Breaking Down Borders: Youth Self Discovery

by American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam
JITLI Meeting
JITLI Meeting

Special Projects at The Pluralistic Spiritual Community Center

Masa – Massar

This program for Palestinian and Israeli youth changed direction this year towards seeking to build an ongoing cadre of young people that would meet throughout the year. The project is conducted jointly with the Open House, Ramle. We have begun organizing a group of youth from two high schools: Ramle and Kibbutz Givat Brener, who will meet and work together throughout the coming school year. It will include an intensive two-day seminar and one educational trip. In addition the PSCC will carry out a three day workshop with Arab and Jewish youth in cooperation with the Sulha Peace Project.

Empowering Students in Reidman College of Alternative Medicine

In the coming school year the PSCC will run a project of student empowerment including two courses in the Arab town of Sachnin and in Jerusalem, for improving communication between students. The tools we will work with will include mindfulness, compassionate listening and practicing skills that develop integrity, awareness of language, empathy and listening to the other.

One of the PSCC’s goals this year was to become more focused on activities for the local and international spiritual activist community that seeks peace, awareness and healing. This year our doors were opened to many groups and drew hundreds of people from around the country and the world. Joint activities included the Sulha Peace Project, JITLI, an encounter workshop for single mothers, a seminar on Bible and Qur'an.

Sulha Peace Project

The Sulha Peace Project brings together Jews and Palestinian youth in a personal encounter with themselves and others. Participants come from both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Five meetings took place in the PSCC during the past years. The meetings took place in the spirit of the three religions, with music, art and workshops and in ‘listening circles’. Each meeting ran for five hour and had 100 to 200 participants. The Sulha meetings have been taking place with great success over the last 14 year. These activities cross all borders and allow close communication between people from different worlds.


JITLI is a youth leadership program that brings together Jewish and Arab youth, Druze, Bedouins and Ethiopians. In April, the program counselors came for three days of Bustan workshops. The group consisted of Jewish youth from San Diego, USA, Jewish Israeli youth from Sha’ar Hanegev, with Druzes, Muslims and Bedouins from Segev Shalom, Lakiya and northern Israel. The PSCC is working with JITLI in developing an additional 3-day Bustan program in August, for approximately 100 youth from Israel and America

Touring the holiest sites of Jersusalem
Touring the holiest sites of Jersusalem

Since 2009, Massa-Massar: A Journey of Discovery has affected the lives — and enlarged the perspectives — of many Israeli and Palestinian teens.

With its focus on leadership, the Massa-Massar program equips its young participants with tools, and provides them with experiences, that enable them to move beyond conflict and toward mutual understanding.

Over the past five years, there have been many workshops, field trips, facilitated dialogues, and role-playing activities. The results are best described by the participants themselves:

Wahiba, a 16-year-old from Ramla, plans to study to become a diplomat when she finishes school. “When I think about everything that has happened,” she said, “I just want to cry. But there’s no point. We need to put it behind us and move forward.”

Perri, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, felt that the weekend gave him a genuine experience of hanging out with “the other side,” having fun and being young together. He, like many of the other participants, expressed how he never receives the opportunity to meet with young people who are from “the other side.”

Yam, age 16 from Beit Hashmonai: “I’ve always celebrated Israel Independence Day without considering how Arabs feel.” An exercise in which all the participants shared their personal stories “really opened my eyes to another perspective.”

During one of the Massa-Massar tours around Jerusalem, Nicole, a 14 year old Arab teenager from Lod, described her excitement at visiting the Western Wall for the first time. She felt how special it was for the Jewish people. Nicole admitted she didn’t want to come to the workshop when she first heard about it. “I’ve had bad experiences” with people who “made me feel bad because I was Arab. I decided to come [to Massa-Massar] and it has given me a new perspective that not all Jewish people are like that. I feel much better about being Arab.”

Supporters from around the globe have made these outcomes possible. Massa-Massar will continue to change lives, to move us all closer to peace — but only with the support of friends like you.

Massa-Massar in 2013
Massa-Massar in 2013

We changed the world in 2013.

The Massa-Massar youth leadership program enjoyed its most productive, most robust, most far-reaching year yet. And with the help of collaborators across the world, we made Massa-Massar a fixture in the program of peace-building activities centered in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the Oasis of Peace.

Massa-Massar is a visionary endeavor conceived and designed at the Pluralstic Spiritual Center at NSWAS. We were so pleased in 2013 to welcome our friends at the Sulha Peace Project as they joined in the efforts to expand Massa-Massar’s reach and activities.

Among these activities were a visit by 32 Israeli and Palestinian teens to the Eco-Me Center for an Ecological Middle East; a 10-day seminar in Luzerne, Switzerland, that included a “tribal fire” in which Swiss children also participated; and specially designed tours of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem.

The participants in Massa-Massar have given us inspiring feedback: "We have to come together to strengthen our connections," said one participant, "and understand that everyone is a person, everyone is worthy.”

“It’s really opened my eyes to another perspective,” another participant told us.

Massa-Massar’s efforts to facilitate dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens — and to encourage them to facilitate similar dialogue in the leadership roles they will take on in the future — will and must expand in 2014.

Gifts from our friends in the Global Giving community will allow us to increase the time span of our programs and workshops; add more of them to our calendar year; and bring in more facilitators and participants. Your gift directly contributes to a more peaceful Middle East.

Youth leadership
Youth leadership

The Pluralistic Community Spiritual Center began the year with a community “Iftar” Ramadan Break-fast holding two evening ‘pot-luck’ dinners. One was with music and a singer, and the second, Imad Jabareen who performed a one man show with the poems of Mahmoud Darwish. The event was attending by members of the village and others who came from throughout Israel.

 In October the PCSC hosted the first of three meetings between new and old residents of NSWAS  with an open discussion of the shared past, present and future together at NSWAS.  As the village begins building 34 new units coming together, learning from the past and looking towards the future becomes an important step in building community. .

 Massa –Masar (The Journey) youth leadership program of the PCSC will take on a new focus this year developing leadership among Jewish and Arab young adults, 18 years and over. It will include up to 20 young adults from Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam and others from outside the NSWAS community. The youth will meetings will participate in seminars on subjects such as: techniques of group facilitation; how to tell a story and how to listen to someone else’s story; history of the Israeli-Arab conflict; interpersonal communication skills; etc., and with the help of PCSC staff will work  on projects with children and youth, promoting peace and human rights.   (complete article at

 Women’s Dialogue through Religious Text will begin its second year at the PCSC with Jewish and Palestinian women from Ramla, Lod, Gezer, area meeting to explore different spiritual roots of the three religions and engaging in discussion and dialogue.   The project, which includes study of texts from the Koran, New Testament and Old Testament, was very successful last year and received a lot of positive feedback from the participants. 

The Pluralistic Spiritual Community Center is planning additional interfaith and intercultural dialogue projects that will run throughout the year and hosts weekly programs including dancing organized by Ety Adlend, Yoga to calm and balance the body and mind with Dorit Shippin,  

Young Leadership

Seminar for Peace


the "other"…

The Pluralistic Spiritual Center at Neve
Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has extended the work of Massa/ Massar program to go
beyond the connections of religion, geography and history for two peoples. On April
11-14, the Pluralistic Spiritual Center hosted their creative collaboration
that included Sulha and EcoME (an environmental Center near Jericho):  a four-day seminar for 32 young leaders from all the religious groups in the region. Ages 18-22, these young adults came together out of their deep concern about the complex reality of living in this region, in which so many people fear the other.



First day – getting to know each other in the desert..

One month later, these young people are working in groups that have initiated
projects.  One project is developing an
Israeli-Palestinian program for school children.  


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Organization Information

American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

Location: Glendale, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Abir Elzowidi
Operations Manager
Glendale, CA Israel

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