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.
Dec 21, 2012

Celebrating Democracy at Oasis of Peace school

Election Day
Election Day

Democracy is an important principle for a binational primary school.  Although even adults are sometimes hard-pressed to understand what democracy means and often fail in its practice, we try to explain it to our pupils through historical example, classroom discussions and student elections. 

Israeli schools teach children about democracy by looking at historical events in which democracy has been tested.  At our school this year we focused upon the Kafr Kassem Massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kafr_Qasim_massacre) and the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Yitzhak_Rabin).

The Kafr Kassem massacre gave us a framework for looking at the position of Arab citizens in Israel then and now.  Shortly after the massacre, Arab citizens were released from military rule and the inquiry resulted in a landmark legal decision was made, according to which a soldier is obligated not to obey orders if they are manifestly illegal.

On the Rabin assassination we discussed the rules according to which democracy functions and democratic alternatives to violence.  The school gathered for a commemoration that included a slide show presentation prepared by the children and teachers, narration by students, music and movement.

At the commemoration

The children continued their study of democracy by electing a student council.  Each class elected  Arab and a Jewish representatives and then elected two student leaders for the entire school.  Before the election, the candidates mounted an election campaign based on goals and promises.  On election day a ballot box was set up in the school lobby and all the students cast their vote.  The winners were a Jewish 6th grader and an Arab 5th grader, both girls.  We wish the new student leaders success in fulfilling their campaign promises, which were to organize more special activities for the students and more events for the school.  

The winners (Roxanne and Rotem)
The winners (Roxanne and Rotem)

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Dec 21, 2012

The Journey Continues

Youth from Massa-Massar project
Youth from Massa-Massar project

This school year, partly thanks to a donation from the Global Network of Religions for Children, the Massa Massar (Journey) program continues.  The three day leadership workshop was a collaboration between The Pluralistic Spiritual Centre of WAS-NS, The Sulha Peace Project and the Open House in Ramle. Its intention was to provide a platform for open dialogue, leadership training skills and the development of genuine heartfelt connection between 20 Israeli Arab and 20 Israeli Jewish youth, ages 14-17. The youth came from cities as diverse as Haifa, Ramla, Lod, Modi'in, Jerusalem and WAS-NS itself. The workshop was run in both Hebrew and Arabic.

The first 2 days of the workshop took place in WAS-NS and on the final day there was a tour of key cultural and religious sites in Jerusalem.

The uniqueness of this leadership workshop was felt from the beginning by the introduction of the devoted group of people who worked tirelessly to ensure that the experience would reach the participants in a way that would have a deep and lasting effect. The facilitators were made up of people involved in peace work such as Elad Vazana who has spent the last ten years working on meetings between both sides. It was also facilitated by participants from previous leadership workshops who continued their work when their workshop finished and returned to facilitate the growth of others. One of these participants, Bissan Salman, age 20 from Ramla described how important it is for her to continuously learn more about those different from her in order to understand 'the other'. 'It is a huge puzzle, you need to know all the pieces to fit it together.'

This combination of the older and younger generations ensured the authenticity of the experience for the participating youth. In intimate group sessions which split the participants into four, it was clear that the facilitators were there not to give the answers, but to ask their questions and to open a space where the youth felt comfortable to bring their own questions and experiences. Together, they explored what it means to be part of a side, to experience discrimination, to overcome their own personal prejudices. The smaller groups provided a safe space for the youth to share their experiences with their peers. Angie Wahab, age 16 from Ramla shared how she was here to show that not all Arabs are on the bad side whilst Ofir Haimovich, a young Jewish girl from Zikhron Ya’aqov explained how she wanted to open her heart in all directions.

The young people brought with them a wide range of experiences in terms of their connection with ‘the other side’, Jewish or Arab. Zoe Kahana, age 14 from Pardes Chana was educated in an Arab and Jewish school and felt blessed to grow up with parents who believed it was right to give her the opportunity to meet others and overcome any stereotypes.  She came to the weekend to make friends and to interact with her Arab counterparts in a natural way. 'I want my friendships to be natural,' she said, 'We shouldn't have to think if someone is Arab or Jewish, just if we get along and want to know each other'.

Andrawes Alkalah, a 15 year old Christian Arab from Ramla has been going to WAS-NS every Summer for the last 9 years. He also attends the Open House in Ramla once a week and feels that the leadership workshop is very important in order to celebrate being human together. He said, 'It isn't an option for life to continue the way it is now for Jews and Arabs here. We have to come together to strengthen our connections and understand that everyone is a person, everyone is worthy.'

Massa-Massar visits Jerusalem
Massa-Massar visits Jerusalem
Massa-Massar at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam
Massa-Massar at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

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Dec 21, 2012

School for Peace mourns loss of Director

Nava Sonnenschein and Ahmad Hijazi
Nava Sonnenschein and Ahmad Hijazi

This summer School for Peace Director Ahmad Hijazi and his son Adam were killed in a car accident while traveling in Africa. It was a terrible loss to the School for Peace and Neve Shalom – Wahat al Salam. Ahmad was my working partner for the last 20 years, a great partnership that I will miss every day every day of my life. The pain of his loss is beyond words that can tell. Ahmad was fully dedicated to peace and equality between the Jews and Arabs. He was a leader of peace, a gifted educator and a man of all people. His influence opened eyes, broadened horizons and shaped inspiration for both Arab and Jewish participants and facilitators.

In September Dr. Nava Sonnenschein  was appointed, for the coming three years, as the Director of the School for Peace by the board of the non-profit. We are dedicated to continuing Ahmad’s work and had a special memorial meeting for the 3 courses for change agents that Ahmad was involved with. We at NS/WAS also had the memorial service for him and his son.  We at the SFP feel that we must continue the vision we had dreamt together with dear Ahmad.

Last year the SFP published an anthology of Israeli & Palestinian writers (short stories & poems) "Two People Write from Left to Right in both Languages Arabic and Hebrew”. This anthology can now benefit the youth programs as we begin a literature teachers’ training programs. Teachers from both sides will be able to use this book in their school systems. We hope to train Israeli & Palestinian teachers from Israel and from Palestine together with the Future Generation Hands Association from Nablus Palestine.

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