Project #3325

Binational School for Jewish and Palestinian kids

by American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

Every year, Primary School participates in Good Deeds Day, where students and teachers focus on helping and improving the lives of others. This year, the 5th grade students, along with the help of their teachers, the Village biologist and gardener, representatives of the student environmental committee, and the NADI Director, carried out a project over the two weeks leading up to Good Deeds Day. The project set out to help the Bustan Snobar (Pine Tree) Kindergarten, an Arab kindergarten that takes care of 8 autistic children. On Good Deeds Day, everyone came together to clean up the school, paint the outer wall, place birdhouses created by PS students from recycled materials, install beautiful mosaics and wind chimes, plant flowers and other plants the 5th graders selected from the PS Greenhouse, and set up an irrigation system.
To honor the memory of both nationalities, the teachers of our Primary School conducted programs for both the Palestinian and Jewish children. Listening to each other’s stories of what it means to live together in coexistence and peace, respecting each other’s narratives, helped everyone understand the impact of the conflict. The children came together to draw pictures symbolizing what living together in peace meant to them.

Primary School Kids
Primary School Kids

The Primary School encourages students to work with the community and reach out to others through their artistic skills. The Primary School has displayed their pieces in various art events through the years. In mid-February, the school kids, teachers and families came together to work on adding a part of themselves to the school. This was done with the help of artist Benjamin Swatez and his two colleagues Robert Markey and Shira Shvadron, who were guests at the village for a week. Everyone collaborated by preparing a mural for the school, creating a beautiful mosaic with fish and birds at the entrance of the school building and working on individual drawings. As part of the program, our pupils also selected their favorite drawings and painted it onto canvases which will be exhibited at the United Nations in New York City

Last fall, a group of German pupils and teachers visited the Primary School from a primary school in Dusseldorf called Freiherr-vom-Stein-Realschule. Both schools have been working together on class projects and communicate with each other on a regular basis. In an effort to continue expanding the children’s horizons and cross cultural relationships, the 6th grade class, accompanied by English teacher Raida, and Carmella, the principal took a trip to Germany to see how the German students spend their days learning. This exciting educational trip was a memorable experience for the 6th grade class. The trip nurtured the relationships between the two classes as well as both schools; there are already talks of expanding this class exchange to a family exchange.

Soon to be published, Dr. Alon Fragman and Dr. Aura Mor-sommerfeld have recently completed their first round of research on the Primary School bilingual educational model. The research set out to test the Arabic language proficiency of Hebrew-speakers in the Primary School, grades 2-4. The results show that the Primary School students scored as much as 50 points higher (on a scale of 100) than Israeli high school students studying Arabic. “The exposure to both Arabic and Hebrew already begins in kindergarten through elementary school, in a well-organized systematic bilingual program conducted by teachers who are familiar with second language pedagogy. This unique concept of the bilingual Arabic-Hebrew school of Neve Shalom seems to have a major effect on the acquisition process”, say Fragman and Mor-Sommerfeld.


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!”


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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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