NOTE: For extended show notes, see https://tonyloyd.com/aziz-abu-sarah
MEJDI Tours sees tourism as an opportunity to transform lives through dual narratives and by strengthening local communities.
Aziz Abu Sarah is a peace-builder, social entrepreneur, cultural educator, and author of Crossing Boundaries: A Traveler’s Guide To World Peace.
But Aziz wasn’t always a peacemaker.
“I grew up very angry,” Aziz says. “I didn’t have any Jewish or Israeli friends growing up until I was 18 years old.
“In Jerusalem, if you don’t speak Hebrew, you’re not going to go to college. You’re not going to work. Your chances of success in life are minimal. In my high school, it was mandatory to learn Hebrew. But I went through three years of high school refusing to learn even a word of Hebrew.
“I escaped from that class. I told my teachers that I was not willing to come to class because Hebrew was the language of the enemy - the people who killed my brother. I was seven or eight years old the first time I was shot at. I had a lot of trauma to deal with. I still have to deal with it.
“And so when I was 18, I realized that if I don’t learn Hebrew, I will not have any chance of success in my life. So I went to study Hebrew. I studied Hebrew in a class where I was the only Palestinian, and almost all of the people in the class were Jewish immigrants to Israel.
“I remember thinking I’m here to learn the language. I’m not here to make friends. I’m not going to talk to anyone. Apparently, that doesn’t work if you want to learn a language. They force you to sit together, ask questions. ‘Hey, how are you? Where are you from? What kind of music you like?’
“And that’s how we became friends. It wasn’t over political things. It was over simple things like what coffee you drink and what music you like. I love Western country music, which most Palestinians do not agree with me. In that class, I found a couple of people who love country music.
“So we would sit down and talk about Johnny Cash. It started with that and eventually got to deeper conversations and political issues. But we had this space of ‘Wait a second. We have other identities that we can connect.’ And it’s not only ‘You’re Arab or a Jew, and therefore I have to hate you because of that.’
“And in that classroom, I made my first Jewish friends. From that point on, I understood that what divides us is a wall of ignorance, fear, and hatred. I wanted to put cracks in that wall. That became my mission in life.”
Today, Aziz runs MEJDI Tours. “MEJDI means honor and respect,” Aziz says. “We start with that for the local communities, those we work with, and all our travelers.”
MEJDI originated the Dual Narrative™ method that brings both sides of a conflict together as travel guides presenting their respective narrative. This approach was first introduced in the Holy Land and reaped remarkable results there and throughout the world.
MEJDI Tours goes against the grain by rejecting the model of traditional consumer tourism—a highly commercialized experience that supports big business and often damages local communities. Also, as peace-builders, we are tackling the challenge of a divided and polarized world.
Learn More About Aziz Abu Sarah and MEJDI Tours:
Book: Crossing Boundaries: A Traveler’s Guide To World Peace: https://amzn.to/3bPvGDb
MEJDI Tours: https://www.mejditours.com