Adjust size of text


Follow us and continue the conversation

Your saved articles

You haven't saved any articles

What are you looking for?

A lonely, wandering voice for peace in troubled times

Sharon Berger
Print this
A lonely, wandering voice for peace in troubled times

Published: 24 November 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Palestinian peace advocate AZIZ ABU SARAH believes travel is a powerful way of crossing the divides of ignorance and fear. He is sharing his insights on a national tour.

At the age of six or seven, Aziz Abu Sarah travelled from East Jerusalem to Egypt for his sister’s wedding. Despite getting lost in bustling Tahrir Square, he remembers how struck he was by being in a different environment. Eventually, his mother found him sitting with a bunch of locals sharing stories about Jerusalem.

This memory tells a lot about this extraordinary Palestinian peace advocate, who, despite everything afflicting Israel and Gaza, still believes that travel is the way to cross the divides of ignorance and fear. Not only was he a born storyteller, but he could see the benefit of travel and how it could be used to create a more peaceful and interconnected world. Abu Sarah will be sharing some of these insights and reflections on the current conflict with Australian audiences as part of his Crossing boundaries: A Traveller’s Guide to World Peace Tour.

A life-changing journey occurred when, aged 18, he decided to walk 20 minutes from his home in East Jerusalem to study Hebrew in West Jerusalem. It was the first time he met Jewish Israelis as equals and was able to build meaningful relationships. This was not a given, as his brother died when Abu Sarah was younger, from internal injuries when arrested by Israeli forces.

It took him many years to get over his brother’s death and realise that “revenge is not justice”. He insists that killing someone else will bring only anger and bitterness. 

Abu Sarah believes that travelling locally can sometimes be the hardest and yet most rewarding journey. “Local travel is more powerful, this is true for Palestinians and Israelis as well as Australians.” Yet he admits that it is sometimes easier to learn about each other overseas. 

He met a number of his colleagues in the peace camp while in the US and noted that his father, who lived in Jerusalem his entire life, set foot in his first synagogue in America, where adjacent Muslim and Jewish congregations shared overflow space.

Such models of coexistence have proved to him that Muslims, Jews and Arabs can get along. He continues to believe this even after many weeks of trauma, bloodshed and the horrors experienced on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“Hope feels like such a weak thing right now,” he says, "but what is the alternative? It is our obligation to keep trying even when hope seems very small and unlikely.

“We must save our homelands, our people. Save people from this madness,” he adds, explaining that many respected friends and colleagues have become unrecognisable, celebrating people being killed and justifying deaths. “When people are emotional, they make stupid decisions.”

The current reversion to tribalism has destroyed longstanding friendships and peace networks. Yet he calls on the peace camp to come together to try make the necessary change. “We must work together as a movement. None of our organisations can bring peace alone.”

Abu Sarah also notes that those in the peace camp are among those suffering the most as they have friendships that extend beyond nationalist lines and know people on both sides who are suffering.

He holds little hope in the current political leadership on either the Israeli or Palestinian sides but believes there is a next generation of charismatic, educated and able Palestinian leaders in the ranks. He stresses the need for Palestinian elections next year, which would be the first since 2006.

In response to claims that recent events show peace doesn’t work, he counters that in the past 20 years no one has tried, and that instead  the politics of extremism have flourished, on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. A self-admitted borderline pacifist, he does not believe that violence can solve this conflict in the long term.

Based on his experience in countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, he warns that the focus must be on finding a non-military solution which changes the paradigm of winners and losers. “How can we win together?” he asks.

Based on his extensive experience in former conflict areas like Northern Ireland and Vietnam, Abu Sarah believes peace is not a one-off agreement but something that “takes continuous work - even the absence of violence doesn’t mean peace.”

In 2009, Abu Sarah co-founded Mejdi Tours, designed to “open hearts and expand minds” through travel. With an estimated one billion people travelling annually, this is “one billion opportunities to make a difference”.  While there are no plans to add Australia to the 60 countries Mejdi operates in, he does hope to soon offer tours in South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Poland.

Aziz Abu Sarah will be speaking at events in Sydney and Melbourne as part of a Small Giants, Work Club Global, Intrepid and The Jewish Independent partnership.

Crossing boundaries, A Traveller’s Guide to World Peace Tour. An extraordinary conversation with Aziz Abu Sarah. BOOK HERE

About the author

Sharon Berger

Sharon Berger is the Events & Partnerships Manager at TJI. Sharon is a former journalist for The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Australian Jewish News.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

Enter site