I was born and raised in Palestine before moving to Norway at age 17 and then Canada at age 19. Growing up during the first Intifada, I received first-hand experience of the conflict. My childhood experiences, as well as a formative summer as a participant in the Seeds of Peace program in 1997, fueled my desire to work with others to achieve long lasting peace between Palestine and Israel so that no one would have to to live through the same conditions that my family and I endured.
How have you impacted your community?
I work as a project manager for a Toronto software company that provides an electronic grants management system to foundations and philanthropic organizations. I was on the board of Peace it Together, a Vancouver based peacebuilding organization, and am a senior volunteer with the Spark of Hope Foundation, an organization that supports the higher education of young women in developing countries.
In 2016, I co-founded the nonprofit organization, Empathy for Peace, together with a small group of scientists and community leaders, to advance empathy research (neuroscience and social science) and its application to peace building locally, nationally and internationally.
The nonprofit is the brainchild of myself and my good friend Lily (Cohen) McGregor, who was born to a Jewish family in Cairo, Egypt. Both Lily and I spent our formative years experiencing the consequences of the Middle East conflict in different and very personal ways. Our personal journeys, though taking place in different time and space, led us to a shared worldview and the conviction that exercising empathy to every human condition was the way to bridge ideological divides, prejudice and injustice—and achieve peace.
We are fortunate to have gained early support from key drivers in the empathy neuroscience field, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen (Cambridge) and Dr. Emile Bruneau (MIT), as well as Eva Armour (Director of Strategy and Programs at Seeds of Peace) and seasoned lawyer and corporate governance expert F. David Rounthwaite. This founding group is working to further empathy research and a wide range of evidence-based application in the field.
Our plan is to establish Empathy for Peace as a partner organization that promotes, supports and collaborates with empathy based initiatives, groups and organizations. Specifically, we plan to carry out the following programs within our first two years of operation:
1. Establish Empathy for Peace as a resource center for educators, policy makers, organizations and communities interested in translating empathy research into organizational and community based practice.
2. Provide research grants and scholarship funding to advance empathy research and studies and its applications to conflict resolution, peace, and reconciliation processes.
3. Identify and collaborate on initiatives that advance the translation and dissemination of
empathy research and make the results publicly available.
4. Launch a community funding program to provide support to organizations developing empathy-grounded, evidence-based tools to foster peace, conflict transformation, and reconciliation efforts in their communities.
5. Develop and deliver initiatives that promote the use of empathy and emotional literacy at home, in schools, in the workplace and within and between communities.