It’s hard to summarize the deep impact and experience I had at Seeds of Peace. My first Camp experience in 1997 was the first time I met a Palestinian my age, as a human being, and had the opportunity to create lasting friendships with people from the “other side.”
Though I grew up in Jerusalem, living five minutes away from Palestinians, I never had—and would probably never have had—the chance to interact with them under normal circumstances outside the reality of the conflict. My experiences with Seeds of Peace gave me a whole new perspective on what is possible in the region, and helped me articulate a vision for a better future which is based on those personal experiences.
Seventeen years after my initial Seeds of Peace experience, I am in regular contact with Bushra, a Palestinian friend I met at Camp. Both of us studied abroad and are now raising our children here. Throughout all these phases in life since Camp, we kept our friendship going and made sure to call and support each other, especially in times of crisis, like the Gaza war in summer 2014.
This friendship is the most meaningful thing I took with me from my Seeds of Peace experience. It is my anchor of hope and also a great platform from which to make an impact. Bushra and I organized a successful fundraising event for people in Gaza in 2008, and she is someone I feel I can reach out to in order to take joint action.
Seeds of Peace for me was the starting point—and in many ways, igniter—of my journey into the Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding space. Not only did it expose me for the first time to the “other side,” but it gave me the motivation become fluent in spoken Arabic so that I could speak with my new friends’ families when I visited them.
Seeds of Peace also gave me many opportunities to practice and enhance my leadership skills. When I was 14, Seeds of Peace invited me to give a speech in front of Madeleine Albright at the State Department, and when I was 15, I presented to Kofi Annan the Seeds of Peace Charter of Villars that a group of Seeds reached after a week-long summit in Switzerland.
Having my voice amplified and taken so seriously at such a young age, plus the public speaking opportunities I got, really prepared me for the types of positions I reached in my professional life.
Seeds of Peace also gave me the intimate understanding that there are many people just like me, on the other side, who want to lead normal lives and care for their families. It is the knowledge of these people, my friends, that I come back during peaks in the conflict, when it is so easy and dangerous to slide down the slope of generalizations and stereotypes about the other side.
How have you impacted your community?
There is a clear pattern in the professional choices I’ve made in the last ten years and the career track I have chosen.
I have strived, and continue to strive, to be part of the solution and make a positive impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whether it is through political activity in the Knesset as Ahmad Tibi’s assistant (my first job after graduation), as Program Manager of the activist movement Peace Now, as Department Manager at the Peres Center for Peace, where I created and led regional projects that foster cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, or as the Israeli Co-CEO of MEET: Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow, a grassroots organization that, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, connects and empowers the next generation of socially-minded Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs.
Indeed, the word that stands out most on my C.V. is “peace,” and the roots of this are planted strongly in my Seeds of Peace experience.
• United World College (Red Cross Nordic)
• BA (Hebrew University in Jerusalem)
• Master of Business Administration (University of Cambridge)
“My experiences with Seeds of Peace gave me a whole new perspective on what is possible in the region, and helped me articulate a vision for a better future which is based on those personal experiences.”