As you know, a significant escalation of violence has occurred in Israel/Palestine in the past two weeks.
In spite of these recent and ongoing developments, one fact remains the same: many Jews and Palestinians refuse to be enemies. Social activists from myriad organizations, associations, and movements are joining efforts to say "no" to violence and "yes" to a shared destiny.
The School for Peace at AFNSWAS has initiated meetings with representatives from peace and human rights organizations. Their task: developing a new strategy for building a more powerful, unified movement, one that reaches larger and different audiences and maximizes impact and cooperation. Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam hosted these human rights organizations and peace activists at an emergency meeting over the weekend. Some 24 representatives of a wide range of organizations took part in the highly productive discussion and two initial activities were decided upon: the first will be a protest march in Tira this Saturday to be led by mothers against violence.
We will continue to inform you of our ongoing efforts to stand up for the humanity of all people affected by the latest awful developments, whatever "side" they may be on.
Please stand with us in our continued efforts to work towards dialogue, cooperation, and a genuine and durable peace between Jews and Palestinians.
July 16th Protest: "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies"
School for Peace Course taught at Harvard University
Intergroup dynamic in the course “Us and Them: challenges and possibilities in intergroup relations”
by Elinor Amit *
Between the years 2012 and 2014 I was the instructor of the course “Us and Them: challenges and possibilities in intergroup relations” at the Psychology Department at Harvard University. The course included both lectures and an in-class intergroup dynamic. The purpose of the intergroup dynamic learning about the psychology of intergroup relations by applying the scientific literature discussed in class to a real experience. In addition, it was an opportunity for the students to learn about their social identity, through a real interaction in secure conditions and guided reflection by the facilitators.
The dynamic was modeled after the School for Peace approach. The School for Peace, established at 1979 and located in Neve Shalom in Israel, is specialized in meetings between Israelis and Palestinians. Below I will first describe the structure of the course and the principles that guided the intergroup dynamic. I will then briefly describe a sample of the underlying processes that characterized the 2014 course.
In the dynamic we had 3 people in charge: Prof. Jim Sidanius and I facilitated the dynamic, and Dr. Emile Bruneau, the TF of the course, led the viewing group.
We had a total of 4 meetings for the dynamic. We had a total of 16 participants in the dynamic (8 “Whites” and 8 “non-Whites”), and about 20 students who were “viewers” and viewed the dynamic from behind one-sided mirror. The viewers watched the dynamic, transcribed the conversation, and conducted a guided analysis of the meetings.
Each dynamic meeting was 1.5 hours long. After each meeting, the viewers, Jim and me, had a conversation about the psychological processes underlying the participant’s behavior.
The classification of students to the “White” and “non-White” groups was done by the students themselves. The categories of “White” and “non-White” were chosen based on a short demographic survey conducted in the beginning of the semester, in which students were asked to report (anonymously) their gender, economical status, and ethnic affiliation. Again, the “White” and “non-White” definitions are subjective (for example, a person who is bi-racial could define herself as “White” or “non-White”, depending on their self identification. It was also suggested recently in a NYT article that a growing number of Hispanic people identify themselves as White (1), and we considered these self-definitions as part of the dynamic process and material to work with. In our class, the White group consisted mostly Caucasians and Jews, and the non-White group consisted Blacks, Asians, Hispanic, and Arab students.
During the dynamic meetings, students freely discussed any topic of their choice, as long as it was related to the relations between “Whites” and “non-Whites”. Thus, the focus in the dynamic was the social identities of the participants and the relationship between the participants as belonging to different social groups, and not the interpersonal relations between the participants.
We based the dynamic on four assumptions regarding intergroup dynamic, which were developed in the School for Peace. Those assumptions are: (1) The dynamic attempts to expose beliefs on which a person’s identity and behavior are constructed, and permit people to grapple with them; (2) The conflict rests on an encounter between groups (e.g., national, gender), not between individuals; (3) The group is a microcosm of reality and thus offers an avenue for learning about the society at large; and finally (4) The encounter group is an open entity, linked to and influenced by the larger reality outside.
The role of the facilitators is to facilitate a dialogue, based on these four assumptions. By uncovering underlying structures, the facilitators try to deconstruct oppressive structures in society. Jim and I tried to be supportive, yet challenge the participants with reflections about the power relations between the groups, and the ways participants from both groups dealt with it.
We had 3.5 meetings that involved dynamic with all the participants together. These meetings are emotionally charged. Therefore and based on the model of the School for Peace, we added half a meeting in which the White participants set with me and the non-White set with Jim, in two separate rooms. The purpose of the “uni-ethnic” meeting was to create a safe space for group reflections on the processes they go through in the “multi-ethnic” meetings.
Finally, we added a fifth meeting, in which the viewers set at the center of the room, and the participants set around them (the “aquarium” meeting). During this meeting, the viewers discussed their thoughts and insights about the intergroup dynamic they viewed. We also had an empty chair in the viewer’s inner-circle, in case a participant from the dynamic group would like to comment on something (which they often did).
The participants in the workshop belonged to the Harvard community, and were all undergrad students in their second, third, and fourth year of studies. Their ages ranged between 18-22 on average, and to the best of my knowledge all of them lived in the dorms. This fact, along with the fact that the workshop was very short – essentially only 4 meetings – made it very hard for the participants to openly discuss their opinions and feelings toward the relations between the groups. Indeed, often times the participants made an effort to maintain a friendly atmosphere in the room. This pattern of discussion served well the interests and needs of the White group, who benefited from the pleasant discussion by building positive self-image as moral, non-racial people.
Another characteristic of the workshop was the heterogeneous nature of the non-White group, which was the result of the heterogeneous nature of the class members. As mentioned earlier, the non-White group was a composition of various minorities, among them Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Arabs. These groups experience power-relations among themselves as well. Minority groups in the US hold different social and economical status (2). The fragmented nature of the non-White group affected the non-White participant’s ability to gain power and challenge the White group. They almost did not try to challenge the White group and ask them to acknowledge their personal responsibility for the discrimination in the American society. Instead, they found creative solutions such as saying that they (the non-Whites) or their parents chose to immigrate and therefore it’s their own responsibility, or that they do not feel they belong to the US anyway. Both groups did not experience these arguments as genuine, apparently. Indeed, by the end of the workshop participants from both groups declared that the “White group won.”
The fact that the dynamic was relatively short, along with the fragmented nature of the non-White group, might contributed to the feeling of the non-White group that they are “wasting their time” in the workshop. This claim, which was made on the third meeting, expressed a feeling of desperation that something could change in general, and following this dynamic workshop in particular. Unsurprisingly, the White group did not share this sentiment and many of them expressed an interest in the workshop as a venue to “learn about the minorities life, experiences, and opinions”. This position enabled the White group members to be emotionally remote, almost as if they are observing and not actively participating in the dynamic.
Anther strategy that the White group adopted in order to win the moral-superiority battle is to use other dimensions of intergroup relations in order to take the victim side. Such dimensions were gender relations, and SEO power dynamic. This strategy turned out to be quite effective in changing the topic and blocking the non-White group from bringing up arguments about minorities discrimination, especially given their own privileged status as Harvard students, and therefor an outgroup within their ingroup.
Despite of the challenges mentioned above, the participants managed to bring up and discuss loaded issues such as affirmative action and the very existence of power relations in the American society. The White group turned out to be heterogeneous and enabled their members to hold different views regarding the responsibility of the minorities in their success/failure (versus discrimination as the causal factor). The openness of the White participant’s to diversity of opinions in their group could be viewed as a sign of strength – a luxury of a strong, relatively homogenous group that is not intimidated by (carefully) exposing varieties of views rather than letting the dominant voice to rule.
In sum, the intergroup dynamic was characterized by relatively dominant White group and less dominant non-White group. This characterization could have been the result of the heterogeneous nature of the non-White group, the fact the dynamic was relatively short, or the fact that all the participants lived together in the dorms and therefore had a strong interest to have a pleasant atmosphere in the room and not start a fight. Despite of that, the participants still managed to bring and discuss challenging issues, and learn about their social identities as well as expose hidden power structures between groups in society, and challenge themselves explicitly with core questions such as the role of the majority versus the role of the minority in their social positions.
Elinor Amit participated in a joint School for Peace / Tel Aviv University course in 2000 – 2001. She later attended the School for Peace Facilitator Training Course.
SFP awarded $50 K grant by Journalists and Writers Foundation!
June 1, 2014: The School for Peace has won a $50,000 grant from Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) in Turkey, towards a joint project with the Ramallah based organization Tawasul, for teaching literature teachers. The School for Peace / Tawasul project was chosen as one of only 10 projects selected from among 1,179 projects submitted from 107 countries. The list was narrowed down first to 57 projects, and then to 17. (The process is described in the English-language Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.) However the final decision was only made in Istanbul, after these 17 organizations presented their projects there, in the framework of a conference that took place between May 31 – June 1.
The conference, known as the Istanbul Summit, focused this year on women’s perspectives on the UN’s development agenda after 2015. The event brought together participants from key women’s and development organizations around the world. Nava Sonnenschein represented the School for Peace at the conference and award presentation. Commenting on the experience, Nava said that the weekend program was one of the most interesting and enjoyable events in which she has ever participated. “It offered excellent opportunities to meet from very fine people from around the world, and was very productive for networking with other organizations with similar objectives.” She was favorably impressed with JWF, by the calibre of those involved with the organization and with the quality of its literature. The School for Peace evidently won the grant because the project is so closely aligned with the purposes of the JWF.
The Grant is intended to “support innovative conflict resolution and peacebuilding projects focused on preventing, managing and resolving violent conflict and promoting post-conflict peacebuilding”. The School for Peace/Tawasul were the only local winners this year, although the US-based “Alliance for Middle East Peace” (of which the American Friends of Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam is a member), also won a grant.
The Journalists and Writers Foundation
JWF is a non-governmental organization in general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Founded in 1994, the organization aims to promote peaceful coexistence, love, tolerance and dialogue at global, regional and local levels. As such, it organizes events under various platforms, and in addition “holds award ceremonies to gain inspiration from for those who contributed to universal peace and worked hard for their fellow countrymen.”
The selected project
The grant money will be used to fund a joint project of the School for Peace and Tawasul: “Arabic and Hebrew Literature in the School: Teaching the Literature of the Other”. The project is intended to train Jewish and Arab teachers of literature (Jewish and Palestinian teachers in Israel and Palestinian teachers in the West Bank). It will be based on the anthology of short stories and poems by leading writers, which was developed and published by the School for Peace (“Two Peoples Write from Right to Left”). The grant will be used to train 60 Palestinian and Jewish teachers to use the book as teaching medium. The project will include three courses: two in Israel and one in the West Bank. Each of these will be composed of three elements: a three-day encounter workshop, a one-day uninational workshop, and a final three-day joint workshop in which the teachers will hear lectures by specialists in the literature of the two peoples. The teachers will conduct a simulation of a lesson, which members of the other people will observe. In the ensuing discussion, they will be able to receive feedback. As part of the course, the teachers will be required to prepare example syllabi. The project will help to address a situation in which schools provide no exposure to the literature of the other people. It will use an innovative means to create empathy and understanding between the two peoples.
July 14th Protest: "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies"
SFP Begins Work on Impact Book
March 2014 SFP began work on a book based on interviews with
graduates of the following SFP courses: facilitators training courses, change
agent courses, and university courses over the years. The interviews focus on
how participating in SFP's course influenced the life of the graduates;dealing with long term and life changing
impact. Nava Sonnenschein is working with Deb Reich to write the book in
English (Reich previously translated the SFP book Israeli and Palestinian
Identities in Dialogue).
Honoring Abdessalam Najjar, Ahmad Hijazi and his son Adam
On November 10, 2012, The American Friends of NSWAS honored Abdessalam Najjar, Ahmad Hijzai and his son Adam through an online memorial. We celebrated their lives through stories and photos sharing the contributions they made to a durable and lasting peace between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. The recording of the memorial can be found at: http://www.anymeeting.com/OasisofPeace/EC53D6848547
We recently lost a dynamic educator and
advocate for peace to a tragic and untimely accident. Ahmad Hijazi and
his son Adam (age 9) were killed in a car accident while on vacation in
Zanzibar on August 20, 2012.
Ahmad Hijazi, the Director of the NSWAS School for Peace, oversaw all
programs of the School, including EU and USAID-sponsored programs
targeting Israeli and Palestinian professionals, youth encounters,
university courses and facilitator training. He also directly
implemented and facilitated many of these programs.
For the past year, Ahmad had been developing a major program, the
World Peace College at NSWAS. This program, in partnership with the
American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (AFNSWAS) will be the
first college in the Middle East focusing specifically on the study of
peace. The college is scheduled to launch in Fall of 2013 and support of
this campaign is to provide economic support for programs,
scholarships, library support, and technological infrastructure to make
the World Peace College the epicenter of peace education in the Middle
Help Us Support Ahmad's Legacy!
$50 Administrative Support for the World Peace College
$100 Books for Fred Segal Friendship Library for the World Peace College
$500 Lecturer for the World Peace College
$5000 Scholarship for one student enrolled for the MA Peace & Conflict Studies at the World Peace College
$80,000 Ahmad Hijazi, Chair, Peace & Conflict Studies at World Peace College
$ Any amount for support of the development of the World Peace College
Indicate World Peace College through you online donation or via check.
Remembering School for Peace Director, Ahmad Hijazi
We are heartbroken to announce the passing of Ahmad Hijazi and his younger son Adam in a tragic car accident in Zanzibar. Ahmad was the Director of the School for Peace at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. He first came to the “Oasis of Peace” as a student during a youth encounter organized by the School for Peace. A few years later, he moved with his family to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.
Between 1995 and 1997, Ahmad Hijazi was the mayor of NSWAS and supervised the general oversight of the village municipality, community activities and educational institutions. Later, he served as Director of the Communication and Development Department, and the Director of the Training of Trainer and Adult Encounters Programs at the School for Peace, designing and implementing encounters workshops between Israelis and Palestinians.
As the Director of the School for Peace, Mr. Hijazi oversaw all programs of the School, including USAID-sponsored programs targeting Israeli and Palestinian professionals, youth encounters, university courses and facilitator training. He also directly implemented and facilitated many of these programs. For the past year, Ahmad had been developing a major program, the World Peace College in NSWAS, in partnership with the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.
Ahmad and Adam were buried in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam on August 23; pictures of the funeral can be found on Al Arab website. Ahmad is survived by his wife Maram and his older son Issam.
You can read more on the village's website and read an article written by Ahmad a few years ago about his work in the "Oasis of Peace."
Nava Sonnenschein visits Los Angeles
Nava Sonnenschein from Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam will be visiting the Los Angeles area from July 10 through August 2. Nava and her husband Kobi were among the first handful of families who moved to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam 33 years ago. When she arrived in the village there was no electricity and no running water. Her three children, now adults, were among the first babies to grow up in the Jewish-Palestinian nursery. As the children grew, the day care grew into the first ever binational, multicultural, bilingual K-6 school in Israel. Nava's children learned Arabic and Hebrew. Their own lives now represent the spirit of the "Oasis of Peace" -- two young men and a young woman who believe in equality, mutual respect and understanding.
Nava is one of the founders of the School for Peace (SFP). She has worked as a facilitator, program coordinator and director for 30 years. She was part of the team who developed the SFP's unique approach to conflict resolution by placing the difficult issues at the center of the dialogue. Nava has a PhD in psychology and is invited to facilitate workshops around the world for groups in conflict. Today, much of Nava's work focuses on the USAID funded "Creating Change Agents: Israeli and Palestinian Professionals in Dialogue and Action," the development of the Fred Segal Friendship Library and establishing the new World Peace College in the village.
Venues include (the following are open to the public):
July 13 - 7:30 pm: Temple Sinai of Glendale, 1212 N. Pacific Ave, Glendale, CA 91202
July 26 - 2-4pm: Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, City Hall, Public Works Board room
July 29 - 9:30 am: St. Luke Presbyterian Church, 26825 Rolling Hills Road, Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274
July 30 - 12-1 pm: Levantine Cultural Center, 5998 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035
Please check this page for updates.
"We will leave together" - the children's response to the attack
Right after the attack happened, the community, along with parents of the school, organized the cleanup of the school building – so that the hateful graffitis would be erased before the children came back to school.
Last Thursday, the children and parents participated in a “Peace Brush” happening: together they created their own graffitis on the school's walls, helped by caricaturists Ahmad and Mohammed Abu Num. Their graffiti focused on expression of feelings on the subject of peace and coexistence.
The activity was followed by a soccer game between the school team and a team of Arab and Jewish children from Jerusalem, under the auspices of the New Israel Fund.
Six Knesset members also tabled a motion in the Knesset on June 13 on the incident in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam: Dov Hanin (Hadash); Nachman Shai (Kadema); Ghaleb Majadla (Labour); Ibrahim Sarsur (Islamic movement Raam Taal), Israel Eichler (Torah Judaism) Avraham Michaeli (Shas). All condemned the attack (despite differences in perspective) and most criticized policy laxity in this and similar attacks. Minister without portfolio Yossi Peled responded. It was decided unanimously to bring this up for further discussion in the Internal Affairs committee of the Knesset.
Since the attack on June 7, the village received numerous messages of solidarity from individuals and organizations in Israel and Palestine but also from all around the world. We are very grateful for them.
You can still support the village's recovery efforts by making a donation here.
Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam suffers racist attack
On Friday, June 8, in an apparent protest against the decision to evacuate an Israeli "outpost" settlement, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam was attacked by thugs who crept into the village, slashed tires of many cars and spray-painted right-wing and anti-Arab slogans on cars and buildings, including the Primary School.
Graffitis read "Death to Arabs" or "Revenge;" a message on one of the 14 damaged cars said "Hi from Ulpana" (the outpost settlement that the government decided to evacuate).
This attack, in the current context, reminds us of how important the example set by Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is: Jews and Palestinians who choose to live, work and raise their children together in peace and mutual respect.
Residents of the Oasis of Peace are in shock but stay strong in their will to carry the village's message of peace. Many have expressed their feelings this morning:
Nava Sonnenschein, who has lived in the village since the very first years said: "This is a racist act directed against our community. They did it so that the children would see this when they come in the morning."
"The choice of Neve Shalom is not an accident. The community represents the alternative possibility, the possibility of life with equality and cooperation," said long-term resident Michal Zak.
Anwar Dawood, the school principal said "We feel very bad and this causes us pain. We see on the school door "Death to Arabs" and "Revenge", and this is against our values. We have never harmed anyone, be they Arab or Jew. This is the first time in the last decade that we have experienced this."
We, at the American Friends, feel even more encouraged in our efforts to support the educational programs of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. Now more than ever, we need to show that Jews and Palestinians can live together and cooperate for the common good and a durable peace in the region.
The Oasis of Peace Mourns the Loss of Abdessalam Najjar
On March 22, 2012, the community of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam lost one of its earliest and most influential members, Abdessalam Najjar. Over the years, Abdessalam had traveled many times to the United States and helped spread Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam’s message of peace in the country.
Abdessalam Najjar was born in 1952 in Nazareth, North Israel, and came from a family of devout Muslims. Abdessalam became involved in peace education while he was studying at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, where his first meaningful encounter with Jewish students took place.
Abdessalam first met Father Bruno Hussar, who envisioned the creation of a Jewish-Arab village, in 1976. Two years later Abdessalam became the first Arab to join the community of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the “Oasis of Peace.” He and his wife Aisheh raised their four children in the “Oasis of Peace,” where Shirin, Leila, Nur and Mohammed could learn the art of peacemaking from birth. Once the village was founded, Abdessalam, worked with other village members to develop educational institutions which would exert influence beyond the village itself. Since then the village has become home to fifty-five families, half Jewish and half Arab. Homes are now being built for the second generation and the village has plans to expand to accommodate ninety-one more families.
In the recent period, Abdessalam headed the Pluralistic Spiritual Center in NSWAS. He focused his efforts on providing peace education to Jews and Arabs in the mixed Jewish Arab town of Acre in northern Israel. Acre has become the site of tensions and violent clashes between the two peoples. With great success, Abdessalam facilitated dialogue and mediation workshops for Jewish and Arab community leaders of the town, to meet each other and find ways to cooperate together.
Abdessalam dedicated his whole life to peace education through his commitment to improving Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the region. The community honored him on April 29, the 40th day since his passing, in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. Visit Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam's webpage for testimonials and condoleances.
The Oasis of Peace featured on PBS' Religion & Ethics
PBS' Kim Lawton visited Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam and talked with Abdessalam Najjar and Nava Sonnenschein:
Support the 1st grade class this year and follow the children through our blog
The American Friends of NSWAS has launched a new campaign this school year to support the 1st grade class at the Primary School. These 25 Palestinian and Jewish children represent a new generation that will be raised in a spirit of mutual respect and equality. You can read more about this campaign on our dedicated page, support the children by donating and follow their life at the Primary School on our blog!
Read donors' comments on the Oasis of Peace
Our donors often share why they support the Oasis of Peace. You can read them on our dedicated page and you can also share your own experience on our online guestbook.
Follow the American Friends on Jumo
The American Friends now has its page on the new Jumo platform. Check our page out and follow us.
The "Oasis of Peace" celebrates 40 years
On November 6, 1970 the lease on the village lands was signed with the Monastery at Latrun. The village arranged a gathering for members and residents to mark the anniversary. Together they watched a film on the history of the village and invited some of the veteran members to speak about the early years (and younger ones to give their impressions).
"After making fruitless inquiries and having our hopes dashed on several occasions, forty hectares of land came to us out of the blue in a most surprising way. The Trappist monastery of Latrun offered us a hill. Before the war in 1967, it had been a demilitarized area, a no man's land between Israel and Jordan. In return for a peppercorn rent of three pence a year and a 100 year lease renewable after forty-nine years, this hill became the place where the dream of Neve Shalom could come true." - When the Cloud was Lifted by Father Bruno Hussar, founder of the Oasis of Peace.
You can learn more about the history of the village here and see a few pictures of the 40th anniversary festivities in the village here.
Ralphs stores customers: register your Rewards card to support the "Oasis of Peace" when shopping
Please consider supporting the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam when shopping: Ralphs will donate up to 4% of your bill to support the educational programs of the "Oasis of Peace."
Simply go to www.ralphs.com and register your Reward Card with our organization's number: 92526.
Log in to your account (you might need to create an account), under My Account, go to Community Reward Information and edit your Community Contribution Program Information. Use our organization number -92526- to link you Reward Card to the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.
Please don't hesitate to contact us if you encounter any problem. Thank you for your support!
"Before it's too late: moving from protest to persistent activity": NSWAS mobilizes Israeli and Palestinian NGOs
On July 22, 2010 Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam organized a major conference, “Before its too late: Moving from protest to persistent activity”, which brought together some 90 activists from a broad spectrum of Arab and Jewish organizations dealing with human rights and peace activities.
The first part of the conference included presentations that highlighted both the siege on Gaza following the flotilla incident, and the erosion of human rights and democratic freedom in the country and the Occupied Territories. The second part gave the participants the opportunity to propose ideas for a joint Jewish-Arab initiatives for change.
Young People who grew up in "Oasis of Peace" visit Chautauqua Institute, NY
Maram Higazi and Omer Schwartz grew up in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. Today, Maram is a nursing student at the Hebrew University and Omer is studying film at Tel Aviv University. In July, they are visiting the Chautauqua Institute in New York discussing daily life in the "Oasis of Peace" and dialoguing with hundreds about Jewish-Arab relations. They joined esteemed activist, professor and author Galia Golan for a public dialogue on current relations in Israel.