Hands of Peace participants. Courtesy photo

Hands of Peace wrapped up its three-week conflict resolution program this weekend with 35  American, Israeli, and Palestinian teens.

The three-week flagship Summer Program served as a powerful, unifying experience to create positive social change, the nonprofit said. In intense dialogue sessions led by professional facilitators, participants learned about each other, shared complicated and painful stories, and explored peaceful solutions to foster equality, freedom, and justice. 

Ghadi Khoury and Ayala Agoor Halev. Courtesy photos

“I’ve learned not to hold grudges and judge people before I get to meet them and know them, which is what I usually do back home,” said Ghadi Khoury of the Palestinian Citizens of Israel Delegation. “If I ever hear someone in Israel, I automatically assume that I know everything they think and how they act, but Hands of Peace has taught me that isn’t always the case. I wasn’t hopeless before this, but I wasn’t hopeful because it’s a pretty desperate situation back home. And now I have some hope.”

Ayala Agoor Halevy of the Jewish-Israeli delegation said she learned about patience. 

“I think that I’ve learned to be really patient and to accept other people’s feelings calmly and patiently, and really listen to them, so they can open up,” she said. “It’s also a really difficult and a long process — it’s not like one day I listen to someone, and they listen back. It’s not like that, but after a while, after they feel like someone has consistently listened to them, they start to listen back.”

In addition to the participants in the San Diego program this year, 35 teens participated in the program in Chicago. 

Hands of Peace was founded by Gretchen Grad in Chicago in 2002. The first Summer Program was held in Chicago in 2003. Since then, Hands of Peace has expanded in size, strength, and scope with Summer Programs in Chicago and San Diego, alumni programs in Israel, Palestine, and the US, and multi-narrative tours to the Middle East for American youth and adults. Today, there are more than 700 Hands of Peace alumni leading change around the world. 

For more information, go to www.handsofpeace.org.



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Ellen Bullock