"Public action is much more important, and in terms of democracy, even more powerful than legal means. The public is supposed to scream and the government should be afraid of that happening. That’s really what we’re trying to do."
Born in Jerusalem and raised in a politically-minded, Orthodox family, Hagit Ofran avidly studied and was concerned with the history and identity of the Israeli and Jewish people. Today, she is the Director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team, where she coordinates the most comprehensive independent database on settlements, collects and publishes reports regarding settlement development and policy and has been involved in providing evidence for several appeals, the majority of which deal with illegal settlement and outpost construction.
"I am responsible for creating change. Once I start working and stop sitting around complaining, that’s when significant change will occur."
Elad Vazana was born in the southern development town of Ofakim. Elad is an artist, an educator, an experienced mediator and facilitator; he develops curricula for facilitation, initiates and facilitates social change. He has been involved in dialogue for many years. His extensive experience facilitating Israeli-Palestinian dialogue meetings for youth led him to be one of the managers of the Sulha Peace Project, where Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians meet and build mutual trust.
“It didn’t come down with Moses from Mount Sinai and it isn’t something that Mohammad brought – it is in the hands of human beings. I would like each side to recognize the legitimacy of the other side to live on at least part of its national dream and accept a compromise. There is no other choice."
Nava Hefetz is the Director of Education at Rabbis for Human Rights. In her role, she works with Israeli communities to expose them to the reality of the Occupation, examining its repercussions from a Jewish-universal standpoint. Nava also coordinates an Israeli-Palestinian womens group that meets in Jerusalem.
"We didn't choose nonviolent resistance out of submission or fear. Peaceful resistance requires more courage than violent resistance."
"Study Arabic. Meet and get interested in the local crops of this region. Meet with people, there are lots of groups. There's me and millions of people like me [...] that's where you really make peace."
Chaym Feldman practices and teaches "Bio-falha" - an intensive yet sustainable farming method that integrates local and traditional elements - at Hava & Adam near Modi'in. A teacher for Israeli children, Chaym leads workshops for Israelis and Palestinians, which include working with West Bank Palestinian farmers on their lands. Chaym views joint farming a way to demonstrate solidarity against the Separation Fence and establish positive relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as part of a global struggle for sustainable lifestyles.
"Regarding those people who say this isn’t the time [for working with Palestinians in Gaza], there is no such thing. It’s never the right time, and yet it is always the right time."
Eric Yellin lives in Sderot. Together with other citizens of the Sderot area and the Gaza Strip, Eric helped found Other Voice, which promotes hope and nonviolence. Eric is also the Israeli coordinator of the Center for Emerging Futures, where Israelis and Palestinian create partnerships in various fields. Eric writes a blog with a Palestinian friend in Gaza, addressing and reflecting the conflict’s effects on the lives of civilians in Sderot and Gaza without the media’s intervention. In their joint blog, Eric is Hope Man.
"Our story is how an ordinary good boy encounters the circumstances in Hebron and what he does there. We want people to understand what the occupation is, beyond the newspaper headlines. We want to reflect it through a soldier's eyes: how your senses are gradually dulled, how you cross red lines, what the moral cost is."
Yehuda Shaul was brought up in a Jewish Orthodox family in Jerusalem. At the end of his military service, which included serving in Hebron for fourteen months, Yehuda founded Breaking the Silence together with other Israeli soldiers from his unit. Breaking the Silence collects and publishes the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who served in the Territories during the second intifada, calling on the Israeli public to face the price of occupation.
"The daily deterioration of the environment is what drives our work. Environmental issues can't be put off until a regional understanding and a peace agreement are reached. Widespread pollution is still taking place in many areas, and in a few years the land we have been fighting over for hundreds of years will become inhospitable."
Nader Khatib's work focuses on the protection of natural resources as a basis for prosperity and stability in the Middle East. An emphasis of his work is the scarce resource of clean water, the preservation of which requires the cooperation of Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian authorities.
"My community is not outraged against the Israeli government because of human rights violations perpetrated against the Palestinian and the Bedouin populations. I live in a community that is in some ways very satiated; those things are done to make me feel more comfortable when I get on the bus, when I go to university, so that when I'm with my partner at a café I feel safer. There is an element of justification in every conversation with my community, and it's very, very present."
Devorah Brous founded Bustan, an environmental justice organization working primarily in Israel's Negev region with Jewish and Bedouin communities, and was its executive director for nine years. The word "bustan" (fruit orchard in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian) reflects traditional and diverse indigenous planting patterns of the region. Bustan plants and builds with low cost, sustainable technologies and advocates sustainable development that serves both Jewish and Arab populations, and promotes fair allocation of clean natural resources and community self-reliance.
"People want to live, even while they wait for the issue of Jerusalem to be resolved. Health and quality of life are linked with a solution."
Ismaeel Hamoud works with Bimkom, an organization which seeks to make community participation and human rights a central part of urban planning. Bimkom provides legal advocacy, planning consultancy and educational materials to communities and political leaders to promote planning rights. Ismaeel works primarily in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, where he is the liaison between the community and Bimkom.