A few months after the passing of Abdessalam Najjar who headed the Pluralistic Spiritual Center of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, we are happy to announce that Dafna Karta-Schwartz will now be leading the Center. Dafna is a teacher, therapist and facilitator for groups in conflict. She has a long experience in spiritual development and drama therapy. She has lived in the Jewish-Palestinian community of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam from the 1980s. Dafna will be assisted by a small team of volunteers who will help her with the budget and with organizational issues at the Spiritual Pluralistic Center.
Unfortunately, the past months have left the Center in a dire financial situation and we will have to actively fundraise to make sure projects, especially the Massa-Massar program for young Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel, can be relaunched. Our goal is to implement a new journey for about 20 young Palestinians and Jews from all over Israel next year.
We appreciate your support and want you to know that it continues to be critical to the success of the program.
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.
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