We have been interested in activating, and making more use of, our graduates for a long time, especially those who graduated from long-term training courses like the change agents, facilitators, and university courses. We have assessed that our graduates can bring about social change through projects and initiatives that they wish to initiate. The power of the SFP is its graduates. The SFP will provide a platform and financial support (mostly for instruction) and expertise (accompanying and guiding) for serious projects that we decide to support. Due to the geographical distance we decided to open a forum in three places, one in Jerusalem, the second in Tel Aviv, and the third in Nazareth. The purpose is to allow the participants to meet, to discuss, to get mutual support, and to work on projects that will advance relations between the two peoples – educational initiatives and initiatives on socio-political topics related to the conflict.
So far there have been four meetings, two in Jerusalem, one in Tel Aviv, and one in Nazareth. We are grateful to Zochrot, the ICCI, and the Department of Social Services for Youth and Community in Nazareth for generously hosting us.
SFP Graduates Forum in Tel Aviv
The first meeting took place on 23.4.14 in the offices of Zochrot. The meeting was successful, 13 Jewish and Palestinian graduates participated and several good ideas were raised. Here are some of those ideas.
E (a graduate of the Tel Aviv university course 2000 and the facilitators course) suggested creating a forum to study the topic of boycott and the BDS movement.
N (a graduate of the change agents course for up-and-coming politicians) proposed adding a topic to each regional forum, either through a lecture or a film, and to set up a yearly meeting for the SFP graduates from all regions.
Ng (from this year’s course for mental health professionals) wants to work with S in starting up a training scheme for teachers in Jewish schools that have Arab students on how to safeguard the national identity of Arabs in a Jewish school.
S (a graduate of Tel Aviv university course 2010 and the facilitators course of 2012) suggested carrying out research on the work of facilitators opposite the organizations that deal in meetings with the additional aspect of integrating between identities. S also proposed that SFP will give supervision to mixed staffs in academic institutions.
I (a graduate of the 2012 facilitator course) suggested setting up a dialogue with particular representatives of boycott groups, and to prepare how to continue activities as the situation worsens and it is more difficult to start activities, and to examine the issue of how the core of sanity will survive in the future.
Ir (graduate of the model negotiations course) proposed arranging a conference on the topic of other conflicts in the world. Wasim said he was already preparing such a course. Ir then said he could connect the SFP with some professional who might be relevant for a change agents course.
A (a graduate of the 2013 facilitators course) suggested setting up a support scheme for new facilitators in the field, as well as supervision.
Ar (a graduate of the environmentalists course) proposed a conference for graduates that will include Palestinians from Palestine.
Another suggestion that arose was to create a course for lawyers.
There were good ideas and it is important to develop them. The participants are now meant to develop their ideas and send in a paper that set outs goals, stages, content and target population.
Second Forum for Activating SFP Graduates in Jerusalem
On 20.5.14 we held the second meeting of the Forum for SFP graduates in Jerusalem at the offices of ICCI (Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel). The meeting was attended by 11 Jews and Palestinians. Several ideas for activism arose in this meeting. In general there is a search for projects that awaken inspiration in the face of a depressing reality.
N (a graduate from the facilitators course of 1992) and M (a graduate from the facilitators course of 1996) presented an idea concerning the national park that the government plans to set up on the lands of Issawiya and Atur, on the slopes of Mount Scopus, in order to prevent their development. A dynamic activism project was proposed against this government plan before it reaches the courts.
R suggested setting up a forum to discuss why the activities of the left wing and peace organizations do not produce results on the ground, and why these activities are not activism.
A (a graduate of this year’s facilitators course) spoke about a project she has started working on with a group of young women from Taibeh that deals with employment, identity, feminism, and going out to study in a Jewish city; a project that raises awareness and empowerment. I (a graduate of the mental health professionals course 2012) then brought up the necessity to work with groups of women in Jerusalem (Jewish and Arabic or just Palestinian) and raised the problem of language, if you are not an Arabic speaker how can you run such a program. R (also a graduate of the mental health professionals course 2012) spoke about the mixed women’s groups that she was involved with. B (a graduate of the mental health professionals course 2010) wants to develop consciousness-changing projects with religious Jewish and Palestinian women, to meet once a week.
H (a graduate of the change agents course for educators 2007) spoke about projects that bring together Arab and Jewish youth at the school he manages in Taibeh. L (a graduate of the change agents course for up-and-coming politicians 2012-13) told us about a project that he is developing between Jewish and Arab schools in Israel in the virtual sphere.
N raised an idea to work with students from the Hebrew university and Al-Quds university and combine this with activism on the ground. A suggested an additional idea, which is awareness raising tours for students,
In this second meeting of the Jerusalem Forum (the first took place in March 2014) the discussion was more specific and there are significant steps towards activism and interesting projects. For the next meeting, in July, the graduates have been asked to prepare a paper that sets out the problem, the way to deal with it, and the goal and stages of suggested activity.
SFP Graduate Forum in the North, Nazareth
On 21.5.14 there was a successful meeting in Nazareth. 14 Jewish and Palestinian participants took part. The majority of the meeting was carried out in Arabic as most of the participants were Palestinians, but there was translation for those that did not understand. Many ideas were raised concerning the projects people want to run.
H (a graduate of the change agents course for environmentalists 2012-13) raised the idea of meetings between Palestinian students in Israel and Palestinian students from Palestine. This was due to the problems of disconnection between the two groups.
A (from this years mental health professionals course) spoke about a project that was initiated to develop a course for Jewish and Arab students within the school of social work at Haifa university.
S (a graduate of the facilitators course 2003 and the up-and-coming politicians course of 2012-13) and H (a graduate of the mental health professionals course 2010) spoke about the situation in universities and particularly the suspension of Arab students who commemorated the day of the Nakba. The event had been prohibited by the University so instead people played the oud and flute, and sang on the grass nearby. Suddenly a great force of border control police fell upon the grass and the students were brought before the disciplinary committee, and two were suspended from school. A petition was organized by academics and 80 lecturers from universities across Israel signed. S suggested initiating a project to empower groups of Arab students. An additional idea raised by S was how to bring to the wider public, the message of participants from the project that the Arab Center for Alternative Planning in Nazareth are currently running in Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth). Shimon Gafsou, the mayor of Nazareth Illit, is making political fame by taking over the lands of Nazareth, claiming it is for a mixed city. The question was raised, how to change the majority of Jewish Israeli’s belief that they are masters of the land.
T (a graduate of the 2012 facilitators course) proposed working with young Arabs by training their teachers. It was suggested to him that he should organize a group of Jewish and Arab civic studies teachers in the North.
Later a discussion opened on the problem that the majority of Palestinians in Israel have withdrawn to family and group concerns out of despair and distress. Another problem is the lack of political awareness among the younger generation.
H suggested thinking about a uni-national project that creates political consciousness and awareness among youth.
E (a graduate of the change agents course for lawyers 2010) said that he could not successfully connect to the discussion this time, primarily because of the language. There were people translating but it is not the same. In the future we will need to think of a good solution for continuous translation in meetings.
S (a graduate of the mental health professionals course 2012) spoke about the problem caused by citizenship rules affecting Palestinian women married to Palestinian citizens of Israel; when these women suffer from violence they have no state facilities to turn to and do not even know about them.
M (a graduate of the 2010 mental health professionals course) spoke about a research group that she participates in that began a conference in reaction to the actions of Price Tag; Ossim Shalom – Social Workers for Peace and Social Welfare are taking part and they would be happy for the SFP to join also.
N (a graduate of the 2012 course for literature teachers) said that she did not have a project but would be happy to volunteer her help to whoever needs Hebrew editing and proofreading.
There was an atmosphere of contemplation and activity. The next meeting will be on the September 3rd at the same place at 6.00.