May 18, 2018

Facing challenges, together

As they began the final half of the program year, participants saw growing tensions both inside and around Israel. Both participants and facilitators have had to confront their own fears and biases and challenge their perspectives in order to have productive programming and conversation and be able to relate to one other.

In Gaza, the weekly Return Marches were faced with violent reactions from the Israeli army, resulting in high casualties. They were scheduled to take place from Land Day to Nakba Day, overlapping with Passover and the Jewish national holidays (Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut). The Palestinian participants were greatly affected by the violence and deaths in Gaza, while some Jewish participants found it challenging to have conversations on this issue during holiday celebrations. These external pressures, felt in some capacity by all participants and facilitators, made productive dialogue amongst the groups harder to achieve. Thus, facilitators and participants had to be more mindful of creating an open space for everyone to voice fears and observations of the events.

In March, Jewish and Palestinian participants of the Community in Action project took part in a seminar that explored the complexities of Palestinians' lives in Jerusalem/Al-Quds. Participants learned about the unjust division of resources between the Western and Eastern parts of the city, as well as the human rights violations caused by the separation wall and occupation. Jewish participants met with Joint Arab List Congressman Dov Khenin and local peace activist Hamutal Blanc, while the Palestinian participants went on a tour in the ancient city to learn about the history of Palestinian culture and current local initiatives. This was the first time this cohort of participants had gained deep, close-up knowledge of Jerusalem, and both groups felt inspired to take action on the issues addressed.

Earlier this month, Participants of the bi-national group took a historical tour called “From Jaffa to Beirut” with Zochrot, an NGO that focuses on commemoration of the 1948 displacement of Palestinians from their homes. Participants began the tour in Jaffa and learned about the erasure of Palestinian identity from spaces where oppression has taken place. Participants went onward to the village of Iqrit in the Northern Galilee. Once a Christian village, after 1948, the village became occupied by the Israeli military. Now, Iqrit is dealing with constant demolitions and rebuilding. Participants met local Iqrit activists who maintain a small, yet strong, Palestinian community there. The last stop on the tour was Rosh Hanikra, on the border of Lebanon, at which the conversation shifted to the potential return of Palestinian refugees. Despite the tense atmosphere in the air these days, the bi-national group handled this sensitive dialogue with maturity, openness and empathy, resulting in their ability to acknowledge some of difficult events of the past while still holding on to different visions for the future. We expect that the participants will continue to grapple with the new information and process how to incorporate it into their existing narratives, both individually and as a group.

We thank you, as always, for your continuous support in this process. Even as we go through difficult times in our region, it's good to know that we have partners like you walking with us!

Feb 20, 2018

Community in learning - between language and space

Touring Jaffa
Touring Jaffa

We are now about halfway through our activity year, and have begun to witness our Community in Action participants developing awareness, gaining knowledge and familiarizing themselves with different social issues in Jaffa, including the reality of the schools where they are volunteering with Jewish and Palestinian youth.

Last month, the program participants went on a tour in Jaffa, which is a traditional part of the program. However, unlike in previous years, this time the tour was planned and organized by the participants themselves. For the Jewish participants, this meant conducting independent research and dealing with complex concepts, such as gentrification, which challenged some pre-conceived notions about residency and power. The fact that they were in charge of transferring the knowledge rather than simply consuming it enabled the Jewish participants to process the information more efficiently. For the Palestinian participants, the learning and guiding process was more personal: one of them turned to her grandfather to hear more of his memories from Jaffa during the Nakba, and another participant from Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood had the chance of sharing the neighborhood's history and her own life experiences with the group.

During their weekly binational meetings, participants go through workshops and deal with issues such as identity and language. In a recent workshop, where they were encouraged to examine different aspects of language usage, one Jewish participant was questioning the importance of increasing the Arabic language's presence in the public sphere. Through facilitated dialogue in which Palestinian participants explained that for them speaking Arabic is a part of the struggle to overcome inequality, he eventually said: "in the beginning of this discussion I thought that I would want Hebrew and Arabic to be represented equally [at a planned school event], but [now] I feel that it is my duty to speak Arabic and make it more present in public spaces". Along with Sadaka-Reut's staff, Jaffa residents and friends, Community in Action also joined our first public Jaffa Community Event of 2018, where we discussed the politicization of the Arabic language in Israel with Dr. Yoni Mendel, an expert on language and Jewish-Arab Relations. Following the conversation, a Palestinian participant said that she was happy this conversation further clarified the importance of speaking and teaching Arabic separately from the security context.

All this is possible because of the many generous donations Sadaka-Reut received from you.

Thank you for supporting our project and helping Palestinian and Jewish youth to create a more equal and just society in Israel!

In conversation about language and politics
In conversation about language and politics
Nov 20, 2017

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new year at SR

Sadaka-Reut Conference 2017
Sadaka-Reut Conference 2017

In September 2017, we began our project year with Community in Action. Community in Action (CiA) is a volunteering and leadership development project for young Palestinian and Jewish high school graduates and university students. The project creates a cadre of young, committed, bi-national activists and leaders who have the tools, knowledge, and capability to promote socio-political change, and to work toward manifesting their vision of a just society.

We began this project year with 17 CiA participants who spent the first week engaging with uni-national education. Uni-national work, which is practiced throughout the year, refers to programming in which participants work within their nationality (Jewish or Palestinian). Dialogue, discussion, and activities are later discussed again in a bi-national framework. The purpose of uni-national work is to build up the participant's confidence and comfort within their own identity, so as to begin to think critically about their society and roles within it. Participants began to volunteer as tutors in schools in Jaffa with students aged 6-17. In their first educational seminar of the year, students traveled to Haifa where they learned about both the Jewish and Palestinian historical narratives there. This session was also used as a way for the participants to get to know each other on a deeper level and to set group expectations for the year.

This year, we successfully hosted our first educational conference, 'Identity: from Margins to Mainstream,' which had a turnout of over 100 people, including 40 teachers and educators, who was our primary target for the event. Conversations focused on how only one main narrative is taught in schools, causing many to feel isolated. Solutions focused on how to increase the discourse around different identities in the country so as create a more equal environment within the education system.

As per Sadaka-Reut style, we made sure to incorporate all those present. After the main speakers finished, we held roundtables facilitated by Sadaka-Reut alumni and staff members, in which people could share their experiences and suggest practical solutions. We received particularly good feedback about this aspect and many said they would have liked to continue for longer. We ended with a panel that focused on solutions, including Sadaka-Reut's work and of other partner organization working within the education system.

 
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