I first met Noor Awad in December 2017 at Merkaz Karama, the West Bank meeting place of Roots/Shorashim/Judur. You may remember that we hosted two activists from Roots in Boston earlier this year. I have now heard Noor’s story a few times—about how he grew up in Jordan and later in Bethlehem, his journey to become a tour guide, and his reluctant decision to attend his first gathering at Roots. Like many of his peers, Noor never intended to be a peacebuilder. And yet his first step into Roots proved to be a fateful one.
Since October, Noor has been co-leading tours of Jerusalem with an Israeli Jewish counterpart named Shai Goren. The 28-year-old Noor and 32-year-old Shai are changing the way people experience Jerusalem. One can only imagine the contradictions presented on this tour. But many participants leave feeling hopeful, including one person who said, “It makes me think that the people who live here can solve the conflict among themselves.”
Noor and Shai insist they are not trying to solve problems. In line with Roots and the other peacebuilding work that we support, they are trying to share narratives and recognize the humanity of each other. They believe that this recognition will lead to peace, and not necessarily the other way around. They have faith that they can help bring their communities along with them, creating a broad base of Israelis and Palestinians demanding a brighter future.
What encourages me about Noor and Shai is their youth. I often speak with people—Israeli, Palestinian, American, and others—who believe that new generations of leaders need to take charge to create progress. Noor and Shai are the new generation making change, and doing so in a framework that supports lasting connections between people of different backgrounds.
I hope to see Noor again on my next visit to Roots, and I look forward to participating in his Jerusalem tour with Shai as soon as I can.