|The following articles express our nonviolence activists' opinions and enthusiasm. Their work
has been invaluable to us, and to the Middle East.
|Activists Talk - No. 1
Yacoub Rjoub, Coordinator of Active Nonviolence Network in Izarrya
The Active Nonviolence Network is largely located in the more well-know cities of the West Bank such as
Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah, and Nablus. Izariyya, the site of Biblical Bethany, is probably the smallest and
least-known location in which the eight network centres are based.
However, the 15-minute bus ride to Izariyya from Jerusalem, heading east towards Abu Dis, will take visitors
to the site of some of MEND’s flagship projects. The Izariyya centre is known throughout the network for its
unique programmes and the dedication of its participants.
Yacoub Rjoub is the Coordinator of the Izariyya network, and is younger than other coordinators at 30 years-
old. His youth may explain in part his passion for the project he has initiated with younger participants.
‘Children of MEND’ is a group of 20 children aged between four and eight years-old, amongst whom Yacoub
works to promote nonviolence and friendship. To this end, the Jerusalem office provided the group with
books and learning materials, such as the Shara’ Simsim resources – better known to you perhaps as Sesame
However, Yacoub’s work is by no means confined to this, and he is known as an energetic activist
throughout the network. Last summer, he coordinated a summer camp for 78 ‘Menders’ with the ANN
Ramallah coordinator, Osama Abu Karsh. Yacoub mentioned that his work with children came in useful here.
Meanwhile, he has worked hard to join up the provision of MEND in Izariyya with that of the network in nearby
Jericho. Nevertheless, he found time to attend November’s Regional Nonviolence Conference in Amman
as a MEND delegate.
As unique a figure as he doubtless is, Yacoub is also just a normal Palestinian. As such, he suffers the ill-effects
of the occupation alongside his compatriots. The struggle to live a normal life is intensified by the fact that
his wife has Israeli papers, whilst he has Palestinian ID. This means that Yacoub cannot meet her unless he
obtains Israeli citizenship, or by special permission.
These daily realities encouraged him towards active nonviolence. He recalls his first encounter with MEND in
1998, the year in which the organisation was founded. A friend invited him to a meeting between Israelis
and Palestinians, organised by MEND founding Director Lucy Nuseibeh.
Yacoub says he maintained a “good relationship” with likeminded Israelis up until the outbreak of the
second Palestinian Intifada, and began fulltime work with MEND in 2004. He now coordinates 15 Menders
and 50 adult volunteers.
According to Yacoub, the quandary in which Palestinians find themselves is not one of whether or not to
engage with the political process – most people recognise the imperative to do something. The question is
rather “how?” – how to bring about change? Yacoub read Mahatma Ghandi with profound interest, and
internalised his principle that political ends and means are inseparable. Hence, one’s political means should
be non-violent, if seeking non-violent results.
According to Yacoub, non-violent methods were more prominent during the first Intifada, and were a key
outlet for Palestinian grievances. He recalls numerous public meetings and strikes. So did Palestinians
suddenly begin to prefer violence by the time the second Intifada began? Not according to Yacoub. “I feel
many Palestinians like nonviolence.”
Yacoub is of course one such proponent of nonviolence, and drew attention to the positive effects of
nonviolence in the adherent, as well as in the wider world. “Nonviolence is very good for me” he said, “and I
aim to continue in this way”.
His dream, shared by volunteers throughout the Active Nonviolence Network, is to persuade all Palestinians
to believe in nonviolence as an effective foundation for resistance. Yacoub continues to work for the
realisation of this dream: that after him, his friends, volunteers, youth groups, and all Palestinians, will follow a
path of nonviolence.
This article is based on an interview conducted on March 13th 2007 by Takanobu Nakahara, International
Public Relations volunteer for MEND.
Author: Takanobu Nakahara
Edited by: Mark Calder
Photo credit: Yacoub Rjoub