American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

The American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam encourages, supports and publicizes the projects of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace." For more than thirty years, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has been dedicated to dialogue, cooperation and a genuine and durable peace between Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis. Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel have chosen to live and work together as equals in this community to promote trust, understanding and mutual respect.
May 27, 2014

Celebrating Two Holidays and Dual Cultures

Making Matzoh to Mark Passover
Making Matzoh to Mark Passover

In keeping with the Primary School’s unique commitment to learning in two languages and several narratives, the students marked Passover and Easter together with an activity-centered afternoon outdoors.

Teachers and children were engaged in several activities ranging from crafts to quizzes to the highlight for many children: the chance to make their own matzoh.

This unleavened bread recalls the speedy escape of the Jews from Egypt, as they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise. The students formed the balls of dough into a round shape, and the teachers put the bread on a hot surface for them. After a few minutes, the bread was finished and tasty.

As they learned the exodus story, students asked about Moses: “Whose prophet is he?” “Which religion does he belong to?” This degree of curiosity, and freedom from assumption, is one small example of the impact of the School’s groundbreaking educational approach.

May 27, 2014

Laying the Groundwork ... and Changing Lives

Bridging Gaps at the School for Peace
Bridging Gaps at the School for Peace

Not just anybody can bring Jewish and Palestinian youth together to engage in dialogue, role play, and the forming of a shared commitment to peaceful action. The Youth Encounter Workshops at require properly trained and committed facilitators.

Which is why the School for Peace runs intensive, four-month-long facilitator training programs. The most recent one came to a close in February: 15 participants (6 Arab and 9 Jewish participants) completed the course, which was led by Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, director of the School for Peace, and psychologist Wasim Birumi.

The participants attended lectures, received academic reading material, and had intense group discussions on aspects of the Jewish-Arab conflict and the role their own identities plays within it.

They also learned the skills needed for reaching out to groups in conflict through peer facilitation — the very work that is done in the Youth Encounter Workshops. During the training course, participants kept a diary on their experiences and analyzed the process they went through.

These newly trained facilitators began the course with different levels of experience in the field of conflict resolution, yet they all left with an enlarged awareness of the issues of the conflict, their own identities, and a greater skill set to drawn on when working with groups in conflict.

One Arab participant said, “The workshop clarified my own identity and belonging to my people. I am happy and proud that I made this important step in my life. Through this course, I became more knowledgeable and feel a responsibility to my people. Today I am more committed to help them strengthen their identity.”

And a Jewish participant said, “I feel the course is the beginning of a long journey. The first part has exposed me to many voices, feelings, information. I want to re-examine what I have learned and how I previous perceived the situation.  I have new eye glasses for seeing our reality in Israel. My view on the conflict between the two people has widened.”

Apr 22, 2014

Voices of Peace: How Massa-Massar Has Changed Lives

Touring the holiest sites of Jersusalem
Touring the holiest sites of Jersusalem

Since 2009, Massa-Massar: A Journey of Discovery has affected the lives — and enlarged the perspectives — of many Israeli and Palestinian teens.

With its focus on leadership, the Massa-Massar program equips its young participants with tools, and provides them with experiences, that enable them to move beyond conflict and toward mutual understanding.

Over the past five years, there have been many workshops, field trips, facilitated dialogues, and role-playing activities. The results are best described by the participants themselves:

Wahiba, a 16-year-old from Ramla, plans to study to become a diplomat when she finishes school. “When I think about everything that has happened,” she said, “I just want to cry. But there’s no point. We need to put it behind us and move forward.”

Perri, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, felt that the weekend gave him a genuine experience of hanging out with “the other side,” having fun and being young together. He, like many of the other participants, expressed how he never receives the opportunity to meet with young people who are from “the other side.”

Yam, age 16 from Beit Hashmonai: “I’ve always celebrated Israel Independence Day without considering how Arabs feel.” An exercise in which all the participants shared their personal stories “really opened my eyes to another perspective.”

During one of the Massa-Massar tours around Jerusalem, Nicole, a 14 year old Arab teenager from Lod, described her excitement at visiting the Western Wall for the first time. She felt how special it was for the Jewish people. Nicole admitted she didn’t want to come to the workshop when she first heard about it. “I’ve had bad experiences” with people who “made me feel bad because I was Arab. I decided to come [to Massa-Massar] and it has given me a new perspective that not all Jewish people are like that. I feel much better about being Arab.”

Supporters from around the globe have made these outcomes possible. Massa-Massar will continue to change lives, to move us all closer to peace — but only with the support of friends like you.

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