Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a peace activist, and one of the founders of the Parents Circle—Families Forum. In 2001, she was the recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Born in Israel, Nurit Peled-Elhanan studied at the University of California in Los Angeles and the Sorbonne (University of Paris) and received her Ph.D. at Hebrew University. She specializes in Israeli educational materials, with emphasis on the visual and verbal presentation of Palestinian and Mizrahi Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern descent). Her current work analyzes the presentation of Palestinians in Israeli history and geography textbooks.
Peled-Elhanan's family is active in the peace movement. Her father is the famous Israeli general-turned-peace activist, Mattiyahu Peled. Rami Elhanan, her husband, co-founded the Parents Circle—Families Forum. Her two sons are "refuseniks," Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories with the Israeli military and are involved with Combatants for Peace, a movement of former Israeli and Palestinian fighters.
In September 1997, Peled-Elhanan's 13-year-old daughter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Following the death of her daughter, Peled-Elhanan commented,
"My little girl was murdered because she was an Israeli by a young man who was humiliated, oppressed and desperate to the point of suicide and murder and inhumanity, just because he was a Palestinian.
"There is no basic moral difference between the soldier at the checkpoint who prevents a woman who is having a baby from going through, causing her to lose the baby, and the man who killed my daughter. And just as my daughter was a victim [of the Israeli occupation], so was he."
The Parents Circle—Families Forum is made up of several hundred families, half Palestinian and half Israeli, who have lost immediate family members in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as Peled-Elhanan has. Since its beginning, the organization has played a critical role in spearheading a reconciliation process between Israelis and Palestinians. Its programs include face-to-face reconciliation programs, art exhibitions, producing the TV series Opening Hearts, radio programs, and an international lecture series of bereaved family members.
One of the group’s most innovative activities is "Hello Peace," a toll-free telephone service that connects Israelis and Palestinians. According to the organizers, more than 1,000,000 calls had been placed within the first 18 months of the project’s 2002 launch.
For more information on the Parents Circle—Families Forum, see http://www.theparentscircle.com/about.asp.