Path of Hope and Peace began in 2014, as a connection between peacemakers in the Israeli town of Tzur Hadassah and the Palestinian town of Hussan.
Residents in these towns fondly recalled the warm relations we’d enjoyed a generation ago before politics and fences came between us. We decided to get to know each other once again and do our best to turn the clock back to those happier days.
In 2016 we registered as a not-for-profit peace organization and expanded our circle of friendship to include the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin and the Israeli city of Beitar Illit. In 2017 we worked together to extinguish all remaining hostility between Israelis and Palestinians in our locality and built strong mechanisms to maintain the peace. This led to enhanced trade between our communities from 2018 onward, and the cancellation of security blacklisting for hundreds of Palestinians in our area.
In 2020 when the pandemic prevented Israelis from flying abroad, our Palestinian partners invited them to visit their natural springs and stalactite caves instead. Our zone of coexistence now welcomes everyone to visit us and experience how life can be in this land when we all work together and value one another.
In 2021 we were awarded the Victor J. Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East, and our model embraced as a working prototype for conflict transformation by the ‘Challenge’ organization.
Ziad Sabateen was born in the Palestinian town of Husan near Bethlehem to a family of farmers. Relations with Israelis were bad, private lands of the town have been confiscated and annexed to build Israeli settlements, many ancient olive trees have been cut down and innocent civilians lost their lives due to the situation. Consequently, Ziad became actively involved in the First Intifada. He has been then arrested by the Israeli army and accused of participation in violent riots. He spent five years of his youth in the Israeli jail. During that time the Oslo Accords were signed, and he realized that violence doesn’t pay, and it is peace which we all need to embrace. When he was released, he became a founding member of Combatants for Peace, a group of Palestinians and Israelis formerly active in the conflict, who now work together against violence, and towards peace.
This work led him to meet many important Israelis, including the former great rabbi Menachem Froman, who was known as “The Settler Rabbi for Peace”. Until then he had never heard of settlers supporting peace, and for him it was like a significant and revealing experience. Unfortunately, some of his fellow peacemakers avoided any contact with Israeli settlers, but Ziad chose to adopt Rabbi Froman’s approach and vision that “The heart of the solution can be found at the heart of the problem”. Thus fore, he realized that the solution is working together with the settlers to pave the road for peace.
Ziad left Combatants for Peace, and created together with Rabbi Froman and additional partners a new peace organization named “Land of peace”. The leading principle of the organization was that the land is holy for all the three main religions – Jews, Muslims and Christians alike and that we must learn to live and share it together. Sadly, Rabbi Froman passed away, but Ziad chose to continue working to this day to bring his vision of peace into reality. Today Ziad continues to contribute to peace through his work with Path of Hope and Peace – an organization which he founded.
Phil grew up in London and moved to Israel in 2005. He spent his first month in the country watching events unfold as Israel withdrew from its settlements in the Gaza Strip, and believed he was witnessing a great step forward towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But in 2006 came some unexpected developments – the Palestinians voted for Hamas, the Gaza Strip descended into chaos, and his dreams of peace collapsed. Seven years later, he moved to Tzur Hadassah – a small Israeli town right next to the West Bank and got to know Palestinian neighbors, including Ziad. He witnessed the day-to-day hardship that an average Palestinian encounters due to the system of checkpoints and work permits and the constant presence of the Israeli army. Nevertheless, he also encountered amazing resilience despite extremely abnormal circumstances. Until then, he had always thought that Palestinians wished to be separated from the Israelis, but reality showed him the opposite. Most of the Palestinians were not interested in politics and said they would welcome any arrangement which would enable them to provide for their families and live in prosperity and safety.
Further surprises greeted him when he next began to meet the Israeli settlers who live nearby. Instead of encountering a unified political agenda, he found himself talking to a diverse set of people ranging from Zionists to peacemakers to settlers who didn’t even accept that they were subject to Israeli sovereignty. But the majority of them weren’t greatly interested in politics either and focused principally on issues in their daily lives – family, money, safety, and religion.
His biggest revelation was witnessing the unbelievable economic ties and coexistence that exist between the city of Beitar Illit – an ultra-Orthodox Jewish-Israeli settlement and the Palestinian town of Husan.
Many of the businesses in Beitar Illit could not operate without their employees from Ziad’s town. On the other side, many of the businesses in Husan depended on having those Israeli neighbors as customers. When politics intervenes between the two towns, as it inevitably does from time to time, it is amazing to see how quickly problems can be resolved when the economic well-being of each town is fundamentally dependent upon the other.
Today Phil continues to contribute to peace through his work with Path of Hope and Peace – an organization that he founded.
Lonny grew up in New York and moved to Israel in 1983. He first lived in Jerusalem and later moved to Tzur Hadassah – a small Israeli town right next to the West Bank, and got to know Palestinian neighbors, including Ziad. Through his brother Gershon Baskin’s work as the founder and director of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, Lonny was deeply exposed to the Israel/Palestine conflict and met many Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. During his army service in the first Intifada, Lonny served in a prison camp for Palestinian Political prisoners arrested in the Intifada. As a Military Policeman, he had direct contact with many of the prisoners and developed friendly relationships with some, and even visited with them after their release from prison and his completion of army service. As part of his service, he escorted hundreds of prisoners to military court and saw firsthand the injustices of the Israeli Military Court/Justice system for Palestinians.
Years later, following his retirement from Intel, Lonny became more involved and active in peace activities and was one of the founders of The Path of Hope and Peace. Among other things, Lonny worked on promoting a healthcare facility in Husan, partnered in joint agricultural business endeavors, and promoted local business by selling homemade food and tourism as well as creating and managing the organization’s Facebook page.
Eyad is a former educator and holds a master degree in science teaching with a specialization in math and technology. She was the school principal of the Ein Naqquba- Ein Rafa Middle School, the Beit Hanina Technological High School in Jerusalem and of Dror High School in Ramla. She also served as the deputy principal of the Democratic School in Jaffa and also established and managed a public school in Ramla. In addition, Eyad is a community leader and social activist in the field of human rights. Among other things, she organizes trips and events for mixed group of Arab and Jewish women for the purpose of promoting an open dialogue and building a shared society. Moreover, she promotes charity projects such collecting of food and equipment for the needy. Furthermore, she works with at-risk youth, empowering them personally and financially. Her personal motto is: “each and one of us are guests on planet earth and as such we should behave with dignity and leave the environment worthy of use for future generations.”
Khaled was born in the Dheisheh Palestinian refugee camp, which was established by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. His family were Muslims that originally lived in the village of Jarash that was located west of Jerusalem. He grew up in the alleys of the camp and studied within the UNRWA education system. He was accused of participating in violent riots during the first intifada and imprisoned several times by the Israeli army.
Until then, I did not know much about Israeli society and saw only soldiers and extremist settlers who used violence against Palestinians. After Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – the organization which he belonged to, he and other Palestinians around him started talking about
a comprehensive and just peace, with the support of the entire international community. He realized that violence only generates violence and that peace is the best solution to bring people together. Khaled began looking for ways to take an active part in peace efforts and so joined the Combatants for Peace movement in which he took a major part in organizing peace activities and served in managerial roles.
Marc Maisel came of age politically during the 1960’s in the United States. He was drawn toward the civil rights and anti-war movements and participated in the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy in 1968. As a preschool teacher for 30 years, he helped guide children to resolve their conflicts by using words with each other. Marc moved to Tzur Hadassah from the U.S. in May 2020. He soon met Ziad and Phil and became involved in English tutoring and running a weekly art activity in Husan with children. He believes that peace is made “one person at a time” and has been given much hope in observing the peaceful relations that exist in the region of Beitar Illit, Husan, and Tzur Hadassah. He looks forward to bringing early childhood education to Husan, working with Orit and Ziad on an exciting project!
Orit was born in Israel and currently lives in Tzur-Hadassah. For most of her life, she worked as an educator and to this day facilitating educational projects some of which are in the village of Husan. She is a social activist who focuses on promoting programs related to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence.
Steven Aiello has been involved in Jewish-Arab Model UN work in Israel since 2011, and has run over 20 conferences and 102 delegations abroad. Steven is Jewish, Israeli and Italian-American. He has studied economics (BA, NYU), diplomacy and conflict resolution (MA, IDC), and Islamic Studies (MA, Tel Aviv University). Steven the founder of Debate for Peace, an Executive Board member for the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY, and Project Officer and Dialogue Expert at Asfar. He is a native English speaker, fluent in Hebrew, and can make a fool of himself proficiently in Arabic.
Steven plans to advance projects focused on youth dialogue, debate, negotiations, as well as contribute to Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue.
Joe is a political and social activist and lives in Rishon Le-Zion.
Since childhood, he has been endowed with a well-developed sense of justice, empathy and desire to empower the weak and deprived. Educated for tolerance, openness, cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism he was part of the Rabin youth, who supported peace during the 1990s.
Since 2015, he has been working to find Israeli Arabs who are facing difficulties with the Israeli bureaucracy and with the employment market and helps them promote projects and address their personal problems. In July 2019, during a joint Palestinian-Israeli olive tree planting ceremony organized by “A Land for All” peace organization, he met Ziad and through him also Lonny and Phil and decided to join the POHAP organization. Joe purchased and donated musical instruments for joint Palestinian-Israeli peace events and brought a number of groups of Israelis to Husan to meet Ziad and to explore the area and get to know the culture, food, nature and agriculture. He also carried out a social media campaign to promote and market peace and tourism activities in Husan. Joe helps the organization by building strategies and future projects using logistical, economic and procedural knowledge and experience.
Dora is a political and social activist. She is Israeli-American and today lives in Rishon Le-Zion.
In her childhood, she had a unique experience visiting Gaza with her family before the 1st intifada. She remembers the kind people and the beautiful sand beach. In 1999, she represented Israel at the “Millennium Village“ in Epcot – Walt Disney World. During that time, she experienced working in a diverse environment that included, among others, individuals from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt. In 2015, she returned to Israel and became an environmental activist.
In 2020, she took part in one of Ziad’s tours in Husan and witnessed something significant that made her believe that peace is possible and started to also be a peace and political activist.