"You have to have a shield of sorts. And if the shield is nonexistent or too thin, you are not going to make it, you are going to go to pieces. And if it is too thick you will lose your passion."
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights Israel. Rabbis for Human Rights advocates for human rights and social justice based on a humanistic interpretation of Judaism. The organization struggles against Israeli expropriation of Palestinian-owned lands, house demolitions, and settler takeovers of land, as well as advocates for social welfare rights for participants in Israel's Wisconsin Plan and others of its kind.
"I’ve learned the power of my counterparts on this path, seeing myself as part of a very large and extensive struggle, and I have no idea when and if it will end. There is something realistic in the realization I’m a part of something much larger."
Trained as a lawyer, Sari Bashi and Professor Kenneth Mann founded Gisha, an organization that utilizes direct legal assistance and public advocacy measures to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians. As Gisha's current Executive Director, Sari works to promote awareness of and sensitivity to human rights, challenging Israeli audiences, policy makers and thought leaders to recognize the great importance of ensuring those rights even during times of conflict.
"Governments sign treaties, people make peace [...] I deal with humanitarian issues, working in ways I think Israel should, and I think wants to manage its affairs."
Assisting Palestinians in need of healthcare in Israel and supporting their families, organizing soccer tournaments and day trips for Israeli and Palestinian children, helping Palestinian farmers harvest their olives, collecting food for the hungry in Israel – these a few examples of Buma Inbar’s work. Buma chooses to work independently, occasionally cooperating with other organizations in order to promote a civil agenda for peace, that will affect the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.
“When there is real fighting, there is an increased need for us to model how opponents should engage in dialogue.”
Yossi Alpher is the co-editor and co-founder of Bitterlemons.org, an English Internet magazine that serves as a platform for discussions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The idea for the website was born out of Yossi’s extensive involvement with Track II negotiations, where he met his partner and the co-founder of Bitterlemons.org, Ghassan Khatib. With the power of the internet, which made multi-party spaces for dialogue worldwide a feasible reality, Bitterlemons.org was launched.
"I’ve learned the skills necessary for containing the paradoxes, pain, anger, absurdities and injustices, I do only what is possible, not what is impossible."
Erella Dunayevsky grew up in Haifa and lives on Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev, where she was raised, and is a mental health therapist. Erella helped found the “Villages Group”, a group of individuals working in villages in the Nablus area and South Hebron Hills according to their strengths and capacities. Erella works to strengthen relationships and ties between Palestinians and Israelis. In the past, she was part of a group of mental health professionals who worked with Israelis and Palestinians in Nablus and Gaza.
"There is tremendous resonance when people hear that even in the darkest times we are still meeting and dealing with these issues, and there are Israelis and Palestinians ready to work together. It projects the fact that there is still hope and possibility. The average person is busy going about his daily life. Not everybody is in a position to devote time and energy to what I consider to be the primary challenge of our generation: achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
Hillel Schenker is the co-editor of the English language journal, the Palestine-Israel Journal. Each of the journal's four yearly editions explores a central theme in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through articles by Palestinian and Israeli writers. Hillel was a co-founder of the Peace Now Movement, and previously served as an editor of New Outlook Magazine.
"I have an honorable record within Palestinian society, which largely respects those who have fought and sacrificed for the national cause. This gave me the confidence to talk to people straight. I have greater influence in my community than someone with no history of resistance."
When he was in high school, Raed Hadar's close friend was killed by the Israeli army as they stood together during a demonstration in the first intifada. Raed later spent three years in an Israeli prison for his participation in attempting to build a bomb.
"I totally reject normalization, and am not prepared to sit down with an Israeli just to make him look good in front of the world. I am prepared to meet with Israelis who sympathize with me and believe in ending the Occupation... We should first end the Occupation and then look at living and working together."
Nur El Deen Shehada was brought up in the Tulkarm Refugee Camp and was imprisoned for his participation in the first intifada. Shehada became disillusioned with the violent nature of the second Iintifada and began searching for alternate ways to resist the Occupation. He joined Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy, and later Combatants for Peace, which both advocate nonviolent protest of the Occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
"Often in discussion with Palestinians, I have made the point of how the Israelis are afraid and how the soldiers are afraid. They say, 'What, really, the soldiers are afraid?' I say, 'Oh yes, you have no idea how a soldier with a flak-jacket and a weapon is afraid of a ten-year old kid who may have an explosive belt on him.' It is as important for Palestinians to recognize this as it is important for Israelis to understand and be sensitive to the endless humiliation that the Palestinians suffer every day."
David Lisbona is one of the founders of Middleway and of Gisha. Middleway promotes nonviolence and dialogue, provides humanitarian and developmental support to villages and educational institutions in the northern West Bank and participates in community work in Palestinian villages in Israel. Gisha advocates freedom of movement for Palestinians. David is also involved with the European Institute for Global Peace and their Palestinian counterparts, the Holy Land Trust, as well as in the People's Voice initiative.
"It is possible to find religious sources and religious role models and historic precedents for religion to be an extremely important tool for making inroads for peace, for coexistence, for human rights, for social justice. People must feel empowered."
Leah Shakdiel was raised in a religious Zionist home in Israel. After a brief interest in what was later the settler movement Gush Emunim, Leah moved to the southern town of Yerucham with a group of young religious idealists and continues to live there with her family.