Ali Abu Awwad
Ali is a Palestinian activist whose roots are woven with the violence and turmoil that his family and many Palestinian families have faced for decades. During his childhood, he witnessed great violence – including a terrible incident in which his mother was beaten by an Israeli security agent for her activism and advocacy for the Palestinian people. This drove Ali into deeper anger, and during his adolescence, he also rebelled and threw rocks at the Israeli army with other Palestinian youth. When he was arrested for the first time, Ali realized his violent acts of rebellion were ineffective. In jail, he began to draw attention for his non-violent protests, including silence about his activist mother’s whereabouts and most significantly his long hunger strike. His efforts led to his early prison release in 1993, and Ali was recruited as an officer into the Palestinian security forces where he was responsible for enforcing the Oslo peace accords. He arrested Palestinians who used violence as means towards peace. Despite all his best efforts though, he and many others who believed in the accords began to lose hope as they lost more and more loved ones to violence.
It was in 1994 that Ali found his path. He connected with an Israeli Jew named Yitzhak Frankenthal. Yitzhak led the Parents Circle Families Forum in which Israelis and Palestinians who lost loved ones could come together to grieve and discuss peace. When Ali attended a meeting with them, he realized that the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives shared the same core, that each of them was a human being with similar pain and grief as a result of their conflict. From then on, Ali pursued more co-opportunities for nonviolence and dialogue. Years later, Ali continues this path and in January 2014, formally co-founded Roots to foster understanding, nonviolence and transformation among Israelis and Palestinians.