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CANCELED! CLOSING EVENT: “Unlikely Partners for Peace: An Israeli Settler & Palestinian Activist Team up to Foster Painful Hope!”

March 24, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


We regret to inform the community that this event has been canceled due to Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger’s concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel. Due to this concern, he has decided against traveling outside the country.

We apologize for any inconvenience. 




Born into a family that took a major leadership role in the First Palestinian Intifada/uprising, Shadi Abu Awwad was imbued from a young age with deep Palestinian patriotism and activism – and with a fierce hatred of Israelis.

An Orthodox rabbi and passionate Zionist settler, Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger has lived most of his life in the West Bank where Palestinian make up 90% of the population. Yet 33 years past until he first had a real conversation with a Palestinian.

That Palestinian was Shadi’s uncle Ali.  Rabbi Hanan was profoundly transformed by his friendship with Ali and with other Palestinians.  His understanding of the reality of the Middle East conflict and of Zionism was utterly complicated by the parallel universe that they introduced him to.  

Shadi’s brother was shot and almost killed by an Israeli soldier.  An Israeli doctor heroically saved his brother’s life. Confounded by the contradiction, Shadi began a journey that ultimately brought him to see a human being and a partner on the other side.

Roots, the Israeli Palestinian grassroots initiative for understanding, nonviolence, and transformation, was founded five years ago by Rabbi Hanan, Ali and other local activists to build bridges of reconciliation between the two sides. 

Shadi created the Roots youth program and was its first director. Local Palestinian and Israeli teenagers, who would otherwise never met each other, learn to acknowledge each other’s humanity and become a new type of leader who can work together with the other side – and not against it – to create a better future for their peoples.

We invite you to join Shadi and Hanan as they share their personal, interconnected stories and present the groundbreaking and challenging grassroots work of Roots. They do not come with blueprinted peace plans in hand, but with the deep conviction that human understanding and trust are the prerequisites for lasting justice, freedom, and peace in that little sliver of land they both call home.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS: Hanan Schlesinger is an Orthodox rabbi and teacher, and a passionate Zionist settler who has been profoundly transformed by his encounters with Palestinians and the Palestinian People since late 2013.

Originally hailing from New York, Rav Hanan immigrated to Israel on his own at the age of 20 and has lived in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion, for over 30 years. His family background is Reform, but already at the end of high school he began delving into observant Judaism. Following his B.A., he spent over 10 years in advanced Jewish study, primarily at the Har Etzion College of Jewish Studies and in the M.A. program of the Dept. of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University.

The first part of his professional career was devoted to teaching Jewish studies to young adults, primarily in various colleges of Jewish studies and seminaries in the Jerusalem area. From 1998 to 2000 he served as a fellow in the Judaic Fellows Program of Boca Raton, Florida.  In 2005 Rabbi Schlesinger came to Dallas, Texas to serve as the head of the Community Kollel, and he spent eight years serving the Dallas Jewish community. When the Community Kollel folded in 2010, he founded the Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas to continue the educational work he had been doing in the larger Jewish community of Dallas.

It was in Dallas about 11 years ago that he began to become involved in interfaith work, first with Christians and then with Muslims. There he founded Faiths in Conversation, a framework for Jewish – Christian – Muslim theological dialogue. The mind-expanding experience of these trialogues inspired him to attempt to meet Muslims and Christians back in the Holy Land.

Although always drawn to pluralism and deeply empathic for the other, and sporadically involved in the religious peace movement over the course of the past 3 decades, Rav Hanan never met a Palestinian as an equal until he returned from Dallas to Israel in 2013. The meetings that began then – largely inspired by his interfaith experience in Dallas – have become far more meaningful than he could ever have imagined.

In early 2014, Ali Abu Awwad and an Israeli partner Shaul Judelman, together with Rav Hanan and other Israelis and Palestinians, founded Roots/Judur/Shorashim, the Palestinian Israeli Grassroots Initiative for Understanding, Non-violence, and Transformation on a piece of land owned by the Awaad family in the heart of Gush Etzion and abutting the Palestinian town of Beit Umar. This location is one of the rare places that both Palestinians and Israelis can access without special government permits, thus facilitating grassroots, unmediated get-togethers and deep conversations between people from the two sides

Since those humble beginnings, Roots has grown to a major player in combatting fear and prejudice among local Israelis and Palestinians and replacing them with trust and empathy. Roots is thereby establishing the human groundwork for a future peace settlement. Over 3,000 local Israelis and Palestinians have participated in its programs.

Rav Hanan currently serves as its Director of International Relations for Roots. He also is the founder of the American Friends of Roots, a multi-faith organization dedicated to supporting the work of Roots/Shorashim/Judur. Rav Hanan frequently speaks in the USA together with one of his Palestinian partner about the amazing work that Roots/Shorashim/Judur is doing in Judea/Palestine.

Rabbi Schlesinger is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the International Rabbinic Fellowship, as well as Beit Hillel, an Israeli rabbinical association. He is a Rabbis Without Borders fellow, and was honored in 2013 and again in 2014 as the Memnosyne Institute Interfaith Scholar. He blogs at MyJewishLearning.org and his website is ravhanan.org

He and his Israeli–born wife Ayala reside in Alon Shvut, Israel, and have four grown children and nine grandchildren.


Shadi Abu Awwad is a 27-year-old resident of Beit Ummar and one of the leaders of the Roots youth group. Shadi studied graphic design for two years at Al Ahliyya Amman University in Jordan and in the past has worked as a building contractor.  He is the recipient of a Roots scholarship and is a university student in Bethlehem.

Born into a family that took a major leadership role in the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising), Shadi was imbued from a young age with deep Palestinian patriotism and activism – and with hatred for Israelis. He was still a child when his family underwent a major transformation and became leaders of the Palestinian movement for reconciliation with Israel, and he grew up with the hope that peace is possible and the determination to struggle to achieve it.

Shadi is invested in Roots because he believes that Roots provides a model for a solution to the conflict and for the type of connection that both Israelis and Palestinians desire: “The moment you pass through the gate and step into Merkaz Karame you are in a different world, a world in which all of us respect each other, love each other, and accept each other.”

In his work with the youth group, Shadi facilitates shared encounters and experiences among Palestinian and Israeli teenagers, building a new generation of leaders who can confront the real problems between their communities while acknowledging each other’s humanity.