The Ongoing Impact of the Youth Encounter Program
The School for Peace at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam continues to build on, and be inspired by, the work done in last February’s Youth Encounter workshops among high-school students from Arab and Jewish schools.
Although the workshops had to be delayed due to a flare up of violence in Gaza, the students came into the experience that much more energized and curious. There were frank discussions about Jewish and Palestinian national identities, and no opinions were withheld when it came to, for instance, Israel’s compulsory military service.
But it was because of discussions like these that the young participants were able to find plenty of common ground as they engaged in simulated peace negotiations. The atmosphere was euphoric as the students came up with creative and practical ways by which their two peoples could live and thrive together.
“I wish we could meet each other more,” said one of the Jewish students. “I want to educate the children I work with in the youth movement to be pro-peace.”
And an Arab student was similarly inspired: “I could understand you and I felt that you understood me. I hope you will be able to help us get out of the difficult situation we are in and that we will live in peace and equality.”
Following the most recent Youth Encounter Workshop at the School for Peace, Jewish and Palestinian high school students are now taking part in a 10-day mission to Italy to meet with Italian high school youth.
The encounter participants will be joined by Jewish and Arab young adults from Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, a Peace dialogue facilitator and an Arab teacher from Nazareth High School. Funded by Caritis, this additional session will give the encounter participants the ability to strengthen their relationships with each other and enable them to continue modeling what is possible during the coming year. The trip also focuses on developing a deeper understanding of Arab-Jewish relations along with their Italian counterparts.
During the summer, the School for Peace also conducted an international encounter for young adults from the United States who had come to Israel to learn about Arab-Jewish relations and the roots of the conflict.
These three and four day youth encounters will continue during the upcoming school year, and often mark the first step in coming to know someone from “the other side”. Through the encounters young people learn to honor their own identity while respecting the identity of others, and open a dialogue with and an understanding for the "other" which they carry with them well beyond the encounter.
This summer, the School for Peace has embarked on a new program to engage high school teachers who for years have been escorting students to NSWAS for youth encounters, without the opportunity to participate in the dialogue themselves. The new program, "Two Peoples Read from Right to Left," gives teachers the tools to expose their students to the life of the "other" and to develop tolerence, acceptance and respect for the culture of other culture. The program uses the SFP’s 2012 anthology, Two Peoples Write from Right to Left, which was developed over nearly twenty years of encounter workshops hosted by the School for Peace, and includes carefully-selected poems and stories in Hebrew and Arabic, which epitomize the separate realities of the two peoples.
Teachers will participate in two three-day bicultural workshops. The first meeting will take the form of an encounter workshop, enabling each participant to explore the Arab Jewish conflict through the personal experiences of the participants in the group, and to examine the asymmetric power relations between Jews and Arabs, issues of racism, inferiority and superiority and more. The second three-day workshop will be devoted to literature, with teachers will modeling the teaching of stories and poems from the other nationality to the group. Participants from the other group will observe and then have an opportunity to give feedback and discuss the work further.
This new program aims to take the work of the Youth Encounters back into high school classrooms, influencing the teachers' daily work at school and the perceptions they pass on to their students. The participants will gain the skills and confidence to teach the literature of the "other" in their curricula, and make this a more integral part of their lessons. And next year, these teachers will also be able to escort their students to the youth encounter workshops in Neve Shalom/Wahat-al-Salam in a more meaningful way, giving them the support they need to keep working towards peace and understanding beyond their encounters.
School for Peace Youth Encounters
It is a source of pride for those Jewish and Arab high schools in Israel that make a commitment to preparing for a four day residential encounter with “the other side” held at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. This winter, two groups of 55 students each worked with the issues of ignorance, stereotyping, histories and fears. Recent (December 2012) violence between Israel and Gaza had resulted in postponement of one of the workshops.
Two months later than planned, the Arab and Jewish students shared personal stories, experiences of discrimination, minority status, power relations, national identity, national/ civil rights and service and army service. With the guidance and support of eight Jewish and Arab facilitators, the encounter focused then on four areas: the nature of the state, education, symbols and ceremonies and historical justice and reconciliation.
Students from Makif Givat Brenner, Galilee School Nazareth, El Hitma School- Sakhnin don’t expect to change their world just yet, but they left the encounter with the skills to broaden their relationships and expand their vision of what’s possible. At the end, students wrote to one another; the following quote from one expresses the sentiments of many: "The meeting gave me the feeling that I want to know you more, I want to meet on a regular basis and I wanted us to act together.“
That sounds like a plan for the future that we can all support!
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.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.