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.
Jun 21, 2016

New Relationships

Father Bruno Hussar, whose vision 40 years ago led to the creation of this Oasis of Peace, hoped that “people would come here from all over the country to meet those from whom they were estranged, wanting to break down the barriers of fear, mistrust, ignorance, misunderstanding, preconceived ideas - all things that separate us - and to build bridges of trust, respect, mutual understanding, and, if possible, friendship. This aim would be achieved with the help of courses, seminars, group psychology techniques, shared physical work and recreational evenings.” The Pluralistic Spiritual Center and Museum play an important role in building a secular/spiritual bridge. The Forest of the Righteous plan creates a unique tribute memorializing “the righteous”, those who have acted in tragic times to save the lives of others, risking their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. The museum initiated the planning sessions, which were attended by members of the community along with artists and educators. On March 12, over 150 Jews and Palestinians from across Israel, East Jerusalem and Bethlehem attended a full-day seminar focused on cultivating the competencies that can grow out of conflict areas, building skills for transforming the conflict. Among the participants was psychologist Ahmed Tawahina from Gaza, making his first visit to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. The presence of this father of eight, who helps individuals and groups deal with trauma in the Gaza Strip, made a significant contribution to the seminar. The day of meetings and discussions ended with participants planning to create a group of Palestinians and Israelis collaborating on collective trauma. In early March, a group of 30 Jewish, Muslim and Christian teenagers participated in a leadership program at the Spiritual Center (PSCC ) in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, in cooperation with “Open House” in Ramle. The program called Masa/Massar fo-cused on developing young adult Palestinian and Jewish leadership for Israel. The journey included opportunities for connecting through the arts, faith traditions and cultural history. Partici-pants dialogued about the impact of current issues on themselves, their country and the sites. Hiking to a Chris-tian convent, the tomb of Saint Elizabeth, the mosque in Abu Gosh and the synagogue in Nataf, participants had significant conversations with representatives of each site. “The message is that we can dare to create structures that can bring people together in equality.” The group spent two group reflections at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam’s Pluralistic Community Center. As they moved between the dif-ferent sites, communities and people, again and again they returned to the core question of what they were learning. “The focus throughout the journey was on finding places where we can meet, respect each other, discover ways that we can enrich each other and create a reality in which there is hope for everyone.” These young adults are becoming builders of trust, tolerance and mutual respect for their lives and the future of their communities.

Apr 26, 2016

Negotiating Peace

Negotiating Peace – Students from Givat Brener and Nazareth High Schools

The School for Peace began its work over thirty years ago with 'youth encounters'. Most recently, the SFP held a three-day residential encounter for sixty-one 11th graders from Givat Brener School (outside of Rehovot), and Nazareth High School. The students addressed the conflict directly and seriously. Issues of rights and responsibility (army service) are always difficult yet important subjects that they discuss as well as terrorism and violence. The simulations of future agreements and learning how to live together generate new ways of thinking for each participant.

"This experience was different than anything I have experienced in my every-day life. I arrived with a lot of stigmas, like Arabs don't pay taxes and are against the Jews. I was exposed to the ideas and beliefs of the other and their views on the situation. I admit you broke my stereotypes. I now understand that the situation that I thought was complicated is really complex."

Apr 20, 2016

Common Threads, Different Colors:

At the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam Primary School, there is something that happens that is unique in Israel. Look at the recent three months  - home to the holidays (and holydays) of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What abundance these children have to share!

          Can you imagine the learning that comes out of weeks of preparations for three such holidays? Children write their updated versions of the stories or they recreate the historic narrative. They write, they perform, they prepare foods and works of art and they share it all with the whole school, families and friends.

Beginning at the end of December with Milad a-Nabi, Hannukah and Christmas, the school’s traditions continue through Purim, Easter and Passover.  Isra’ and Miraj will have their turn in May.  When the students create a modern interpretation of a traditional story, research and explanation are part of the shared process. In the Purim recreation, Facebook and Twitter were used for some sections. For all holidays there is music, art, story and food with all children are engaged in each part whether preparing a modest meal for Passover, involving grilling potatoes on a fire and baking matzot on a griddle or putting on a red hat and beard and carrying a sack of handmade gifts for sharing. Always, for every holiday, there is the singing of traditional music.

         

What is so great about students celebrating holidays together? How about having everything in both languages, flowing easily, by all the children and the teachers?

How about having all of the children learning about each other’s traditions with depth and empathy, sharing their own family traditions and narratives, and coming to understand very different ones?

         

How about finding the values and themes that are common among these traditions and finding those universal values where we all can join in?

…and finally, how about strengthening the children’s individual identities while strengthening their  shared identity for their shared future? That’s a pretty terrific outcome for just celebrating holidays together.

 
   

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