Interns for Peace: Esther Lafontaine, David Lafontaine, Gershon Baskin, and Tamar LaFontaine

Gershon Baskin and Bruce M. Cohen

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Gershon Baskin, a 25-year-old from Smithtown, L.I., was part of Interns for Peace, co-founded by Bruce M. Cohen, that trained and sent more than 300 interns to work on community development projects in dozens of Arab and Jewish villages.

“True, we are only building personal relationships. Yet personal relationships have been the cutting edge of history in the Middle East. We, Jews and Arabs, are all of a Bedouin culture where hospitality and welcoming one into one’s tent meant the creation of a lifetime friendship and alliance in a hostile and forbidding desert.” —Bruce M. Cohen

Bruce M. Cohen

Bruce M. Cohen

, the American rabbi who co-founded Interns for Peace in Israel, died at 65 in White Plains, New York on this date in 2010. Cohen visited Israel after several Israeli Arabs were killed by the Israeli army during Land Day protests in 1976. Following a speech he gave in Jerusalem, he was approached by Farhat Agbaria, an Israeli Arab, and the two collaborated to establish their organization. Over the course of three decades, Interns for Peace trained and sent more than 300 interns to work on community development projects in dozens of Arab and Jewish villages while growing into a million-dollar budget. In its early years, most of the interns were American college students; today they are primarily Israeli Jews and Arabs. Veterans of the program include Gershon Baskin, founder and co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, Sarah Kreimer, founder and director of the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, and Arik Ascherman, director of Rabbis for Human Rights. (Our graphic is from Roibal.net, the blog of illustrator Larry Roibal.)

Click here for the History of Interns for Peace

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
Gershon Baskin