profound impact that face-to-face communication and sharing of stories could have on young people who were growing up during a particularly difficult time (the Second Intifada) in one of the most intractable global conflicts.  
After my third summer as a facilitator in 2007, I moved to San Diego, but I returned to Chicago for three more summers of dialogue facilitation.  During the summer of 2011, I approached Gretchen Grad to inquire about whether the HOP Board might consider expanding to a second site in San Diego.  Little did I know the journey that would result from that conversation.  Starting in the summer of 2012, I feverishly tried to sell the local San Diego community on the idea of HOP by reaching out to my own network, contacting local clergy, making presentations wherever they would listen, and sending more than a few blind emails.  Although there were more bumps in the road than I can write in this newsletter, I was lucky enough to find a group of key people who loved the idea and were willing to support it with their time and treasure.  In 2014, with the backdrop of the War in Gaza, we held our first summer program in San Diego.  Since that time, the program has grown in numbers, and the curriculum and staff have continued to expand in scope.  I am extremely proud of what we as a community of volunteers and staff have accomplished.  While I always recognized the impact that HOP has on its participants, I did not fully understand how much this program can effect local volunteers and the community at large.  The local HOP community has become a family, and our message of hope, understanding, and peace has touched thousands of San Diegans.  
While I am passing the role of Site Director to the amazing Sarah Heirendt, I am still not saying goodbye.  I am excited to play an active role on the HOP Board of Directors.  In my new capacity, I will focus on building the leadership development program for HOP XL's and alumni, and I will continue to raise money and conduct outreach in the community.  Who knows, I might even facilitate again some day.  Peace, Shalom, Salaam!

Middle East Updates
Do you know a teen between the ages of 15-17 who would benefit from our program? Applications for our 2017 summer program are now available on our    websiteWhat 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 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

And, if you know someone that would  be interested  in applying, please  direct them to the applications on our website, .

Hands of Peace is also seeking West Bank Palestinian chaperones, Jewish Israeli chaperones, and Palestinian Citizen of Israel chaperones for our  July 12-31, 2017  Summer Program. Chaperones must be at least 21 years old, reside in Israel or Palestine, speak strong English, and be available from  July 9 to August 3 . Applications are due via the online application form by February 17, 2017 .

Chicago Updates and 
Upcoming Events
Welcome New Chicago Intern!  
Sarah Latif has joined the Chicago HOP team as an intern and will be working at the Chicago office through May 2017. Sarah is currently a senior at Northeastern Illinois University majoring in Political Science. She plans to enter a Master's program in 2018, and hopes to work at the United Nations. As a Palestinian- and Lebanese-American woman, she has deep interest in and understanding of the struggles of peacemaking between the Palestinians and Israelis. At the same time she holds fast to the belief that "peacemaking is possible" and she intends to help move us closer to a just and positive peace by working and learning at Hands of Peace. We couldn't agree more!

Stand Up, Speak Out - 
Harassment Intervention Training 
Monday, January 23, 2017
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Glenview Public Library
1930 Glenview Rd, Glenview, IL  
This HOPEducation event will be an intergenerational community workshop for learning intervention and de-escalation techniques, led by our very own Chicago Alumni Club. Have you ever personally experienced or witnessed someone being harassed or threatened with violence for their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc? We will be discussing techniques to safely address and de-escalate these situations. Please RSVP on our Facebook Event Page.

Empowering the Diverse Community
Sunday, January 29, 2017
1:45pm - 4:00 pm 
Muslim Education Center Social Hall
8601 N. Menard,  Morton Grove, IL 
Join Hands of Peace Alumni at this event sponsored by the Muslim Community Center, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Open Communities. This is a  post inauguration walk and rally showing that nothing will stop us.... not weather, politics, physical or mental limitations, bigotry, or slanders to our faiths.  We will work together and have our voices heard!   For more information, and to RSVP, contact Anisa Laliwala    

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. 

San Diego Updates and 
Upcoming Events
Sister Faiths Event
Monday, January 16, 2017 
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Christ Presbyterian Church
7807 Centella Street, Carlsbad
Join Hands of Peace supporters for the 3rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Gathering sponsored by the Sister Faiths community. Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends will gather for fellowship, conversation, thoughts from interfaith leader Eboo Patel, and a short Sister Faiths march to honor Martin Luther King Jr. To RSVP, please click here.

HOPEducation Event:  The Role of Inner Peace
in Peacemaking
Sunday, January 29, 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 Sarah Heirendt.

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 an invitation and please join us!

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

EDArticleExecutive Director Update (continued)
Finding my HOP Voice - and navigating how to use it 

Freedom, equality, justice and peace.   For all Israelis.  For all Palestinians.  (And for all Americans, too.)  But I learned quickly that what seemed to be so easy in concept was much more difficult in practice.  I remember during my first month trying to create a map with our U.S. and International staff.  It took us two weeks to agree on what lines could be drawn and what terminology could be used.  I learned that it is difficult to say anything without offending someone. Many Israelis struggle with the words "Occupation" and "Nakba". Many Palestinians struggle with the words "Terrorist" and "(Israel) Independence Day".  Even when I found words that Israelis and Palestinians could agree on, I risked alienating our American volunteer and donor base.
So I learned that the easiest thing to do was to say nothing.   To boil down terminology to such a base level that it loses all its meaning.    By doing so, I could avoid being called "too pro-Israel" or "too pro-Palestine" but by choosing the safe path, I also risked having no Voice.
Here is my reality:  I am not "pro" one side or another.  I am pro-people.  I am pro-peace.  I have learned quickly that the status quo yields no winners.  I have learned that violence begets more violence.  I have learned that the grief and despair of an Israeli mother who loses a son are as deep as that of a Palestinian mother who loses a son.  And that the tears of a Palestinian man who loses his sister are as harsh and as bitter as those of an Israeli man who loses his sister.  From talking with and listening to Palestinians and Israelis - the overwhelming majority of whom are good people - I firmly believe that the "costs of being right" are too high.  And the rewards of a just and positive peace will benefit all.
What is the solution and how do we get there?     That, of course, is the question that has perplexed everyone for generations.  When you have so many different opinions both within Israeli society and within Palestinian society, coming up with a workable solution becomes very difficult.   But I do believe Hands of Peace plays a crucial role, and our organization continues to evolve to better prepare for the future.  In addition to our summer program and alumni seminars, we continue to look for ways to offer our alumni opportunities to learn and engage in working toward Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Peace.   Our American alums will travel to Israel/Palestine in March.  Our Middle East staff is working to provide our alumni with meaningful project and advocacy work with other like-minded organizations.  And our Regional Managers are building new programming specifically oriented toward our older alumni.
As we grow, I have discussed with our staff and our Board the importance of using my Voice.    I know at some point, I will make a statement that will not sit well with each of you.   Let's talk about it when it happens.  It will help all of us in the Hands of Peace family to learn and grow together.   As an organization - as a community - we should use our collective Voice and not be satisfied until there is Freedom. Equality. Justice. Peace.  For all.  

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

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

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