The Powered by Courage series, hosted by Encounter, features Palestinian civil society leaders in conversation with eight Jewish communal leaders who are members of Encounter’s leadership network. The featured speakers were recently profiled in Ushpizin: Powered by Courage, an educational resource designed to capture the potency and some of the stories shared during Encounter’s immersive leadership experiences in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Over the past 15 years, they and many other Palestinian civil society leaders have courageously hosted thousands of Jewish participants in Encounter’s leadership programs. This series offers the opportunity for Jewish leaders to bravely host them and their stories in return, and to continue expanding our conceptual lenses on the conflict. Together we can deepen our commitment to courageous conversation and leadership in service of our Jewish values and future.

To learn more about Encounter Programs, visit us at EncounterPrograms.org

Did you miss our Ushpizin resource? Download it here, then join us for Powered By Courage by registering below.

Being the Light Amidst Darkness: Women’s Leadership as a Way Forward

Fadia Al Wahsh, Director, Jubbet al Dhib Women’s Committee

In conversation with:

Danielle Shani, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, BeDo – Generating Change, Differently

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 2, 2PM - 3PM (ET) / 9PM - 10PM (JLM)

The village of Jubbet al Dhib is also in Area C of the West Bank, at the foot of the ancient site Herodium. Like Bayt Zakarya, this village has encountered significant challenges regarding basic infrastructure. For decades the village leadership has been denied approval by Israeli administrative authorities to connect to electric and water networks and to build a school. Deeply frustrated by many failed attempts by the male leaders of the community to resolve these challenges, Fadia, Fatima, and several other women founded the Jubbet al Dhib Women’s Committee to take matters into their own hands. After a several-year legal battle, they won the rights to install a solar powered electric system with the help of the Israeli organization Comet-ME. They also succeeded in building a tiny school.

When Encounter cohorts visit, Fadia often flips on the light switch with pride and shares how doing so for the first time caused her tears of joy. The solar panels and electric lighting are a reminder for the women that their courageous leadership and refusal to give up endow them with tremendous power to continue transforming the lives of the village residents despite the many forces arrayed against them. The women do not understand why their desire for electricity and a school is viewed as a security threat; there is a growing sense that undergirding this is the dispute about who “truly owns” the land.
Lama is a world-wise teacher of English literature in a religiously and politically conservative girls school in Dura, near Hebron, and works actively with the Israeli organization Women Wage Peace. She comes from an exceptional family led by strong women: her sister is the Middle East Director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace; her eldest daughter is a dynamic young peace activist shaped by her mother and aunt; and Lama herself manifests a gentle yet fierce leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a profound maternal commitment to working toward a better life for all Palestinian and Israeli children. She speaks often about her passion for literature, teaching, and life-long learning, reflecting a deep moral imagination which she employs in a constant effort to understand the experiences and emotions of the other and to serve as a bridge-builder. She channels this commitment, skill, and vision into the ways she educates her students and her own five children.

Encounter Network Members are often moved by a story Lama tells about introducing her students to the poem Jerusalem by Yehuda Amichai without initially sharing the poet’s name, and how her students assume it is written by a Palestinian; Lama relates the shock her students express at learning that there are indeed Jewish and Israeli poets, and that they too love Jerusalem. She holds this up as an example of the importance of learning about the other — including those you see as your enemy. While Lama is anything but average, she demonstrates daily the extraordinary power of ordinary people to make change and to bring forth a better future.

Teaching Amidst Enduring Conflict: Literature & Poetry as Gateways

Lama Abuarqoub, English Teacher, Dar Essalaam Girls High School

In conversation with:

Tikvah Weiner, Head of School, The Idea School & Institute

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 9, 1PM - 2PM (ET) / 8PM - 9PM (JLM)

Adaptive Leadership: A View From Ramallah

Sam Bahour, Palestinian-American Businessman

In conversation with:

Marty Linsky, Longtime Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Member

THURSDAY DECEMBER 17, 1PM - 2PM (ET) / 8PM - 9PM (JLM)

Sam is known fondly as “the tallest man in Ramallah” – an attribution which captures his physical stature and his larger-than-life presence. He is a tireless and outspoken activist, unofficial spokesperson for the Palestinian people, and bridgebuilder with an MBA from Tel Aviv University who maintains relationships of mutual respect with Israeli and American Jews, holding them alongside his intense Palestinian patriotism. His warm, friendly and jovial character exists side by side with his unapologetic, piercing, and exacting assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the history leading to the current precarious stalemate, and criticisms of both the Palestinian and especially the Israeli leadership. Jewish leaders often find his ideas provocative, troubling, and frequently offensive, challenging their own long-held truths and attachments even as they may see aspects of themselves in his thoughtful sophistication and intellectual prowess.

A Palestinian-American businessman born in Youngstown, OH, Sam married a Palestinian woman and they relocated after the signing of the Oslo Accords to Al Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, in the hopes that he could play a valuable role in building a Palestinian state. The images on the poster capture the energy that permeates downtown Ramallah as Encounter cohorts walk through – the crowded, bustling vibration of new and old energies, with vendors selling fruit from pushcarts and coffee from jugs carried on their backs while cosmopolitan businesspeople rush between on their way to work or social events.
Souli grew up in the village of Hizme in the central West Bank. As a boy in the shadow of the First Intifada, he became politically activated and was drawn into paths of violent resistance. He spent significant time in Israeli prison as a young teenager for stabbing and lightly wounding two Israeli young men. Alongside the trauma of being separated from his family and spending much of his youth behind bars, in prison he learned to speak Hebrew and interacted with Jews for the first time.

Souli spent much of his prison time reading writings by Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and other nonviolent leaders, which set him on a lifelong path of dedicated nonviolence, including co-founding the joint Palestinian-Israeli organization Combatants for Peace (CfP), nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Souli embodies the discipline, rigor, and ideals of nonviolence not only as a strategy but as a life path. He shares: “Choosing nonviolence is harder than choosing violence. Holding a nonviolent philosophy – not just as a tactic but as a style of life and living on all levels – requires a lot of patience. But nonviolence does not come from weakness; nonviolence and forgiveness carry a huge amount of power and strength to make change.”

The stones, hills, and roots evoke Souli’s deeply-rooted connection to the land and its natural and historical landscape, and his stories about his grandfather’s sleeping stone.

Fighting for Peace: Nonviolent Leadership as a Way of Life

Sulaiman Khatib, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Combatants for Peace

In conversation with:

Rabbi Sharon Brous, Senior Rabbi, IKAR

TUESDAY DECEMBER 22, 1PM - 2PM (ET) / 8PM - 9PM (JLM)

Living Nonviolence: Becoming a Combatant for Peace

Osama Elewat, Board Member, Combatants for Peace

In conversation with:

Michael Soberman, Senior Educational Consultant, The iCenter for Israel Education

TUESDAY JANUARY 5, 12PM - 1PM (ET) / 7PM - 8PM (JLM)

Osama grew up in Jericho. As a boy in the shadow of the First Intifada, he became politically activated and was drawn into a path of violent resistance. He spent significant time in Israeli prison as a young teenager for publicly hanging a Palestinian flag. Alongside the trauma of being separated from his family and spending much of his youth behind bars, in prison Osama also learned to speak Hebrew and interacted with Jews for the first time.

Many Encounter Network members are indelibly touched by Osama’s story of weeks spent in solitary confinement, during which he found comfort every several days from a beautiful melody sung by a voice nearby — a melody which, years later when attending his first Shabbat dinner, he realized was the hymn Shalom Aleichem. After several years as a Palestinian security officer and having a close friend shot by an Israeli soldier, Osama reluctantly accepted a friend’s invitation to a Combatants for Peace meeting. There he was shocked to encounter, for the first time, Jewish Israelis who expressed sorrow at the death of Palestinians. He is now a dedicated activist with CfP, and spends significant time working on behalf of Palestinian villagers in the Jordan Valley who lack almost any infrastructure and are at constant risk of eviction.

Reflecting his role as a leader in a joint Israeli-Palestinian movement, a unique and moving dynamic reflecting their linked futures has unfolded in Osama’s interactions with Encounter’s Jewish Israeli Network Members. The banana trees portrayed in the poster remind us of Jericho’s signature crop, which he often brings to share.

Past Sessions

The Educational Bookshop, owned by the Muna family, is in the beating heart of East Jerusalem’s cultural center. From two branches on Salah a-Din Street and one at the iconic American Colony Hotel, Mahmoud, the “Bookseller of Jerusalem,” sells and delivers books on Palestinian identity, politics, and culture to locals and internationals alike, and hosts frequent literary salons and other cultural events. 

Mahmoud’s courageous leadership is reflected in a commitment to not sparing his interlocutors his anger and his pointed and often provocative views, while simultaneously radiating warmth and humor, deep integrity, and an optimistic faith in the power of human beings to make a difference. Mahmoud speaks candidly of his belief that the Palestinian national project in its recent form has been defeated, and that both Palestinians and Israelis need to rethink how to move forward from that failure and consider what it means to start anew in a way that will ensure security, justice, freedom, and equality of rights for all. Surrounded by the fraught political reality in Jerusalem where the air is thick with tension, Mahmoud’s bookshop and his work offer a glimpse of a better and more optimistic future.
The Educational Bookshop, owned by the Muna family, is in the beating heart of East Jerusalem’s cultural center. From two branches on Salah a-Din Street and one at the iconic American Colony Hotel, Mahmoud, the “Bookseller of Jerusalem,” sells and delivers books on Palestinian identity, politics, and culture to locals and internationals alike, and hosts frequent literary salons and other cultural events.

Mahmoud’s courageous leadership is reflected in a commitment to not sparing his interlocutors his anger and his pointed and often provocative views, while simultaneously radiating warmth and humor, deep integrity, and an optimistic faith in the power of human beings to make a difference. Mahmoud speaks candidly of his belief that the Palestinian national project in its recent form has been defeated, and that both Palestinians and Israelis need to rethink how to move forward from that failure and consider what it means to start anew in a way that will ensure security, justice, freedom, and equality of rights for all. Surrounded by the fraught political reality in Jerusalem where the air is thick with tension, Mahmoud’s bookshop and his work offer a glimpse of a better and more optimistic future.

Nourishing Palestinian Cultural Identity

Mahmoud Muna, The “Bookseller of Jerusalem”

In conversation with:

Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi, Central Synagogue

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 10, 11AM - 12PM (ET) / 6PM - 7PM (JLM)

Drawing on Religious Wisdom for
Leadership in Conflict

Sami Awad, Founder & Program Director, Holy Land Trust

In conversation with:

Rabba Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, Founding Rabbi of Zion Community in Jerusalem and Co-Founder of the Israeli Rabbis Beit Midrash & Network

MONDAY NOVEMBER 16, 1:30PM - 2:30PM (ET) / 8:30PM - 9:30PM (JLM)

Sami is the founder of Holy Land Trust, an organization whose name reflects the view that all inhabitants are trustees in stewarding the land which is holy to three faiths. A prominent leader following the legacy of his uncle, renowned  nonviolent activist Mubarak Awad, Sami embodies deeply courageous leadership in exploring the root causes of violence and a commitment to transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in ways that honor the dignity and rights of all peoples. He perseveres in the face of both internal pressures from Palestinians who accuse him of “normalization,” as well as the external stresses that permeate the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank. 
Years ago Sami traveled to Auschwitz, where he was profoundly impacted
 by learning about the trauma and pain of the Jewish experience of the
 Shoah as well as about the persecution of Jews throughout the centuries.
 He speaks frequently about his conviction that much of the failure to reach
 a durable peace derives from the fact that the
On the wall of Sami’s office hangs a framed photograph of Martin Luther King Jr., looking up at a photograph in his own office of Mahatma Ghandi; Sami often cites these two visionaries as inspirations for his own work. As you look at the images of Sami, MLK, and Ghandi in this poster and think about their values in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what throughlines do you see and what more do you want to learn?
Sami is the founder of Holy Land Trust, an organization whose name reflects the view that all inhabitants are trustees in stewarding the land which is holy to three faiths. A prominent leader following the legacy of his uncle, renowned nonviolent activist Mubarak Awad, Sami embodies deeply courageous leadership in exploring the root causes of violence and a commitment to transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in ways that honor the dignity and rights of all peoples. He perseveres in the face of both internal pressures from Palestinians who accuse him of “normalization,” as well as the external stresses that permeate the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.

Years ago Sami traveled to Auschwitz, where he was profoundly impacted by learning about the trauma and pain of the Jewish experience of the Shoah as well as about the persecution of Jews throughout the centuries. He speaks frequently about his conviction that much of the failure to reach a durable peace derives from the fact that the

On the wall of Sami’s office hangs a framed photograph of Martin Luther King Jr., looking up at a photograph in his own office of Mahatma Ghandi; Sami often cites these two visionaries as inspirations for his own work. As you look at the images of Sami, MLK, and Ghandi in this poster and think about their values in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what throughlines do you see and what more do you want to learn?
Bayt Zakarya is located in the heart of Gush Etzion in Area C of the West Bank. With its 650 residents, Bayt Zakarya is nearly imperceptible among the twelve Jewish communities that now cover the surrounding hilltops. The village’s proximity highlights and crystalizes an inherent challenge at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the necessary sharing by Jews and Palestinians of the physical land. One area in which this challenge plays out is in the lack of building permits issued by COGAT to allow for natural growth of this village and others in Area C, forcing younger Palestinian residents to leave in search of places to live in Areas A or B where construction is permitted. Witnessing the contrast between their own reality and the rapid construction and growth they see in nearby Jewish communities causes significant tension and highlights more macro disputes over who the land “truly” belongs to.

This challenge is also reflected in the village’s cramped school building and unfinished minaret pictured in the poster. The village residents began building the minaret as part of a mosque at what is understood to be the tomb of the prophet Zecharia/Zakarya but were prohibited from completing construction, so the minaret has stood unfinished for decades. The five-room school, built during the Second Intifada amid a years-long curfew on the village, has a standing demolition order over it that has to date not been enforced. The village leader embodies a dignified, gentle, and resilient leadership in his relentless endeavors to work with his Israeli Jewish neighbors toward respect, dignity, and rights for all of the region’s residents.

Being Proximate: From a Palestinian Village in the Heart of Gush Etzion

Abu Ibrahim, Head of Village Council and Mukhtar, Bayt Zakarya 

In conversation with:

Evan Traylor, Rabbinical Student, HUC-JIR

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 22, 12PM - 1PM (ET) / 7PM - 8PM (JLM)

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