How Teens from Israel, Palestine and the U.S. are Furthering Middle East Peace From Chicago

Hands of Peace Brings Together Teens from Israel, Palestine and U.S.

Yoav is a 16-year-old Jewish Israeli boy from the small Israeli town of Sha’ar Efraim, nestled in the central Israeli plains near the western border of the West Bank. Rand is a 17-year-old Palestinian girl from Tulkarem, a large city in the northern West Bank. Though Yoav and Rand can see each other’s towns from their yards, they never had an opportunity to talk to a teenager from the other side — until they traveled to the northern Chicago suburbs as part of the Hands of Peace summer program.

Hands of Peace is an interfaith organization that brings together young people to raise their voices as leaders of change. Through the power of dialogue, Israeli, Palestinian and American teenagers partner to pursue freedom, equality and justice for all. Each summer since 2003, families throughout the North Shore have opened their doors and their hearts to host these brave teen leaders. A parallel program launched in north suburban San Diego in 2014.

Working with research partners at University of Chicago Booth School of Business and University of California Haas School of Business, surveys show that the Hands of Peace three-week program significantly moves the needle in terms of improved attitudes toward “the other.” At the end of the program, the Palestinian and Israeli teens return home with a new set of skills and a new appreciation that there are many different perspectives about the conflict, and that it is possible for people with different backgrounds and perspectives to partner together to improve their societies. Ongoing programs in the Middle East give Hands of Peace alumni like Yoav and Rand an opportunity to make a difference overseas. American alumni have opportunities here at home to fight against social injustices, racism and intolerance.

Hands of Peace

This summer, nearly 50 teenagers will participate in the Chicago program. The Farewell Celebration on July 30 in Glenview is an outstanding way for you to meet and talk to these impressive teens — to hear about their views of the conflict and the hope they have gained through their Hands of Peace experience. You can also learn about year-round adult volunteer opportunities, how to become a host family for 2018, and ways to get teens in your family or neighborhood involved. You can register for the Farewell Celebration online.


Read a first-hand account of the Hands of Peace program from alumnus Adam Heffez.

  • “My personal journey after Hands of Peace led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in international politics at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. This included studying abroad in Jordan, where I lived with a Palestinian Muslim family. Some members of my Jewish community back home saw it as a reckless risk. I saw it as an eye-opening experience and a chance to bridge divides I previously believed to be intractable.”