A 29-year-old Tucson resident has organized a five-day series of events to advance an elusive goal: resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tzadik, who uses one name, says he's certain that any one of us can help bring peace in the Mideast.

"There are many opinions out there that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza could not happen without the backing of the U.S. financially," said Tzadik, who in 2005 founded a grass-roots group called Planet Coexist, which is sponsoring the series.

"So in fact, how Americans view this conflict and how we choose to engage and teach in the conversation will have a large effect," he said.

The series, titled "Sparks of Peace," begins Wednesday and will be held at various locations, including the Islamic Center of Tucson in Midtown; Congregation Bet Shalom, a synagogue in the Foothills; and the Tucson Jewish Community Center, also in the Foothills.

The keynote speakers, both from Israel, are Muslim Ghassan Manasra, the director of the Anwar il-Salaam Muslim peace center, and Jewish peacemaker Eliyahu McLean.

Among other things, Manasra's organization publishes a newspaper in Arabic that spreads the message of a moderate, tolerant Islam among Muslims, has translated the Quran — the Muslim holy book — into Hebrew, and teaches Islam and Arabic to Jews in Galilee. Ghassan lives in both Nazareth and Jerusalem and has a degree in Islamic Studies from Hebrew University.

McLean's organization, which is a network of religious leaders and peace-builders in Jerusalem, holds monthly Israeli-Palestinian peace gatherings in East and West Jerusalem. McLean's work with Palestinian Sufis was written about in critically acclaimed author Yossi Klein Halevi's "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with the Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land."

The U.S. gives Israel about $3 billion a year in foreign aid, and numerous lobbying groups have a huge influence on that amount, said Tzadik, a 1996 graduate of University High School, who studied at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary and spent time training to be a rabbi at a yeshiva in the West Bank.

Aside from questions of foreign policy, Tzadik said achieving peace requires moving through grief and loss, and becoming aware of choices when it comes to health, wellness and healing versus destruction and the perpetuation of violence.

"My hope is that these events will bring about healing on multiple levels," he said. "Initially, some groups wanted to drop out. I'm not going to say which ones, but one of the things I said to them was that when people who would normally never get together can talk and learn, that is where true peace happens."

If you go

Sparks of Peace is a five-day series of events, beginning Wednesday, highlighting interfaith and intercultural cooperation and celebration. For a complete list of events, go to www.planetcoexist.com, e-mail community@planetcoexist.com, or call 981-1677.

The events:

• A "Comfort Shawl" workshop with Marge Eiseman is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road. The cost is $25 per person. Eiseman, who began making comfort shawls after losing one of her four sons, will help the group create shawls that will be sent to the Middle East. A second workshop is at 1 p.m. Sunday. To register, contact Susan Silverman at ssilverman@tucsonjcc.org.

• Ghassan Manasra, director of Anwar il-Salaam, a Muslim peace center in Nazareth, will give a talk along with Jerusalem Peacemakers director Eliyahu McLean at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in room 490 of the Marshall Building at the University of Arizona. The event is free and open to the public. Modest dress is requested.

• Manasra and McLean will give a free public talk at 1:15 p.m. Friday at the Islamic Center of Tucson, 901 E. First St.

• The Sparks of Peace Benefit Gala is at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Temple of Music & Art, 300 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $8 or $10 at the door. Tickets are available in advance at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. The gala will feature organic ethnic food, music and dance, a wellness silent auction, and a talk and slide show presented by Manasra and McLean. Proceeds will go to Planet Coexist, Jerusalem Peacemakers and Anwar il-Salaam.

● Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at sinnes@azstarnet.com.