Project #3325

Binational School for Jewish and Palestinian kids

by American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

Voices for Change

Holding their voter registration cards, the pupils of the Primary School eagerly stood in line as they awaited their turn to cast their vote for the new chairs of the student committee. The student election process introduces the importance and impact of letting their voices be heard about what they believe in. This year, the winning candidates ran on platforms of increasing extracurricular activities like swimming lessons, time for activity breaks, implementing a ‘student teaching teachers’ week, and of course something all the pupils agree on, longer recess times.

Another avenue for letting students’ voices be heard is a visual communications class taught by Roy Etinger, a new addition to the NSWAS family. Roy joined the school with the goal of teaching the Primary School pupils a new way to express themselves. Calling his class, “Creative thinking with your mobile phone,” he believes that teaching kids to use their phones as something more than a selfie or gaming instrument will open up limitless possibilities. Kids can use the, “language of moving images as a bridge” to get their messages across. By the end of the year, the kids will have produced a one minute short film about themselves and their home, all while learning about framing, storytelling and editing.

Every student has a story to tell and it is our duty to give them the skills and tools to act on their ideas.  As a result, the Primary School aims to create programs that develop civically minded students who recognize the importance and responsibility of finding common ground and using that space to become role models and leaders for other students outside of the NSWAS Primary School. Close communication with our families and attention to ongoing research helps ensure we stay focused on cutting-edge educational practices and that are part of an inclusive plan. Because of your own commitment, NSWAS Primary School students learn to take part in shaping their world and become ambassadors of peace, one year at a time

With the recent conflict on the minds of many of their students, the teachers at the Primary School of NSWAS work hard to instill in them a sense of optimism and encourage them to keep working for a brighter future.  Students are beginning to take interest in new communications and space studies programs and are preparing to be leaders of their social groups, communities, and futures. 

The students are able to re-direct their attention away from war and to engage in an exploration of their universe from a place of interest and curiosity. By focusing on building a more peaceful future, they learn to communicate more effectively in their individual relationships, while working and dreaming beyond our world to gain an understanding of the larger picture.

Looking towards the future and with your much appreciated support, the Primary School will be evaluating its available spaces and strengthening its experimental learning focus in the form of a new science lab based on the needs of each grade level. The school continues to build relations with other bilingual schools in order to provide the students with the most effective approach to bilingual education.

A New School Year and a Fresh Start


A new chapter begins at the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam Primary School this September. As the school year begins students will also welcome a new Principal, Ms. Carmela Farber. The former principal of a primary school in Bat Yam, Ms. Farber, previously is excited and eager to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

The Primary School recently received special status from the Israeli government allowing it to pave the way for future growth. Already, plans are under way to take on 100 additional students, and the School continues to gain recognition as a model across the region.

Last year at closing ceremonies, the Primary School said goodbye to Anwar Dawood, the beloved leader for many years. His wishes for the students at his departure were clear: “May you make many friends. May all your courses be interesting. May you always have your homework in on time!”

Making Matzoh to Mark Passover
Making Matzoh to Mark Passover

In keeping with the Primary School’s unique commitment to learning in two languages and several narratives, the students marked Passover and Easter together with an activity-centered afternoon outdoors.

Teachers and children were engaged in several activities ranging from crafts to quizzes to the highlight for many children: the chance to make their own matzoh.

This unleavened bread recalls the speedy escape of the Jews from Egypt, as they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise. The students formed the balls of dough into a round shape, and the teachers put the bread on a hot surface for them. After a few minutes, the bread was finished and tasty.

As they learned the exodus story, students asked about Moses: “Whose prophet is he?” “Which religion does he belong to?” This degree of curiosity, and freedom from assumption, is one small example of the impact of the School’s groundbreaking educational approach.

Primary School 6th-Graders
Primary School 6th-Graders

Teachers like Reem Nashef help make the Primary School at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam a one-of-a-kind institution. A 14-year resident of the Village, Reem’s own children graduated from the Primary School. And while she works full-time at the school — she’s responsible for the 6th-grade class, and she’s also the school’s science and environment teacher — Reem is working toward her own master’s degree in education. She speaks Hebrew, Arabic, German, French, and English.

Reem is especially proud of her current crop of sixth graders, whom she also taught last year. She reports that, this year, they are more focused, more aware of what they want, and their ideas and opinions about life have crystallized.

One of the ways this happens at the NSWAS Primary School is through projects like the “history line,” in which students examine, first, what was happening personally in their lives at various periods. Then they look at what was happening in their community, region, and the world at those same times. The project demands a high level of discipline as these young people independently research and investigate these parallel histories.

There are 12 Jewish and 9 Arab children in the class. Reem Nashef describes them as strong minded and individualistic. It’s because of accomplished and ambitious role models like Reem that this year’s 6th graders will continue to thrive as they become young adults.


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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 United States

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