Aziz Abu Sarah

Aziz Abu Sarah – Ending the Cycle of Violence in Israel and Palestine

Aziz's Palestinian brother was tortured and killed. Watch how he responds.

Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, who grew up throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and fighting against the occupation. His brother was tortured and died from trauma sustained in Israeli prison when Aziz was just ten years old. Yet he now fights for peace.

Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, who grew up throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and fighting against the occupation. His brother was tortured and died from trauma sustained in Israeli prison when Aziz was just ten years old. Yet he now fights for peace.

I first met Aziz in 2009 at a J Street conference in Washington, D.C., and was captivated by his story. A couple friends from the Center for Ecological Living and Learning and I later had the privilege of touring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with him as we scoped out a trip to the region. Aziz demonstrated a passion for, and deep knowledge of the history of the area. And as a Jerusalemite, he had an intimate understanding and grasp of the narratives of both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. Aziz showed a deep love for the Holy Land and all its people, and a special compassion for those mired in prejudices, hatred, and violence. It’s just as he describes in this video: he was there once and knows what that feels like. But he’s discovered a better way.

I wish every Israeli and Palestinian could watch this video and imbibe its message. I wish each one of us who has ever wished for “justice” in the name of revenge could hear the wisdom from someone who has pursued that path and realized its ultimate futility. If we each meted out justice as we see fit, it would never end. Nor does it make you feel better to take revenge, says Aziz, only “more bitter and more empty.” I so admire Aziz’s transformation and the courageous path he has chosen to spread the lessons he’s learned as far and wide as possible.

Recent clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank reveal escalating tit-for-tat violence and a heightened state of unrest, whether it’s the shooting of Palestinian protesters, multiple stabbings of Israelis, growing protests on both sides, and heated tension over the sensitive, Muslim-controlled Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The latter, especially, is seen as evidence that the conflict is taking on increasingly religious tones, which, according to Danny Seiderman, head of Terrestrial Jerusalem, “is planting the seeds of the transformation of a political conflict, which can be solved, into a religious conflict which cannot be solved. We are seeing the ascendancy of those faith communities that weaponize faith. We are seeing the marginalization of traditional religious bodies who understand that Jerusalem is best served by the faiths working together.” 

All the more reason to wake up to the truth Aziz is espousing–that it doesn’t help to respond with violence. The familiar Gandhi quote, “An eye for an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” is particularly relevant here. Moreover, religious communities, especially, could be building on common ground and working together to solve problems through faith in God which can unite them. United Religions Initiative‘s many cooperation circles in the Middle East are doing just that.

Aziz Abu Sarah is Executive Director at the George Mason Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution.and co-founder of MEJDI Tours, which leads trips to the Middle East with a dual narrative focus. He has a fabulous TED talk and a blog to follow. Most of all, he’s kind, funny, and a wonderful human being.

What Do You Think?

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  • Fatima Mousli says:

    Aziz Abu Sarah is saying something so essential and important. I wish we all could decide to go this path. It is something I think about for years, I practice and practice and practice…..and I can say it changes my life completely. We can simply break it down on practicing love and at the same time it is the biggest challenge we have, because it means to take responsibility for what I do and to understand what we are, not only who we are. It is the commitment to life. Thank you so much Aziz !
    Sincerely from the bottom of my heart, Fatima

  • doug brown says:

    Aziz is the rubber hitting the road. The real thing – a guy who has lived through injustice and stay on the path to peaceful resolutions

  • Kathryn says:


  • Tali says:

    Hero of my heart. It takes more courage to stay true to higher morals than to react. I wish more people everywhere were inspired by him.

  • Tal says:

    Toda Rabba Aziz, for your wisdom, courage, humanity, sensitivity, flexabilty and warmth. I really shed some tears.
    I hope that more and more people in our country will be open enough to hear these kinds of ideas.

    If I meet you on the street in Israel, I promise a ‘thank you’ hug.
    You are a true leader!

  • Cheryl says:

    I think everyone in the ENTIRE world should read this.

  • Ingjerd Ardouane says:

    I’m sure he is an amazing person, and what he says is important for individuals. The problem here is that the state of Israel ruthlessly steals land, ruins farmland, watersources,olivegroves, familyhouses, attacks fishermen, children and on and on and on… destroying the future for so many Palestinias (both Christian and Muslim). The wrongs are on a completely different level, a systemic and political one. Will being a wonderful person end the apartheid policies? I doubt it, sorry to say. Neither will throwing stones make a difference. The Israeli state violence is a wanted policy, the Palestinian resistance a result. From the beginning of the establishment of the Israeli state, with the huge exodus of Palestinians as a result.His choice is admirable though, and as I said, probably better on an individual level.

  • Kyle Renner says:

    ” Aziz was wrong. He thought it could be peaceful. But how can it be peaceful when they try to take away your dignity?”

    Just one of many problems when it comes to this hippy-style approach.

    The Israeli peace camp is practically dead, and enough of them are actually moving out of the country.

    Let the Israelis do right by the Palestinians first, and then we can speak about forgiveness and joining hands to sing kumbaya and all that.

  • Lael Har says:

    post it on your FB

  • Amnon Lee Israeli says:

    i just love it <3 <3 <3
    thank you for doing this jobb

  • dana says:

    I think that there should be also his videos in Hebrew and Arabic

  • Eli says:

    Interestingly, as Aziz pointed out, israelis would say the same. “First stop stabbings, suicide bombing, car ramings, rocket launching, terror tunnels etc etc etc”

  • Flora Polnauer says:

    Thank You Aziz!

    I still believe that the sons of Abraham/Ibrahim are not supposed to live as enemies, and I`m praying for change, for peace and for love!

    May all of my brothers and sisters be healed from pain and hatred, and may they find each other again!

    Shabbat Shalom

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