Meet Yael Patir - First Israeli Peacemaker of the Week

Yael Patir is smart, determined and generous. Indeed, when I asked her to submit her photograph for this feature, she submitted a picture featuring her (on right) with her capable Palestinian partner, Nancy Sadiq. These two women share responsibility for more than 120 organizations working for Palestinian-Israeli peace within the Peace NGO Forum ( included). Leave a comment for Yael on the bottom of this blog post or on her page.

Yael is my choice to be the first Israeli featured as a Peacemaker of the Week because she represents what is hopeful and possible for Israelis and others. Tough, intelligent, and optimistic by choice, she is an inspiration to peacemakers and I want you to know her. Our interview follows: You share in your profile on "From a very young age I understood that my calling is to dedicate my life to my society in order to better their quality of living." How did you come to understand your calling and dedicate yourself to a better society?
Yael Patir: I felt privileged to take part in various educational frameworks (schools, scouts, community center) which nurtured and encouraged my sense of social consciousness. These experiences have profoundly impacted me as they provided me with opportunities to learn about the value of social interdependency in practice. They also implanted the seeds of patience in my life and gave me a sense of meaning. It was clear to me that something which teaches me and helps me learn to be a better person must be something I should continue practicing. In short, it just felt great! Who and what inspires you today?
Yael Patir: I chose to write about two amazing women in my life who inspire me on a daily basis, one is my Palestinian counterpart, Nancy and the other one is my grandmother, Lola, each in their way and wisdom.
To me, Nancy is a true believer in the kindness of humanity and in the power of change. She has the wisdom to differentiate people from political situations, to be courageous to stand up for what she believes in and the persistence to fight for it. Nancy has been active in the Palestinian civil society for 15 years now, on both national and crossborder projects. She is my genuine source of hope.

Lola, my grandmother is 93 years old and came to Israel from Poland in 1957. She is a proud lady who does not demand anything of her grandchildren (since she does not want to burden them). She only asks that they will visit her. Unlike Nancy, my grandmother has little faith in humanity in light of her experiences. Nevertheless, she always taught me not to judge people in terms of their nationality, color or religion but by their actions. She always says that life is a matter of luck - no one is worthier of a better or safer life – some are just luckier.
: Your work at the Peres Center for Peace puts you in the center of the professional peace field in the Middle East. What is the role of the Peres Center? Tell us about your job.
Yael Patir: I wouldn't say that I am in the center of the professional peace field in the ME simply because I am not really sure what is the "professional peace field" – how do you define who is doing peace and who is not…

The Peres Center's mission is to build an infrastructure of peace and reconciliation by and for the people of the Middle East that promotes socio-economic development, while advancing cooperation and mutual understanding. To do so the Peres Center facilitates each year hundreds of projects which bring together thousands of people (mainly Palestinian and Israelis) from various age groups, geographical areas and professional fields. I work in the Center for more than 2 years as the assistant to the Director General, Dr. Ron Pundak. My main responsibility is coordinating the activity of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum from the Israeli side. How do you deal with people who don't believe peace is possible? How do you overcome your own cynicism?
Yael Patir: Currently my primary concern is not with whether peace is possible (since it is) but with leaders who don't shoulder their responsibilities and with people who don't care enough. Peace will occur once regional and international leaders bite the bullet and not one day sooner. I am concerned with apathy or worse still with indifference to the suffering of others, especially when it is our neighbors. The face of the matter is that we are ultimately hurting ourselves. I deal with this challenge by sharing with those who are immune to the conflict personal stories from my daily work (not horror stories from the occupation). I tell them about people, places, conditions and dreams. What is your vision for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
Yael Patir: Two states. Meaningful processes of reconciliation, development and intercultural exchange and cooperation. Ultimately this will lead to a regional Middle East geo-political arrangement. You have volunteered your time in a number of other organizations, creating opportunities for the disabled and the poor, and teaching underprivileged children. How do you balance your time?
Yael Patir: Currently I don't find time to volunteer. I dedicate most of my time to work, which also includes participating in other peace activities during the week or the weekend (seminars, olive planting, demonstrations etc.). Work is very taxing emotionally since I have to contend with difficult personal stories, the daily realities of the occupation, and face the great challenges of crossborder cooperation. In my time off work I have fun, spend time with my family and friends, enjoy cultural activities, study piano and dance. I also dedicate time to studies that will benefit my work such as learning spoken Arabic. You wrote in your profile about "bringing to a just end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and promoting peace." Practically, what needs to happen to achieve this?
Yael Patir: A Peace Agreement and a passion for understanding.

Yael, "passion for understanding" was a great to way to complete this interview. Thank you for being the first Israeli to be featured as our peacemaker of the week. Anyone who wants to know more about Yael's work should visit the Peace NGO Forum website.

Eyal Raviv

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Comment by Earl Prignitz on April 5, 2008 at 8:38pm
Hello Yael:

If you are interested you might want to look at a few web pages I have in circulation:

The last one tells why I am a pacifist.

Peace, Earl
Comment by Yael Patir on April 5, 2008 at 1:07pm
Dear Donna, Dear Earl,
Thanks so much for your warm and encouraging words.
So good to know that we are all in good company ;)

Be well,
Comment by Earl Prignitz on February 23, 2008 at 3:04pm
Hi Yael:
I grateful for people like you who can dream of the possibility of peaceful solutions while living in the middle of chaos.
That is certainly a hopeful sign.
Peace, Earl


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