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Over the years I have become more disheartened about the possibilities of making a substantial difference in the world, but my inspiration and optimism has risen from my experience working at Peace Now. Peace Now has only seven employees, and is the largest grassroots peace movement in Israel. The organization has done incredible work, particularly in researching and educating the Israeli public and the international community about settlements. Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now’s Director General, and Hagit Ofram, Peace Now’s Director of Settlement Watch, are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate individuals and it has been inspirational and motivational for me to able to work for them.

Working at Peace Now has been an amazing experience so far. I am gaining both practical experience and valuable information in the field that I am interested in. On a day to day basis, I am writing grant applications and reports and helping to develop projects and activities for the organization. I am learning what it takes for a non-profit to achieve the good work that it does.  The people I work with and the people I encounter are so inspired and passionate. I can hear it in their voices. Although I am frequently lost in the quick Hebrew exchange between co-workers at weekly staff meetings, there’s a fire in their voices that show deep passion and a sense of importance and urgency for the work they are doing.

Every week there is a new exciting experience. I’ve gone on a tour of the settlements, sat in on a briefing of foreign diplomats, and have met activists from all over the world. Peace Now works with both political decision makers and the Israeli public. This past week I visited the Knesset with an Americans for Peace Now delegation and we met with four different Knesset members from parties across the spectrum. It was particularly interesting to hear the tremendous differences in the rhetoric each individual used. In contrast, a few weeks ago there was a rally in Rabin Square in honor of 18 years since Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Peace Now was at the rally, giving out signs, shirts, and stickers. Our seven-person organization multiplied into hundreds of activists in a short 30-minute time frame. I truly witnessed grassroots in action and it was beautiful.

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Despite dedicating my college career to understanding the issues Israel faces, I quickly learned that I knew very little.  Truly understanding the complexities of this country requires living and learning here. Over the past two months, I have talked with Israelis, Palestinians, soldiers, students, activists, and people with many different life experiences and many different views. I have walked and driven through checkpoints, stood on both sides of the security fence/ separation barrier, and seen what life is like for a settler in an outpost. Every person in Israel and Palestine has experienced life-defining moments that have shaped their views of the conflict. Really understanding this conflict is to truly learn these stories and see what life is like for them.

Peace talks are happening. They are happening right now… while I am here in Israel. When it was announced this summer, it seemed like the stars were aligning; the opportunities for me to really be a part of the peace movement dramatically rose. This is certainly an exciting experience for me. I don’t know what the future holds for me, the peace talks, or for the State of Israel, but I know I will leave this country with a deeper and better understanding of the people involved in this conflict. The remaining three months here are not going to solve all of the complications I feel that exist around this conflict. More likely than not I will leave with more confusion and more perspectives to balance – but that means I succeeded.

Erika Wohl is currently interning at Peace Now, working in the Office of Development, writing grants requests and reports.

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