Hands of Peace is an interfaith organization that empowers young people to raise their voices as leaders of change. Through the power of dialogue, Palestinians, Israelis and Americans partner to achieve peace, equality, freedom and justice.

Started in the Chicago suburbs, this non-profit was created in 2002 by three women—one Christian, one Jewish, and one Muslim—who shared the conviction that peace could be nurtured, person-by-person. We have expanded in size, strength, and scope ever since, including the addition of our San Diego Program in 2014.

Our Chicago and San Diego Programs serve more than 90 teens each summer. Hands of Peace is unique in that Middle East teens are hosted by local families — providing a meaningful opportunity for cross-cultural exchange. We have also embarked on an alumni program to the Middle East, where our American teens have the opportunity to spend time in Israel/Palestine, hosted by local HOP families there.

We have full time staff in the United States, Israel and Palestine, as well as an active operation team comprised of volunteers that work year-round on a variety of responsibilities. This includes local participant and host family recruiting, communications and public relations, community outreach, event planning, Alumni Club coordination, and much of the planning for the 19-day Summer Program.

We continue to broaden our reach in the United States and the Middle East— geographically, religiously, and politically. Our Summer Programs typically involve a total of approximately 90 participants, and we aim for diversity in religion, geography and political viewpoints.

In addition to our Middle East and American Alumni Clubs, HOP also has an Excel (XL) Program for outstanding participants to return to the Summer Program for a second year to participate in leadership training. The leadership skills they develop, along with the meaningful connections they build within the HOP community, help our alumni prepare to be leaders of the next generation.

As part of our quest to keep our older alumni engaged and involved, we regularly explore opportunities for our alumni to join together with other peace organizations to continue to move dialogue to action. We believe that investing in leadership of the next generation is the way to tolerance, understanding and fundamental transformation from division to peace.

HOP is a program that gives you something to hold on to. It gives you friends that you never thought you would have and it teaches you about yourself and how to listen, feel compassion, and how to disagree but still create such a caring friendship. – Adi, Jewish Israeli XL