Against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict labors Yehezkel Landau, a Jewish dual citizen of the United States and Israel. Growing up in New York, Yehezkel came of age during the Cold War. As he watched the Vietnam War follow the Cuban Missile Crisis, Yehezkel became committed to pursuing peace through healing and reconciliation for all those affected. His search for what he terms a more “holistic” approach to peace would become the core of his life’s work.
After completing graduate studies in psychology, theology, and interreligious relations, Landau left the familiarity of the U.S. and moved to Israel in 1978. His first 10 years there were focused on intra-religious relations, when he served as the executive director of Oz veShalom-Netivot Shalom, a religious Zionist peace movement that sought to bridge observant and nonobservant Jews all over the world. While in this work, it became clear that there were other urgent issues to be addressed. Once again leaving a secure life style, Yehezkel resigned from his position to create a new space designed for healing interreligious relations.
Together with his then-wife Dalia Ashkenazi and their Arab partners, Yehezkel co-founded Open House, a coexistence center whose powerful story has resonated with people worldwide. Once Dalia’s childhood home, Open House holds the history of a special bond that developed between her family, Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria, and its original owners, the Palestinian Al-Khayri family.
Dalia was deeply troubled when she learned that the Al-Khayris were forcibly evacuated from the house in 1948 – the place she had come to treasure as home. After inheriting it from her father, Dalia and Yehezkel resolved to turn the property – taken from a displaced Arab family and given to a Jewish family – into a space jointly owned and shared by Israelis and Palestinians. Together, they sought to transform her childhood home “into a laboratory for reconciliation.”
Today, Open House stands as a striking metaphor for peacemaking in the Middle East. It has touched the lives of thousands of Jews and Arabs through joint activities where human bonds are formed – summer peace camps, coexistence training for educators, leadership trainings for teenagers, and much more.
Recently, Yehezkel returned from Israel to continue his peace work in the United States. When not in Washington or New York, where he challenges government leaders to recognize and address the religious dimension of conflict resolution, Yehezkel can be found at Hartford Seminary teaching courses on religious peacemaking and leading the unique theological educational program he created entitled Building Abrahamic Partnerships. One of Yehezkel’s students was fellow Peacemaker in Action Jacky Manuputty of Indonesia. Yehezkel is also a consultant for Merrimack College’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations.
Today, his life-long dedication to a holistic peacemaking approach is being instilled in a new generation of students – both in the United States, and half way around the world at Open House. Yehezkel remains dedicated to building peace in Israel/Palestine and beyond.
This video was made possible by grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Henry Luce Foundation. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of Tanenbaum. Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action program is also supported by the Leir Charitable Foundations.