UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) has received the Interfaith Peace Ministry of Orange County 2010 Paul S. Delp Peace Award. The honor, which acknowledges outstanding service by Orange County individuals or groups in the pursuit of peace and justice, was presented at a formal banquet during the council’s annual meeting on April 11. 

Founded in 2007 by a diverse group of students working in association with the School of Social Sciences’ Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, OTI seeks to create open dialogue on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Students and community members involved with the initiative travel to the Middle East to hear perspectives from Israeli and Palestinian academics, community leaders, and other figures with first-hand knowledge of the conflict. Through their journey, they seek to gain an understanding of the issues beyond the stories found in media and share their findings with the campus and Orange County community upon their return.

In its three years of existence, the initiative has raised more than $140,000 to send two student trips to the Middle East, and is currently raising funds to send a third student group in fall 2010.  In March, the first OTI -inspired community trip to the Middle East took place with several members of the Orange County community and Center for Citizen Peacebuilding board.  The initiative has sparked spin-offs on other UC campuses with active branches operating at UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz.  It is also the foundation of UCI’s new undergraduate certificate program in conflict analysis and resolution. 

OTI has been highly recognized for its efforts to promote peaceful dialogue on the Israel-Palestine issue.  In addition to the recent Paul Delp Peace Award, honors include an Orange County Human Relations Commission Community Leader Award, a UC Irvine Living our Values Award, and XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarships for student cofounders Ali Malik and Moran Cohen.

Learn more about up-coming OTI activities.

Pictured from left to right: Daniel Wehrenfennig, Zachary Tune, Amir Zahlan, Nicole Farr, Jenny Yugal (with daughter Meadow Taber), and Daaman Thandi

-Heather Wuebker, Social Sciences Communications

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