The Givat Brenner School has worked with the School for Peace for many years and is familiar with the structure of the workshop. The school sees the workshops as an important part of its educational program and the school prepares the students for the meeting. A staff member of the School for Peace also conducts a one day seminar for all 11th graders of the school teaching about Arab society in Israel. They discuss the Neve Shalom community, the School for Peace and the workshop program. Due to the policy and focus of the Jewish educational curriculum, the Jewish students do not have an understanding of Arab society and history.
This year the school sent two groups with a total of 58 students to the workshops. The first workshop had 25 students and when they returned to their school they recommended the program to their friends, so the number of participants increased this year. The Jewish group consisted of a majority of boys, some of which were not well behaved and were right wing. This affected the atmosphere in the workshop making it more tense than usual.
The "El Hitma "School - Sakhnin
This school sent students the School for Peace workshops for many years, but due to the costs, in the last three years they participated in this kind of workshop in another place. This year they brought a whole class of students who were studying chemistry and was mostly made up of female student (some of which were very shy and quite). There were a few girls who were very strong leaders and conducted the dialogue in a very powerful and sensitive manner. The class as a whole wasn't fully prepared for the workshop. The preparation we did dealt with expectation, fears etc., but their teacher did not prepare them with enough knowledge that apparently made the Arab group weaker in front of the Jews.
Main Processes and Subjects in the Workshop:
This group was heterogenic and the Jewish Arab conflict came up as an issue from the beginning of the workshop. The social interaction between the Jewish and Arab group was not strong although some participants got close to each other and spent a lot of the informal time discussing differences.
After two sessions where both groups got to know each other, the two groups started a political dialogue. In small groups some shared personal stories and others very quickly began to discuss the "hot" issues of the conflict. As usual, for the first time, the Jewish group was exposed to the discrimination and significance of being an Arab minority in a Jewish state and to the daily acts of oppression toward the minority. The discussions in the groups dealt with: the daily life of the Arabs as Palestinians living within a Jewish state; the nature of Israel as a Jewish state; power relations between the two national groups; and the different roles each group plays in the Israeli society: dominant group vs. minority/oppressed group.
The Jewish group was very surprised to discover and learn new facts about the status of the Arab minority in the country and the relations between the Palestinians outside Israel and the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel. The Jewish group was very clear about their desire to keep the Jewish character of the state while the Arab group spoke about the desire to have a state for all its citizens. This gap created disputes. The two groups felt that the other group was not willing to compromise and this brought up very strong emotions for some of the students.
The issue of army service was very prominent and the groups had a heated discussion about the army being immoral and executing terrorist acts while destroying civil society. The Jewish group blamed the Hamas in Gaza for being a terrorist movement. Issues of conflict were strongest around army service. The vast majority of the Jews agreed that the army is necessary for defending ‘ourselves’. The Arab students felt that the army was immoral and was carrying out the role of an occupier. In the eyes of the Palestinian students, acts of terrorism by the Israeli army were no different from other terrorist activities. This created the most turbulence brining up questions of morality, humanity etc. This was the central subject as the workshop continued. There was also discussion about the new "Yesh Atid" political party; (strongly supported by the youth) calling for everyone in society to share the burdens equally. This includes army service for ultra orthodox and Arabs. Other subjects included: events in Palestinian history like the Nakba, the Kufur Kassem massacre etc.
The issue of a Palestinian national identity was threatening for the Jewish participants. The Jewish students also brought their history; the effect of the holocaust on their lives and their identity and the need for Jews to have a safe place to live.
The groups met uni-nationally to discuss and better understand the new information and knowledge they gained about the other, working to connect these new facts and feelings with what they previously understood. In these meetings their personal conflict in their own society arose.
The Jewish group integrated new information and insights that they acquired. The Arab group was struggled to understand different facts which were not clear to them and the facilitator helped them to accept that their demands were just, and that they did not have to apologize for them. They asked themselves what do they really want, how do they see their future in Israel, etc. They also had to cope with the extremist and racist ideas expressed by some of the Jews and the disappointment related to this. They still said they were not surprised since racism is common in Israeli society. Addressing some of the hardest parts of the conflict was necessary in order to move on and try to reach a view of a better future.
The second part of the workshop was a simulation game where the group addressed four subjects:
1. the Nature of the State
2. Security and Foreign Relations
3. Symbols and Ceremonies
4. Historical Justice and Reconciliation
The simulation was built from three sessions of negotiations on the most practical issues of each subject. The groups’ ability to address these issues was difficult in the beginning as the groups worked hard on trying to find a middle ground. The groups’ discussions in addressing reconciliation went towards radical solution including the return of most refugees. In the middle of the discussions the Jewish group met as a whole and broke off negotiations. This was a result of their understanding that they have certain privileges that they are not willing to give up. The group dealing with symbols and ceremonies was the only group that succeeded to find solutions for the different issues. They found creative ways to let each group express their national identity in uni national gathering and created a new civil identity to be shared by both people. For example there will be a shared hymn for civil events and a separate Jewish and Palestinian hymn for memorial events.
Toward the last sessions of the seminar the groups tried to reach conclusions and find hope for peace and a better future.
Quotes from Letters of the Students:
"I've seen Israeli society from a new and important perspective, I've learned a lot of new facts which are not taught in Jewish schools. I hope you learned new things about us and you understand us better now"
"Despite the disagreements I feel connected to you and I feel we can live together. I understand your people much better"
"A door to a new reality was opened for me. Some of my opinions have changed, we must change and compromise, we can reach peace together. I felt blamed sometimes but I could understand your pain. I feel I want to change the reality we live in".
"The meeting gave me the feeling that I want to know you better. I want to meet on a regular basis and I want us to act together. The personal stories you told were very moving. I'll pass this message on to people around me. I want to wish you luck for your future."
"It was a rare opportunity to meet each other on an equal basis and begin to discuss all the sensitive issues"
"It was very important for me to see that you understand our pain and especially the pain of the children in Gaza. I see you as a future sensitive and creative leader who could lead us toward peace".
" I felt you are missing lot of information and hope you will search for a new understanding as you have in this meeting and get more and more information which will make you change your views"
" Thank you for the hope you gave me. I felt that there are Jewish people who want peace and are ready to compromise for it."
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.
2010/2011 Annual Report
The American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has released its Annual Report for fiscal year 2010/2011. You can download a copy and find additional information on our financial information page. Please contact us at
or (818) 325-8884 if you would like a hard copy of the report.
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.