Yoav Peck is the co-Executive Director of the Sulha Peace Project
, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who meet regularly "to encounter the other in our full humanity." Recognizing the mutual fears, alienation and suspicion that exist between Israelis and Palestinians, the Sulha Peace Project brings together such diverse factions as soldiers, stone throwers, young professionals, academicians and laborers for face-to-face encounter.
A native New Yorker, Yoav has lived in Israel for 40 years. Migrating to Israel in 1973, he lived on a kibbutz for 15 years before moving to Jerusalem in 1988. Professionally, he is an organizational psychologist, coach and consultant who specializes in systematic programs for the advancement of human dignity. He is also a lifelong peace activist, beginning in the 1960's with the movement to end the war in Vietnam.
As co-Executive Director of the Sulha Peace Project, Peck helps bring Palestinians and Israelis together for person-to-person contact. Once a month, Sulha holds "Tribal Fires" in which 100-150 Palestinians and Israelis gather to reach beyond arguments and political posturing to the essential humanity longing to be heard. They work in listening circles, praying, singing, eating, and talking.
According to Yoav, "We painstakingly work with an often uncooperative military to obtain entry permits for West Bank Palestinians so that we can be together. Sometimes we meet in the territories, to make Sulha accessible to those Palestinians who cannot leave. As we depart from the Tribal Fire, we are profoundly empowered, carrying with us renewed inspiration, hope, and determination to continue working to bring the conflict to an end."
Several times a year, Sulha also sponsors "Sulhita," a gathering of 40-80 youths (ages16-21) who spend several days discussing the issues that concern them. Young Israelis, pre-army service, and their Palestinian peers discuss how they feel about the fact that they may soon find themselves facing each other in confrontations at roadblocks, or in battle. The youths hike in the Judean desert, prepare meals together, sing, drum, dance, and talk deep into the nights, sharing their visions of possible futures. They attain a sense of commonality that lasts well beyond Sulhita, and many of them become volunteers at adult Sulha events.
In addition to Sulha and Sulhita, the Tent of Sarah and Hagar brings women together to provide a safe environment for religious and secular Jewish and Palestinian women to reach out to each other.
Yoav writes: "Through shared prayer, song, circles of listening, active translation...we reach across gulfs and connect, inspiring profound hope in all present. While we avoid polarizing political declarations, we know that any political future must address the human needs of both sides, and we stand on the front lines of the struggle to return decency and compassion to our shared land.
Yoav received a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master's in Organizational Psychology from Norwich University.
Five Questions with Yoav Peck
What Makes You Come Alive?
People overcoming fear and shyness and pre-judgments in order to connect heart-to-heart. Listening to jazz, playing music, sailing a small boat in the Mediterranean, hiking in the desert and forest, and chopping wood.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
Discovering the Sulha Peace Project, where Palestinians and Israelis who have never met the other side connect, person-to-person. Getting tear-gassed in Wisconsin, 1966, at a demonstration against the war in Vietnam.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Bill Berkeley, assistant headmaster at Solebury, my boarding school in Pennsylvania, drove me and a buddy to Harvard for interviews. On a snowy road, he let me drive his old VW. I tried to remove my shoes while driving and found myself doing 60 MPH on the other side of the divider. I stopped the car, Bill said, "Get out!" and got the car back onto the shoulder on the right side. He then stepped out of the car, pointed to the driver's seat, and said, "Now get back in there and drive." A moment of grace, of revelation. It is still fresh, a quick 53 years later. I can see the headlights of the cars coming at us on their side of the road. Bill was an educator, in his bones.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Spending a week on sailing yacht, island-hopping with my children and grandchildren.
One-line Message for the World?
God gave us a subtle hint when he/she made us - two ears and just one mouth.