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 25, 2012

Recent activities for the youth at the School for Peace

Recently, there have been two youth encounter workshops. In addition, we conducted a uninational workshop for Jewish students. The School for Peace is gradually shifting its activities from the classic youth encounter model to longer and more serious activities. This is only partly due to a lack of available funding for this kind of activity: another factor is that in the current political atmosphere, in which young people express widespread pessimism, rightward swing, growing racism and lack of interest in the other side, it becomes harder to conduct a substantive short-term encounter according the classic format. The following two projects are examples of longer-term youth activities that we are now attempting to develop.

A Youth Environmental Leadership Project, funded by the United Nations Development Program, is continuing, with the most recent workshop taking place in May. The project engages six schools in Israel and the Palestinian authority.

A Human Rights Project for Youth, supported by a 15,000 Euro grant from the Dutch Friends of NSWAS to conduct a youth leadership project in human rights, will hopefully take place at the beginning of the 2012 – 2013 school year (we are currently making contact with schools). The plan is to work with a group of about 20 Jewish and Arab students who will lead the project in 2 – 4 high schools.


Apr 10, 2012

Preparing next year journey

The Pluralistic Spiritual Center and the Massa-Massar project recently faced the tragic loss of the Center's Director, Abdessalam Najjar. Abdessalam had been the first Arab to join the unique Jewish-Palestinian community of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in the 1970s. He was instrumental in the creation of the various educational institutions of the "Oasis of Peace:" the Primary School, the School for Peace and finally the Pluralistic Spiritual Center. Lately, he was focusing on developing the Center's programs in mediation and interreligious dialogue in Israel.

The money raised in the past few months from generous donors like you on GlobalGiving will be used to prepare a project this year, in the hope that we will succeed to raise further necessary funds. The staff of the project will be Vivian Rabiah (coordinator), Evi Guggenheim (representative for the Global Network of Religions for Children), and Dorit Shippin (the previous GNRC coordinator). The team considers widening the circle of participants to include young people from other countries, in order to convert the program from a local to an international level. Cooperation is currently being discussed with a German youth organization.

Thank you for your support of the important work of the Pluralistic Spiritual Center and its Massa-Massar program. You are making a difference!


Apr 3, 2012

Adjusting to bilingualism at the school

Fariel & Orel
Fariel & Orel

One year of kindergarten is compulsory in Israel, but most attend pre-school much earlier. Yet for most of the children (all except 8 this year) it is their first year in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam and therefore their first experience of a bilingual classroom. Some children manage quite well and quickly make friends. For others it is harder.

Shams, an Arab girl from Lod, found it harder than most at the beginning. In her kindergarten she was known to be a very talented and outgoing child. She loves to sing and dance. But she definitely found it disconcerting to be in a situation where she could not communicate with half of the children and where some of the teachers spoke to her in Hebrew. She felt disadvantaged because Yaara and Bushra (two Arab girls from the village who had already been to kindergarten here), spoke Hebrew very well. So in the early days of the school she clung a lot to the Arab teachers, especially her homeroom teacher Yasmin. She would even stay with Yasmin and follow her around even during the school breaks.

Now Shams feels at home in the school. She can read, write and understand some Hebrew – still not perfectly, but she is learning to adjust – just like the other children. During the school breaks she plays with Jewish children, and has started to visit them after school.

Orel is a Jewish child from Messilat Tsiyon, a nearby Jewish moshav. Most of the residents in Messilat Tsiyon are Cochini Jews from South India, though Orel has an Indian-origin mother and a Yemenite-origin father. For the first half of the school year he attended a different school. However, he was unhappy there, and in parallel he started to hear from some of his friends in Messilat Tsiyon about the Oasis of Peace school and it sounded like much more fun. For example, they told him how they had celebrated Christmas and other holidays that he had never heard of. So he joined our school rather late – only after the winter break. It was not an easy step. By that time, the other children had already learned both the Hebrew and the Arabic alphabets and were making progress in understanding the other language. In short, he had a lot of catching up to do. Now he’s doing better, especially because he made a friend: Fariel, the Arab girl who sits next to him in the class. Now they are inseparable. Orel speaks to her in Hebrew; Fariel answers in Arabic, and it isn’t clear how much they understand one-another, but somehow it works, and Orel is beginning to feel at home at the school.

Asked how the first grade children are doing in general, Yasmin says they are all making steady progress. They understand the second language well at a passive level already, i.e. they understand most of what the teachers and the other children are saying. Working bilingually with the children requires a lot of effort on behalf of the teachers, and perhaps more so on behalf of the Arab teachers. For example, the school just celebrated Purim, a Jewish holiday. The Arab children take part too, but the Jewish teacher cannot, by herself, work with the Arab children due to language limitations. So even though this is a Jewish holiday, the Arab teacher must be equally involved in the preparations. In the first grade there is the additional difficulty that the Jewish teacher, Ira, is now in advanced pregnancy and now may have to remain at home.

Integration between the children is very good and they play together without distinction. As mentioned, they have also begun to visit one-another at home.



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