Interview with Elad Vazana

Please tell me a little bit about your background.

I was born in Ofakim in 1972. My parents made 1 from Morocco in 1955. They were Ofakim’s pioneers – it started off as just a couple of shacks. My childhood was ordinary and I was a happy kid. After I left [Ofakim] and saw other places, I realized growing up in Ofakim wasn’t easy.

I experienced a lot of violence at school, in our neighborhood and at home. Ever since I can remember, the message was that Arabs shouldn’t be trusted - that the Arabs want to throw us in the sea and can’t be trusted. It was part of the atmosphere – in children’s jokes, from our teachers, from the news on television and the adults’ comments. When the Moroccan Jews came to Israel, the [Jews] that were already in Israel viewed them as Arabs. My grandmother speaks Arabic, makes Arab food and I was raised in a culture that is Arab and not very different from the Arab villages I visit.

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Once I visited a school for underprivileged youth, which resembles my hometown, and I anticipated they would resist [the idea of an Arab-Jewish dialogue meeting]. The class I met consisted entirely of [Jewish] kids whose parents were from Morocco. I said, “Guys, we’re organizing a meeting for Arabs and Jews, who wants to come?” Two kids who were sitting off to the side, their arms crossed over their chests, said, “Arabs? Where? We’ll kill them.” I said to one of them, “I want you to come to the meeting.” He said, “No way! If I see [Arabs] I’ll kill them.” I said, “If you aren’t afraid of meeting your best friends there, come.” They both did, and it was amazing. Within a day or two, these [Jewish-Israeli] guys connected with three guys from Ramallah,2 and they didn’t leave each other alone. That just goes to show that fear results in a kind of imaginary hatred, because of the desire to feel a part of something. Where I come from, hating the Arabs stems from the desire to belong [in Israel], and the fear of being different. But in fact, we’re brothers, we’re very much alike.

When I was fourteen, one of my teachers recommended I transfer to the boarding school in Sde Boker, and that really broadened my horizons. I met people from all over the country. It’s a high school that focuses on environmental studies, and it’s a special place, it was like a gift. High school gave me a lot of hope, and I took that sense of hope with me to the army. Many of my friends stayed in Ofakim. It’s hard to graduate with a high school diploma there.

I was drafted and served in the armored corps, where I became a tank commander. I was an excellent soldier and a good commander. During my military service I spent a lot of time in the Territories. 3 I think that the places I now visit I also saw during my military service – Gaza,4 Rafah,5 Ramallah, Nablus,6 Jenin,7 Hebron8 and the villages surrounding these cities, and checkpoints. I hated serving in the Territories, marching in two lines through the streets, armed. I hated the looks that said, “You aren’t welcome, go away,” as well as the fear of being shot at or being hit by concrete thrown from a roof. I had this bad feeling all the time.

Once I guarded a kind of checkpoint.9 My friend, who I knew I could always trust, went up to a Palestinian and slapped him – hard. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how someone who could be so concerned about me could suddenly do such a thing to another person. There wasn’t even a reason. That woke me up. I realized what [the situation] was doing to us, I could see it at the time, and see myself and how tense I was. There was a lot of tension there, and that was one of the most difficult periods I’ve ever experienced.

Did these experiences from your military service affect the path you chose?

They had a significant effect on the path I chose. I’ve witnessed war and the Occupation, 10 and their effects on people. I think it makes no difference who actually plays the role of the Palestinians at checkpoints or that of the soldiers, ultimately you would have a similar situation. If you frighten [the soldiers], if they fear any passerby may kill them, that anyone may harm them, when people are frightened and told they are being threatened, they will react. The degree of tension and fear a person at a place like a checkpoint experiences could make anyone react. It brings out the extremist in anyone. It could bring out violence in one person, or it could bring out the tension in another person, or it could just bring out a lot of fear.

If people were to play the role of an occupied people, they are bound to hate the people who make life difficult and humiliate them. I’ve seen how hard it is, from experience, and I see so many victims experiencing these situations, be it the [Israeli] soldiers or the Palestinians. I’m not comparing the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis. There is a large difference in terms of power. I mean that a child born in Palestine who needs to cross a checkpoint on his way to school, or [an Israeli] who has to serve in the IDF11 and deal with this kind of situation is a victim, in both cases, and I want to change this. I really believe change is possible. There is a great deal of manipulation of the Jews’ victimhood vis-à-vis Palestinian victimhood. In these circumstances that we were born into, we’ve been made accustomed to hating the other and believe justice is on our side.

What made you want to get involved and become active?

One specific event made me wake up. [During my military service] I served near Jenin, and as the commander I got an order to take a group of soldiers and set up an ambush near one of the villages in order to arrest some wanted men. We walked all night to prevent being seen. We arrived in the morning and waited. I got an order over the radio to move a few yards. When I did, I saw a ten year-old boy sitting on a rock, reading. I walked up to him and he froze. I radioed my commander and said, “There’s a kid here. What should I do?” He said, “Tie him up until we’re done.” I took out a plastic restraint, and I think I tied his hands and his feet. I started back towards the soldiers, but then I turned around and saw that kid, bound and miserable, and I knew it was my doing. I felt naked, exposed, I felt terrible.

I went back and let him go. He glanced at me for a split second and then he ran to the village, and we heard whistles, that’s how word goes out that the army is present. It was obvious [the people in the village] knew we were there and the operation failed, we didn’t catch anyone. I was lucky and nobody said a word about letting the boy go, so I avoided prison. That woke me up. Suddenly I could see that child’s eyes, his humanity. He no longer seemed to be the scary enemy. Until then I didn’t perceive Arabs as human beings, only as threatening enemies. But suddenly I was the one wronging that child, and I felt I was able to choose, and let him go.

When I was twenty-four or twenty-five I took a course on multimedia and embarked on a hi-tech career. I started a company, and it was very successful. In 2001, when I was still working in the hi-tech industry I dreamed I was an eight year-old boy in Portugal, in the village that is home. In the dream, I felt at home. During that same period I learned about a book written by Professor Yoram Bilu from the Hebrew University about my great-great grandfather Ya’aqov, who was a renowned healer in Morocco. My great-great grandfather traveled in the Atlas Mountains working miracles and healing the sick. He was a rabbi, and he was closely affiliated to the Muslims, and they would pray together. He was close to the world of demons, and he learned his powers from the demons; in the book he is called a mediator between the worlds. I met Yoram Bilu, who told me about these places, and I felt a strong urge to visit Morocco, witness my roots and also to visit Portugal, not far away, and see about my dream.

I decided to leave everything I had, the company, my home, my friends. I packed a bag and left. My flight was set for September 11th 2001, and the flight was delayed for a few days.12 I flew to Spain and from there I tried to cross to Morocco, but I wasn’t permitted to. No one knew how to deal with Israelis traveling in Arab countries, and I wasn’t allowed into Morocco. I went to Grenada, in Andalucía, in the south of Spain. Right from the start, I felt embraced by the city. I stayed there for a year, studying Spanish, Flamenco and stone sculpting, and I started a restaurant, a souperie, and built websites for local businesses.

I learned that for seven hundred years, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived peaceful and harmonious lives in Grenada. There was mutual inspiration in every field – literature, poetry, medicine and science. Tangibly, this place that still accepts everyone. Over time I composed my vision: return to Israel and if all this was possible in Grenada, why shouldn’t it work in Israel? I thought I’d bring peace, that nobody had thought of it before. I had an idea for a start-up for peace, bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims together. I had never thought that would be possible, yet suddenly it became clear.

I returned to Israel motivated. I searched for a place in Jaffa13 and in the Galilee14 that would accommodate Jewish-Arab encounters. I reached out to teachers and principals, Jews and Arabs, and told them I wanted Jewish and Arab kids and youth to meet. There was a lot of interest, and I started organizing meetings. That’s how I found the Sulha family – I met them and told them about my work and my vision, and they told me they were doing similar work and suggested I join them. I had to overcome my ego and not always be able to do things my way. I was reminded of an Iranian guy I met in Spain, who once said, “Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Remember that your goal is what you seek to create rather than your ego.”

At the Sulha Peace Project I was responsible for everything concerning children, the children’s area and meetings for children. We began to work with older children too, and I led the Sulhita, meetings for youth. The meetings were very successful, and they are still held, we’ve been doing this for several years.

How was the idea of the Sulha Peace Project born, and what do you do?

The Sulha Peace Project’s vision is to bring together people of different nations, cultures and just people in this painful place, to experience a close-up, real and very simple kind of encounter. The encounters are usually held in the middle of nature, and are based on experiencing each other’s humanity – through personal stories, song, walks, preparing food together. These are the basics we experience, and they remind us of the earth and the wind. There is a strong desire to heal and an understanding of the pain here, and we are trying to heal this place. This initially happens through the encounter in listening to stories, and that creates a great deal of healing power. Once you recognize your pain, you are able to perceive my pain, and recognize it.

Sulha is actually a reconciliation rite among Bedouin tribes15 for tribes that have been fighting for years, killing each other and avenging each other’s blood in a bloody cycle. Sulha is intended to end this cycle. The tribes turn to a third party of [a third] tribe’s elders; they host both sides and create a safe space for meeting. Each side tells its story, and a ceremony is performed involving the sides eating together and drinking coffee. This connects them on a very fundamental and human level, and then they must forgive each other. According to tradition, payment is made to the party which was hurt in order to recognize the pain and the damages, and the sides beg each other’s forgiveness. There are other peoples who use this method. The Sulha Peace Project founders, Gabriel Meyer and Elias Jabbour, borrowed the term sulha, as well as the concept of creating a space where it is possible to meet and try to achieve forgiveness, or at least understanding and recognition. There are different steps on the road to reconciliation. It’s a long road, and we have to take one step at a time, especially given the extent of anger and mistrust.

On the road to reconciliation you need a lot of patience. Both sides need to work on the lack of trust and transform it into mutual trust. Every time we achieve significant trust, we can progress to the next stage. Instead of educating ourselves to hate the other and schooling ourselves in defensiveness and victimhood, we should encourage pluralism, understanding, coming together, be it through meetings, changing curricula in history, literature or communications. We should respond to Israelis’ need for security and Palestinians’ need for a normal way of life.

Please tell me a little bit about the participants from both sides. Who participates in your meetings, and is there follow up?

Our participants are people from diverse communities, from different religious backgrounds. I met people from the left and from the right, settlers and people affiliated with Hamas,16 believers and doubters, children and adults, women and men. They all want to tell their stories and listen to other stories. Over twelve thousand people have participated in intimate meetings in people’s houses or mega-meetings – with thousands of people. There are also follow up meetings, and many people return as facilitators or as part of the team, or come just because relationships formed. I have friends in Ramallah, Jenin, Jaffa, Jericho17 and Gaza, as well as Arab countries that are considered our enemies. There’s a warm caring atmosphere.

Where do you hold the meetings?

Most of the meetings are held in Israel for convenience’s sake, but we’ve had many meetings – mostly in homes – in Beit Ummar,18 Hebron, Ramallah, occasionally in Beit Jala,19 at Talitha Kumi,20 at the Dead Sea21 in Area C,22 anywhere we can meet.

What do you expect participants to do after the meetings?

I hope every participant leaves feeling the other is a little less scary, a little less of an enemy. Participants witness a kind of magic, a constitutive event, and it’s important they tell their friends about it. Talking about it affects larger circles. Keeping in touch creates hope. Often, after a meeting there is a sense of emptiness, especially when you go back to your harsh reality. If you keep in touch, even on the phone, it shows that not only did you attend the meeting, but you created a bond, and that you aren’t alone.

Another aspect is to work to affect the circumstances and your environment – sign a petition, re-open a kindergarten, organize a meeting or activity that creates change and awareness, or even a performance or a demonstration, anything that could truly affect your life.

In terms of dialogue, what would be the most important achievement?

First of all, I want to attain mutual recognition of our humanity, that we are all human beings. I want people to come, meet, look each other in the eyes and tell themselves, this isn’t the monster I’ve constructed, the image I thought I knew, but rather a person like me, who laughs, eats, cries, hurts and dreams. The current difficult situation here is the outcome of a lot of fear, demonization and mistrust. It’s a very long process, which could take generations, but I believe that we must begin now, the earlier the better. It’s hard work, building trust takes years of work, and then one shelling or one war and all the bridges just collapse.

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We often feel the crises of faith and the fear at Sulha. I think that persistence is the key – it’s difficult, and sometimes you feel like going off and doing something else, something easier, and you persevere because you are committed to building something much larger. We are in need of a critical mass – more and more encounters in order to build enough trust, so that the leaders will want to sign treaties and have the people’s support, [obstacles and challenges, political peace processes, conceptions of peace, vision] because they will say, “Enough. We’ve had enough. We want to end [the conflict] and we are certain you want to put an end to it. Together we will be able to.” And then, any treaty will work. A one-state or two-state solution -23 it won’t matter anymore, because there will be a desire to agree.

In your work at the Sulha Peace Project, what do you consider to be a small achievement?

Recently I visited a village in the West Bank24 in preparation of a Sulhita encounter for youths that is held every few months. There were about ten people and we sat in a listening circle. I remembered I’d been in that same village when I was a soldier, and I shared the experience of encountering the local when we came to make a few arrests. There was a woman next to me, and she had a very hard time listening to what I was saying. She didn’t talk to me, but I felt it was difficult for her to hear my story. I met her again a few weeks later and she told me that ever since I told the story she was feeling confused and frustrated. She said, “Soldiers killed my brother and arrested my parents, and made my life miserable. It was easy to hate them, but now I see your face in every soldier I see and think, maybe he’ll be like Elad, whom I appreciate and love.” That attests to the complexity here.

At a meeting in Jordan for social activists from all over the Middle East, I talked about my military service and about serving in Lebanon. One of the women there told me it was hard to grasp that the soldiers she now meets could be charming and good in twenty years, like [me]. I wanted to tell her I was the same person then as I am now. I wasn’t the monster she saw, I was the soldier who thought this is what should be done.

What are the most difficult challenges you’ve encountered and how did you overcome them? Do people around you object to or support the path you’ve chosen?

A large challenge is the people leading the encounters, the way they cope personally and the attempts to bridge the gaps and succeed in creating something together, despite the stress and the tension around us, and the effect of external events like wars, which affect inter-personal relationships. It constantly makes us all assess ourselves and ask, where did I do wrong? There are also accusations, and suddenly I feel I’m a Jew discriminating against the Arabs, and he [the Arab] feels he’s victim. Then I in turn feel victimized because I feel guilty. I feel a strong bond to these people, and maybe because they are so important to me personally – part of my soul – it’s so challenging.

An additional challenge is letting go. Often I find it hard to let go of the way I think things should work. I know what an encounter should be like, how to produce it, who to bring, but I try to ask myself, is it really right for my Palestinian partners? If they let me lead, does that mean it’s still right for us all? Am I willing to give up my way of doing things and be filled with attentiveness and comradeship?

The Palestinians who attend the encounters and have to pass through checkpoints suffer humiliation and have to contend with hardships, such as feeding their children. It’s frustrating, and sometimes there is the sense the encounter is just an illusion. Often the communities of those [Palestinian] activists say, “Why are you going to meet with Jews? What aspect of our lives has changed? Everything is just the same, if not worse, so why do you go?”

Life isn’t easy for the [Palestinian] activists. I feel that quite often people feel lost, because most of their lives are invested there, in their communities, and that what they have to deal with. I think it’s one of our greatest challenges – not only how to reach out to people and melt the mistrust there, but also how to protect the people we work with. If there isn’t an awakening, the entire peace movement stands to lose many people. The core needs strengthening, especially given the large-scale exhaustion that has developed throughout the years, and particularly the war in Gaza.

I feel Israelis and Palestinians’ support, and this support is realized through cooperation. I often see that at Sulha. In the meetings where we encounter difficulty or reach crisis points and deal with them, these are the most powerful meetings, compared with other meetings that incorporate less of this, perhaps because we didn’t want to deal.

How does your family feel about the path you’ve chosen?

I feel there is some skepticism, but they support and respect me, because I do things differently than the rest of my family, which does completely different things. My father could never understand what I was doing with my life. Having a regular paycheck and a pension fund were important to him. He worked at the Nuclear Research Center, and died of cancer not long ago. It was through him that I learned a very powerful lesson regarding the Sulha. I stayed by his side during his last months, a year ago. There was a Sulha gathering planned and I was one of the main organizers.

I had to give up being [at the Sulha gathering’s preparation], and I moved to Be’er Sheva25 for three months. I stayed right by my father’s side, he died in my arms. I was with him until he passed away. I told you that I experienced a lot of violence from him. He never caressed me, I always felt physically remote. All those months I was with him I was seeking forgiveness, and I wanted him to say, forgive me my son for the way I treated you. I still feel the pain and the scars from him, and I waited for the circumstances to allow us to talk, open it all up and embrace. That never happened. It created a lot of suspense.

I told myself my father is about to pass away, and we won’t have made sulha, forgiveness. How will I be able to bear that for the rest of my life? At a certain point we were told the end was imminent; [my father] held my hand and stroked my palm. I was so moved that suddenly I no longer wanted him to ask me to forgive him. I no longer needed this forgiveness because I realized I really wanted him to love me and recognize me as his son. This event made me think; often one side wants the other to apologize, and each side thinks that apologizing will be interpreted as a weakness. If I recognize your pain, you’ll use it against me because I’ll have admitted being wrong. Suddenly it all came together, in terms of my relationship with my father, as well as in the context of the Sulha and the Palestinians. I concluded that we aren’t necessarily seeking forgiveness, which never comes and is a source of frustration, but rather what we want is basic and simple recognition of each other’s existence.

What lessons have you learned from your work?

I’ve learned that one of the most basic and important elements that needs to be part of a gathering is mutual recognition. When I recognize you as a human being and accept everything you bring with you [to a gathering], be it pain or frustration, when that is achieved, we are ready to embark on any journey. When I undertake a personal process and learn to accept others for being who they are, I am in fact doing the same thing I’m trying to achieve through my work in terms of the conflict.

I’ve learned that listening has amazing healing properties, that listening is one of the greatest ways to heal. But it doesn’t work if you only pretend to listen. Over the years you learn to pretend to listen but there can’t be healing if it’s artificial, only when you genuinely listen.

I’ve learned the importance of perseverance, how powerful it can be, and its effect on others. When I give in, it might affect others, and I’m aware of my responsibility to persevere, even when everyone thinks this approach isn’t going to succeed.

In your opinion, what is the connection between your work and a future peace?

A peace treaty should come when the time is right, when enough people feel secure and trust the other side to sign a treaty. We are working to build that trust, be it with the thousands of people who have met, or the hundreds of youths who’ve experienced an intimate and life-altering encounter. I see the effects. It grants a sense of security, and encourages us that what we’re doing is the right thing, that it works, and that is has an effect.

The circles grow, and so does the strength. There is always a feeling of not doing enough, but the amazing work many other people – not just us – are doing in the field create hope that is preserved. The various organizations begin to understand that things won’t always work if they go at it alone and start cooperating on many issues, gaining influence. Perseverance and the openness to come together and work in new ways affect the kind of peace that could come. It’s like planting a tree, it’s really a long-term investment.

Are Israelis’ and Palestinians’ fears similar?

I think that Palestinians deal with fear less than the Israelis, initially because they require a solution to their daily problems. Jews, or Jewish Israelis, deal more with the question of fear because we came from the Holocaust –26 we’re a persecuted nation – and because we’re trying to justify what we’re doing [to the Palestinians]. I think that if I were Palestinian, I would talk more about my daily problems, the justice that needs doing and about the injustices of my reality, and demand that my pain and the Occupation’s result be recognized.

Our daily and immediate needs are different. Israelis need security because they feel fear, and the Palestinians need justice because they feel the injustice and discrimination. Mistrust, fear and demonization feed this cycle.

What inspires you?

I’m encouraged and inspired by emails and phone calls from young people, who say they want to meet, and I see how important it is to them. [I’m encouraged by] the fact that in Europe, as well as all over the world, people fought for hundreds of years, killing millions, and then suddenly the European Union was established. I’m encouraged by the fact Apartheid is no more. Despite the destructive forces, the world has inner power resources that generate growth and renewal. You can see it through forests burning down and growing back. I believe in the good in human beings, and I believe there is happiness and love in us; we must remember that. They are hidden and are waiting for a channel through which they can be manifested.

Do you receive criticism that your approach is naïve or cut off from reality?

I’ve heard things that have made me doubt and ask questions. I understand where the doubts originate, and these doubts trigger doubts I already have. Sometimes I ask myself, should I be focusing on things that will change the things that are unjust here and focus less on creating a space for meetings? Something inside me tells me that for the long-term this is the right thing to do. I’m in touch with various wise people, elders, who support the path we’ve chosen, and that’s encouraging.

What is your vision?

I feel we’re on the path towards creating a critical mass of people, which will affect the entire population. There are two keys here – recognizing that the other is like me, and realizing that I am responsible for creating change. Once I start working and stop sitting around complaining, that’s when significant change will occur. I believe we’re approaching that kind of mass. It doesn’t have to be a majority, but a certain percentage of the people that will realize this, then it will affect everyone.

There is also a counterforce to this critical mass. Destructive forces are very strong, you can build a bridge in months, but it takes only seconds to destroy it. Imagine both forces – the creation of a critical mass for change and awareness versus fear of change and an attempt to destroy it. Who will win in this competition between change and self-destruction? Will we be able to change, or will we destroy ourselves? I think the critical point is if everyone reading this – or even people who aren’t – realize they are responsible for change. I want everyone to stand up and say they are going to do even the tiniest thing.

Where do you see signs of hope?

I see signs of hope in children. Children are capable of accepting others and living in a world that grown-ups would have a hard time accepting. Currently children are raised here in an atmosphere of hatred of the other and mistrust and it’s our responsibility to try and influence matters as much as possible in order for them to grow.


We have done our best to provide accurate, fair yet succinct footnotes to help you navigate the interviews. Our research team comprises more than 6 individuals, including Palestinians, Israelis and North Americans. Still, we recognize that these notes cannot capture the full complexity of this contested conflict. Therefore, we encourage you to seek additional sources of information, we welcome your feedback and appreciate your openness.

1. Aliyah. Hebrew for "ascent." It is often used to refer to Jewish immigration to Palestine (under Ottoman and later British mandate jurisdiction), and later to the State of Israel. The first five Aliyahs took place between 1882 and 1939, and were facilitated by various Zionist organizations. Today, making Aliyah refers to the official immigration of a Jew to Israel, giving him/her Israeli citizenship and receiving benefits ranging from financial assistance, to rental and mortgage subsidies, to income tax or customs breaks. ^

2. Ramallah. Palestinian city in the West Bank, about 16 kilometers north of Jerusalem. Est. population 40,000. The population of the Ramallah District, including its surrounding 88 towns and villages is 220,000. It is headquarters to the Palestinian Authority. ^

3. Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Also known as the Territories, “East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza,” the Occupied Territories or “Judea, Samaria and Gaza.” The term generally refers to two non-contiguous territories captured by Israel following the War of 1967, but does not usually include the Golan Heights. East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are considered occupied by much of the international community and are treated as such by many international legal instruments. The Territories, or some part of, are slated to be the basis for an independent Palestine. Some members of the Israeli government refer to the Occupied Palestinian Territories as “disputed territory,” while certain factions in Israel consider the territory an integral part of biblical Israel and thus modern political Israel. See International Law, ‘Occupied’/ ‘Disputed’ Territory Debate” and War of 1967.


4. Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian territory located on the Mediterranean Coast and bordering the northern Egyptian Sinai Peninsula to the south and southern Israel to the north and east. Est. population in 2007 according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics: 1,415,543. The territory was under Egyptian military rule from 1948-1967, followed by Israeli administrative and military occupation from 1967-1994, after which the newly formed Palestinian Authority (PA) was granted limited self-government for an interim five-year period. Israel retained responsibility for external and internal security as well as for administration of Jewish Israeli settlements; these settlements were evacuated by the Israeli government in 2005 (see Gaza Disengagement). Israel still maintains control over Gaza’s air space, and land and sea borders, and continues to launch military operations within Gaza (see Gaza Blockade and Gaza War/Operation Cast Lead). In 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza and currently governs the territory apart from the PA. See “Gaza Strip.” Central Intelligence Agency. 14 June 2011. The World Factbook. 15 July 2011.


5. Rafah. Palestinian city in the southern part of the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border. Est. population including bordering refugee camps 130,000. ^

6. Nablus. A Palestinian city in the northern West Bank. Est. population 132,000. ^

7. Jenin. Palestinian city in the northern West Bank in the Occupied Territories. Est. population 35,000. ^

8. Hebron. A Palestinian city in the West Bank, located 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Al-Khalil ("Friend of God") in Arabic and Khevron in Hebrew, its population is approximately 160,000, the majority of whom are Palestinian Muslims, with approximately 400 Jewish settlers living in the center of the city and an Israeli military presence. The city is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the supposed burial site of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. See 1929 Riots and Baruch Goldstein/Hebron Massacre. ^

9. Checkpoints. Roadblock or military installation used by security forces to control and restrict pedestrian movement and vehicle traffic. The Israeli army makes widespread use of checkpoints in the Occupied Territories in order to control the movement of Palestinians between Palestinian cities and villages and between the Occupied Territories and Israel. They have been used on a few occasions to control some movement of Israeli settlers and Israeli citizens trying to enter Gaza and several West Bank settlements to protest Israeli disengagement from those territories. Checkpoints can be large and semi-permanent structures resembling simple basic border crossings (such as the Kalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem or the Hawara checkpoint between Nablus and Ramallah) or small, temporary impositions on roadways or outside towns or villages. The security forces at a checkpoint exercise total control over movement through the checkpoint. Depending upon the location of the checkpoint, soldiers may and often do check the identity papers of every vehicle passenger and/or pedestrian who wishes to pass through, and refuse passage to all who have not obtained permits from the Israeli military's Civil Administration in the Occupied Territories. Palestinians and Israeli observers cite frequent, if not routine, incidences of delay and harassment of Palestinian civilians at checkpoints, regardless of the status of their papers. There are currently checkpoints at the entry and exit points of every large Palestinian populated area in the West Bank, on every major road within the West Bank, and at every crossing point on the Green Line between Israel and the Occupied Territories, in addition to many smaller checkpoints within the West Bank. According to the IDF, a checkpoint is a "security mechanism to prevent the passage of terrorists from PA territory into Israel while maintaining both Israeli and Palestinian daily routine," used to "facilitate rapid passage of Palestinians while providing maximal security to Israeli citizens." For facts, figures, and maps on the web, see BBC , the Israeli NGO Machsom (checkpoint) Watch or The Palestinian Red Crescent ^

10. Occupation. The "Occupation" is used to refer to Israel's military control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Some members of the Israeli government have referred to these territories as "disputed" rather than "occupied." See, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site; Also, "West Bank." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 17 Dec. 2004; For a dictionary that uses the term "occupied" rather than "disputed": "West Bank" A Dictionary of Contemporary World History. Jan Palmowski. Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. CDL UC Berkeley. ^

11. IDF. Acronym for Israel Defense Forces, the State of Israel's military. ^

12. September 11, 2001 Attacks.

Also known as “9/11 (or 11.9 outside the U.S.). ” September 11th 2001 was the day that four commercial passenger jet airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda operatives and used as part of concerted suicide attacks on the United States. Two of the planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York City, causing their collapse within hours,, while a third crashed into the Pentagon,  inVirginia near Washington DC. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers attempted to retake the plane from the hijackers. 2,998 people died in the attacks, including the 19 hijackers.  Much of the Muslim and Arab world refused to believe the official version of the attacks, contending that the U.S. government and/or Israel were responsible.  The George W. Bush Administration began its “War Against Terror”, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in response.


13. Jaffa. A city adjacent to Tel Aviv. One of the most important port cities in Israel. Est. population, combined with the city of Tel Aviv, 370,000. ^

14. Galilee. The northern region of Israel. ^

15. Bedouin.

Derived from the Arabic term “badawi” (Arabic for “desert-dweller”), Bedouin is a general name for Arab nomadic groups. Once characterized by a nomadic and rural lifestyle, the Bedouins in Israel have largely become sedentary as a result of Israeli government policies, which, since the 1960s have aimed to settle the Bedouin population in planned communities. Two major disputes between the Bedouin communities and the State of Israel persist: land ownership—many Bedouin do not have ownership papers for the land on which they have traditionally lived—and unrecognized villages. Unrecognized villages are villages that generally predate the existence of Israel but are not officially recognized by Israel; as a result, these villages do not have state support for basic services and infrastructure. The approximate 170,000 Bedouin population in Israel, half of whom live in unrecognized villages, resides primarily in the Negev desert and the northern region of the Galilee. The Bedouin of the Negev is Israel’s most impoverished group, with the highest rates of unemployment. See Kimmerling, Baruch and Joel S. Migdal. The Palestinian People: a History. London: Harvard University Press, 2003; Lynfield, Ben. “In Israel’s Desert, A Fight for Land.” 20 February 2003. The Christian Science Monitor. 21 July 2011.; and ”Negev Bedouins - Info Sheet.” 5 February 2009. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel. 18 June 2011.


16. HAMAS. (Arabic for "zeal" and an acronym for "Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya" or "Islamic Resistance Movement"). Inspired ideologically and organizationally by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and founded in 1987, HAMAS' long-term and declared aim is the destruction of the State of Israel in order to establish an Islamic state in all of the land of British mandatory Palestine. It uses political, social and militant means to further its goals, and claims responsibility for militant operations, including the use of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israeli soldiers and civilians. The European Union and Israeli and American governments consider HAMAS to be a terrorist organization. HAMAS also provides charitable social and educational services, primarily in Gaza. It runs candidates in municipal elections and closed elections for university councils, trade union groups and nongovernmental organizations. The Israeli military has assassinated many of its political and military leaders in the last few years, including their spiritual leader and founder Sheikh Ahmad Isma'il Yassin and political/military leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. HAMAS' success in recent Palestinian local elections (January 2005) has led some to speculate that the group is transforming from a primarily militant organization seeking an Islamic state over all of the land of British mandated Palestine to a political party focused on political control in the Palestinian Territories. For example, see Ben Lynfield. "Hamas Gains Political Clout," The Christian Science Monitor, 9 May 2005, For detailed analysis of the organization see ^

17. Jericho.

A Palestinian city in the central West Bank, located northeast of Jerusalem and close to the Jordanian border. Est. population in 2007: 18,346. Archaeologists consider it to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.


18. Beit Ummar.

A Palestinian village in the southern West Bank, located just north of the city of Hebron. Est. population in 2007: 13,548. The Israeli government confiscated many acres of Beit Ummar's land for the establishment of Jewish settlements. Est. population in 2007: 13,548. In 2006, Beit Ummar began more regularly protesting the confiscation of their land.


19. Beit Jala. A Palestinian populated city on the western outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank, 5 km south of Jerusalem. Est. population 13,000. ^

20. Talitha Kumi.

is a Christian school in Beit Jala, a Palestinian town next to Bethlehem. It was originally founded in Jerusalem in 1851 by a German Deaconess.


21. Dead Sea.

A salt lake located between Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, known for its high salt and mineral content. The lake is a popular tourist and spa destination. The Dead Sea's shores are the lowest point on the surface of the earth on dry land, and the sea itself is rapidly shrinking due to the natural diversion of incoming waters, a phenomenon that has concerned Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian authorities.


22. Areas A, B, C. Areas A, B, and C are administrative division of the Occupied Territories as outlined in the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. Area A, according to the Accords, consists of land under full civilian and security control by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area B is Israeli controlled but PA administered, while Area C is controlled entirely by the Israeli government, with authority over both civil administration and police. Areas B and C constitute the majority of the territory, comprised mostly of rural areas, while urban areas---where the majority of the Palestinian population resides---are mostly Area A. Israeli security forces continue to control borders between Areas A, B and C, obstructing economic activity and travel. Overall, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip are still considered occupied by Israel, regardless of whetherthey constitute Area A, B or C. See ^

23. Two-state solution. Refers to the notion of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state alongside a sovereign State of Israel. Has been the ostensible framework in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks since the Oslo process. Key disputed issues include: the actual boundaries of a nascent contemporary Palestine; the location of its capital; the nature of government; the type of economic relations with its neighbors; the handling of Palestinian refugees seeking repatriation or compensation; the degree of access to natural resources as well as control over borders; defense matters and air space. ^

24. West Bank. Geographical territory located to the west of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. It has been under Israeli military control since 1967, although certain powers and responsibilities were transferred to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo process (see Oslo process and Areas A, B and C). The Palestinian population of the West Bank is approximately 2.4 million. In addition, there are approximately 230,000-240,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank. ^

25. Be'er Sheva/Ber Al-Sabe'.

(Be’er Sheva in Hebrew and Ber al-Sabe’ in Arabic) A city in southern Israel in the Negev Desert. It is Israel’s fourth largest city and home to Ben Gurion University. Est. population in 2009: 187,800, predominantly Jewish Israelis. There is a large Bedouin population in surrounding areas.


26. Holocaust.

(a Greek word meaning "sacrifice by fire") The Nazi-led persecution and murder of millions of Europeans, including six million Jews, which were around one-third of the worldwide Jewish population. Rising to power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that groups such as the Jews, the Roma, the physically disabled and homosexuals were "inferior" and thus did not deserve to live. The Nazis constructed the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question," which included the annihilation of the Jews. During the time of the Holocaust, the Nazis also persecuted Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses and others. The Holocaust officially ended with the completion of World War II in 1945. See the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website at