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!
As the staff is working on preparing the next Massa-Massar Journey, we wanted to share what Dorit Shippin, who is in charge of the project, wrote after the last day of a previous Journey:
"The concluding session was, fittingly, a farewell session. Statements by the participants suggest that they underwent a meaningful experience. Nearly all the youngsters mentioned "firsts": They said it was their first visit to holy places in Jerusalem, or their first visit to such places as part of a mixed Jewish-Arab group. Muslims entered a mosque with Christian friends for the first time; all the Arabs were visiting the Western Wall for the first time. It was the first time the Arab youngsters met a Jew wearing a kippah who defends Palestinians and, in the name of his faith, struggles for justice for all. It was the first time the Arab participants heard about the Holocaust from the perspective of the suffering of children, and the first time the Jewish participants had shared this pain with Arabs. And so on and so forth.
"The Arabs in the group were older and hence more able to express themselves and were expecting more self-disclosure from the Jews. The Jewish participants were surprised by how articulate the Arabs were and by their joie de vivre. One of the participants noted that the encounter itself was the most interesting part.
"Here are two sets of quotes from a Jewish girl and an Arab girl in the group:
"Jewish girl: It was hard to get up early every morning. We were in all kinds of special situations with the Arabs, and that was a chance to see how they really are. I understand that they are like us; they want contact and we really were able to make contact despite the distancing between the two groups. We spent a week as if on another planet, like in a greenhouse. Every one of you is smart, amazing and beautiful.
"Arab girl: In the Holocaust museum, I identified strongly with the terrible things that happened to the Jewish people. It was written beautifully there: "Our love was like the wind, we did not see it but we felt it. The hatred passes, but the love always remains." And I say: even though there are conflicts between our peoples, they will pass – and the love between people will always remain.
"One of the chaperon’s told the members of the group, "As you were together on this Journey – that is how the world should be." Thus ended the Journey; the journey of life goes on. We hope that each of the participants will take this experience with them, back to their lives, with respect and appreciation for those who are different from them and with respect and appreciation for themselves; and we hope that they will want to work toward a more beautiful and more just world."
Due to lack of sufficient funding, the Pluralistic Spiritual Center has decided to push the next Massa-Massar to the 2011/2012 school year. It is now working with American, European and Japanese supporters to raise the amount needed for a new journey.
Your support is important and helps us gather additional gifts. Thank you!
The staff at the Pluralistic Spiritual Center has been facing a tough fundraising season and has decided to conduct the next Massa-Massar Journey in cooperation with other organizations that pursue similar goals. Thank you for all of you who support this meaningful project!
They are now finishing the recruiting phase of the program and the coming months should see a couple preparation sessions, and then the Journey in May or June. It should then be followed by four more sessions between the participants. We'll keep you updated as progress happens.
Over three days from Thursday, December 16 to Saturday, December 19, a group of 25 young people, Israelis and Palestinians, gathered in the Arab~Jewish village of Wahat al-Salam~Neve Shalom for a dialogue around the theme: “partnership for change”. The purpose was to encourage the participants to find ways and create opportunities to work together for peace and justice in our region.
The activity was initiated in partnership with two other NGOs, the Sulha Peace Project and the Open House - Ramle, who also belong to the “Global Network of Religion for Children” (GNRC).
The young people, together with their facilitators and adult members of the three NGOs, took part in activities that included religious celebration and prayer belonging to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions; singing of songs in Arabic and Hebrew, folklore dance and facilitated sharing circles to promote dialogue between the participants. The sharing circles enabled the young people to tell their personal stories – many of which were difficult and painful. The stories brought out the very different realities lived by Israelis and Palestinians. Yet by sharing in this way, it was possible to awaken empathy, bridge the gaps, and awaken a common yearning for peace and social justice. While the challenges remain enormous, it became possible to visualize a changed reality and discuss how to work together to realize this vision.
The venue chosen, Wahat al-Salam ~ Neve Shalom, as a village that symbolizes the possibility of an equal, shared existence between Jews and Palestinians, helped to concretize the vision. As part of the program, the group toured the various educational institutions of the village and received an explanation on these from GNRC Israel coordinator Dorit Shippin.
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