In 2016, after coming across an article about Roots, a local peacebuilding initiative, our founder Amitai Abouzaglo discovered hope in Israel-Palestine. In the midst of a media landscape that focused on political impasse and continued violence, Amitai was deeply inspired by the constructive and restorative work of grassroots activism. Since he knew that others were taking action, he needed to get involved.
In the summer of 2017, he interned with Roots and Taghyeer in the West Bank. The Karama Center for Nonviolence—a meeting ground for activists, veteran and novice alike— became his home. It did not, however, become his office space; at the time, the Karama Center did not have Wifi. Thus, Amitai would often walk ten minutes to a local cafe in order to work on his internship assignments: website design, donor list management, strategic planning for fundraising, article writing, et al.
Back in the US, Amitai reflected on a stunning fact. He travelled to the West Bank to contribute to local peacebuilding, yet his most productive work was accomplished remotely. Thus, the seed of Embodying Peace was planted: to create opportunities for volunteers to contribute to local peacebuilding—across diverse organizations, through diverse skill sets and expertises—from anywhere in the world.
After a year of interviews and research on what internationals can contribute to local civil society, the first team—which was composed entirely of U.S. university students—was formed in the summer of 2018. Our mission: To strengthen the infrastructure of peacebuilding civil society efforts by increasing staff capacity through remote volunteer opportunities. In December 2018, Embodying Peace joined the largest network of peacebuilding organizations in Israel-Palestine, Alliance for Middle East Peace.
After launching a remote volunteering platform in September 2019, we returned to visionmaking. Our first volunteer was recruited in January 2020. After a few months in which we recruited, oriented, and connected individuals to complete short-term volunteer opportunities, we quickly learned that our partner organizations needed more sustained support to meet their capacity-building needs.
Our aim, the team realized, was not to create a platform but instead a dynamic volunteer network that worked across the diverse organizations that make up the peacebuilding ecosystem we sought to uplift.
In light of COVID-19, we devised a Summer Fellowship program in which Fellows would engage with our partner organizations through remote internships over a two-month period. Our first cohort of 28 Fellows graduated on July 31, 2020.
What began as the personal journey of our founder has become the motto of a growing international network of volunteers who are inspired by local peacebuilding and activated by the chance to work remotely: Peace is what people do. Join us in our call for constructive solidarity with local peacebuilders.