Sign In Forgot Password

Roots Shorashim/Judur was founded in 2014 by Israelis and Palestinians led by Ali Abu Awwad, Shaul Judelman, and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger. The initiative's base, Merkaz Karama (Dignity Center), is a little Garden of Eden in the heart of Gush Etzion, on land owned by the Awwad family abutting the Palestinian town of Bet Ummar. It is one of the rare places accessible to both Palestinians and Israelis without special government permits, allowing unmediated gatherings and deep conversations between people from the two sides.

Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank/Palestinian Territories/Judea and Samaria often live in geographical proximity – yet in separate universes. By and large they have no real human contact. They know next to nothing about the other and view each other with suspicion and fear.

Roots/ works primarily among religious settlers, religious Muslims, and veterans of the Palestinian armed resistance and the Israeli prison system. Through its programs

Each side discovers the humanity of the other, overcoming suspicion and building trust.

  • Joint initiatives ease tensions and improve life on the ground.
  • Perspectives are transformed, creating the foundation from which peace can sprout.


In 2014, a group of Orthodox Jews from the Gush Etzion settlements walked onto the land of a Palestinian refugee family in a nearby village. The Jews shared their story of fulfilling a 2,000-year-old dream. The Palestinians shared their story of pain and loss. Both groups discussed their fears and anxieties. It was in this moment that the participants sensed the power of authentic conversation. Together, these Palestinians and Jewish settlers founded Roots, a joint initiative that creates opportunities for transformative discourse where it matters the most—in the heart of the conflict. Roots is the only group bringing together Palestinians and religious Jews inside the West Bank, building a grassroots model for coexistence.


  • Roots’ mission is to nurture understanding, non-violence and personal transformation. 
  • Roots’ vision is a new social and political reality founded upon dignity, trust, and mutual recognition and respect for both peoples’ particular historic belonging to the entire Land.


The Palestinians and Israelis involved in Roots do not hide the many deep disagreements between them. They are profoundly aware of the complexities of the conflict and of the lack of equality between the two sides. What unites them is their honest search for human understanding and nonviolent resolution to the conflict.


We invite you to join with two Roots activists, one Palestinian and one Israeli, as they share their personal, interconnected stories and present the groundbreaking and challenging grassroots work of their initiative. They do not come with a peace plan in hand, but with the deep conviction that human understanding and trust are the prerequisites for lasting justice, freedom, and peace in the land they both call home. 

Mosques, synagogues, churches, temples and any organizations or individuals interested in using dialogue to further understanding between Palestinians and Jews are invited to listen to the speakers’ stories and learn about the inspiring work in which Roots is engaged.

Shadi Abu Awwad is a 27-year-old resident of Beit Ummar and one of the leaders of the Roots youth group. He 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 with 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.

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.

Shadi’s unassuming leadership ability, deep insight, quiet charisma and winning smile have helped the Roots youth group becoming one of the shining stars of the Roots Initiative.

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger is an Orthodox rabbi, teacher, and passionate Zionist settler who has been profoundly transformed by his friendship with Ali Abu Awwad, Shadi’s uncle, and with other Palestinians.  His understanding of the reality of the Middle East conflict and of Zionism has been utterly complicated by the parallel universe that he was introduced to by Ali and others. 

Originally from New York, Rav Hanan made aliya on his own at the age of 20 and has lived over the green line, in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion, for over 30 years. He spent 10 years learning in Israeli Talmudic seminaries and also studied towards an MA in Jewish Philosophy at Hebrew University. His professional career has been dedicated to teaching Jewish studies in various colleges and seminaries.

Nine years ago while in Dallas, he became 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. This inspired him to attempt to meet Muslims and Christians back in the Holy Land.

Although always drawn to pluralism and deeply empathetic for the other, and sporadically involved in the religious peace movement over the past 3 decades, Rav Hanan had never formed a personal relationship with a Palestinian until he returned to Gush Etzion from Dallas four years ago. The meetings that began then have become far more meaningful than he could ever have imagined. He found himself part of the small team that founded Roots/Shorashim/Judur and has dedicated himself to bringing reconciliation to that tiny sliver of land that both Israelis and Palestinians call home.

   Friends of Roots is a recognized 501c3 in the USA.

   Contributions can be made through this link:



Tue, April 23 2019 18 Nisan 5779