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.'
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