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Last month, local Israel expert Jacob "Kobi" Chumash spent restless hours poring over Web sites and staying up to watch live broadcasts from the Middle East.

Israel, after decades of strife, removed by force its settlements from Gaza, a Palestinian-dominated strip of land bordering Egypt. Chumash, who moved his family from Tel Aviv to Colorado Springs two years ago so his two young sons could grow up without fear of terrorist bombings, calls the removal an inevitable step toward peace.

"We all expected [the removal] to be much worse than it was," he says of the general consensus among his friends in Israel. "Any step, even if it's a small step, is a step toward peace."

Chumash, a 48-year-old architect by training, says he tries to contribute to peace every day. Last year, he founded Effective Communications, through which he serves as a consultant on Israeli business and cultural issues.

"It's just a drop," he says of his efforts toward building understanding.

Working alongside Palestinians in his architectural practice in Tel Aviv, he learned that the war between Israelis and Palestinians often is distorted.

"I tell [clients] a lot of my own stories about my friends on the other side," he says about his days working with Palestinians. "Living on the same street, you cannot fight with your neighbor ... you don't need to hug them, you just say good morning and good night."

If enough people learn to understand both sides, leaders in the Middle East will be forced to unite, he says.

"If there is more and more pressure from the bottom for people to come together, they'll have to do it."

-- Dan Wilcock

Photo by Jane McBee

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