Chaplaincy Hosts "Unlikely Partners for Peace" from Roots-Shorashim-Judur

December 7, 2021

On Sunday, Nov. 7, the Office of the Chaplaincy was delighted to welcome Rav Hanan Schlesinger and Shadi Abu Awwad of Roots-Shorashim-Judur. Rav Schlesinger and Abu Awwad presented the groundbreaking work of Roots, a unique collaboration of local Palestinians and Israelis building a grassroots model for coexistence. During their two-hour conversation titled "Two Stories in One Heart, Two Peoples in One Land," the speakers discussed their personal, interconnected journeys toward being unlikely partners for peace.

Shadi Abu Awwad is the grandson, son and nephew of strong proud Palestinian leaders who were at the helm of the First Palestinian Intifada (Uprising). Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, an Orthodox rabbi and self-identified Zionist settler, has lived most of his life in the West Bank where Palestinians make up 90% of the population. Both of them underwent major transformations as a result of their work to form Roots, the Israeli Palestinian grassroots initiative for understanding, nonviolence and transformation to build bridges of reconciliation between the two sides

The speakers did not come with a blueprinted peace plan in hand, nor did they agree on all matters. However, they did share in detail about how their radically different life stories led them each to hold deep convictions that human understanding and trust are the prerequisites for lasting justice, freedom, and peace in a space they both call home. They also spoke about the importance of supporting organizations on the ground in Israel-Palestine doing the work to cultivate a foundation for peace across the deepest of divides.

Prior to their presentation for the campus community, Rav Schlesinger and Abu Awwad met with ten student leaders from the Office of the Chaplaincy for a special luncheon. During the lunch, Hanan and Shadi shared more about their current work with fellow Roots activists and took time to answer questions from students. During this time, the speakers also spoke extensively about their own religious journeys, noting how their own spiritual lives were nourished by their experience with other traditions and those of completely different political, cultural, and national backgrounds.