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Roots: a Local Palestinian-Israeli Initiative for Understanding

  • Temple De Hirsch Sinai 1511 East Pike Street Seattle, WA, 98122 United States (map)



This event is hosted at Temple De Hirsch Sinai. It is free and open to the public. 

Currently finishing his book, Painful Hope, Ali Abu Awwad is today a leading Palestinian activist teaching his countrymen non-violent resistance, and reaching out to Jewish Israelis at the heart of the conflict. Ali has toured the world many times over, telling his riveting story of violent activism, imprisonment, bereavement and discovery of the path of non-violent resistance, a story of personal transformation. 

Hanan Schlesinger is an Orthodox rabbi and teacher, and a passionate Zionist settler who has been profoundly transformed by his friendship with Ali.  His understanding of the reality of the Middle East conflict and of Zionism has been utterly complicated by the parallel universe that Ali has introduced him to.  

Join Ali and Hanan as they tell their personal stories and of their efforts to build a better future for their peoples. They come with no ready peace plans in hand, but only with the conviction that human understanding and trust will be the prerequisites for lasting justice, freedom and peace on that tiny sliver of land that they both call home.

Roots is a unique collaboration of local Palestinians and Israelis building a grassroots model for coexistence in the Gush Etzion-Bethlehem-Hebron area. Roots works to nurture understanding, non-violence and personal transformation between Palestinians and Israelis and to advance the two peoples towards a new social and political reality founded upon dignity, trust, and mutual recognition and respect for both peoples’ particular historic belonging to the entire Land.

Roots works primarily among those elements of the Israeli and Palestinian communities 

that have been most marginalized by, threatened by, and opposed to peace and compromise: religious settlers on the one hand, and on the other hand, religious Muslims, ex-fighters and ex-prisoners. We bring together Palestinians and Israelis who live in geographical proximity but by and large have never had real human contact with the other side. Through our programs:

  1. The two sides discover the humanity of the other, overcoming suspicion and building trust.
  2. An ecosystem of consideration, reconciliation and mutuality is fostered. 
  3. People are guided toward taking responsibility.
  4. Joint initiatives are developed in order to ease tensions and improve life on the ground.
  5. The language of discourse and overall perspectives change, creating the foundation from which peace can sprout.

Roots was founded in January 2014 by Ali Abu Awwad, Shaul Judelman, and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger together with many other Israelis and Palestinians. The initiative is based in the heart of Gush Etzion (Etzion Bloc), on a piece of land owned by the Awwad family abutting the Palestinian town of Bet Ummar. The result is the creation of a little Garden of Eden called Merkaz (Hebrew for Center) Karama (Arabic for Dignity). It is one of the rare places accessible to both Palestinians and Israelis without special government permits, thus facilitating unmediated get-togethers and deep conversations between people from the two sides.

The Palestinians and Israelis involved in this initiative do not hide the many deep disagreements between them. On the contrary, they are deeply aware of the complexities of the conflict and of the lack of equality between the two sides. What unites them is their honest search for human understanding and nonviolent resolution to the conflict.

Roots is a project of Keren Chai Shalom (The Life of Peace Fund), an Israeli nonprofit organization (legally registered as Beit HaTeatron) that is dedicated to continuing the legacy of Rabbi Menachem Froman of blessed memory, a dedicated settler and peace activist.