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The School for Peace
The School for Peace is a unique educational institution offering Jewish-Arab encounter programs in the spirit of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam. This work promotes better understanding through broad, in-depth examination of the nature of relations between Arabs and Jews. The School for Peace was established at Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam as part of the village’s effort to bring about a more just and egalitarian relationship between Arabs and Jews.
Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam is an Arab-Jewish village founded in 1970 near Latrun. The residents are Palestinians and Jews, citizens of Israel, who have chosen to create a shared community to challenge the existing structure of relations between Arabs and Jews and to seek more egalitarian models that can break down the inbuilt asymmetry in Israeli society as it is now. About 170 people now reside at Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam. The village is managed by a secretary and secretariat chosen annually by all members. Since its founding, the community has been run by both Jews and Arabs. The community collectively, like each of its residents and all its institutions, struggles on a daily basis with forces that tend to perpetuate the unequal power relationship; there is still a long way to go.
Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam also operates a guesthouse, a spiritual center, a humanitarian aid project, and an early childhood preschool, kindergarten and elementary school. The community’s educational facilities offer a pioneering educational framework that is bi-national and bilingual. About 250 children from the village and nearby communities study in its educational facilities.
For more on the Village go to http://www.nswas.com
The School for Peace (SFP) was created in 1979 as an ideological educational institution of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam. Through encounter workshops and training programs, we try to implement the principles on which the community was founded.
The SFP is a center for political education with the goal of creating a more humane, equal, and just society. In its activities, the SFP helps participants develop critical thinking skills and uncover the oppressive mechanisms that are built into Israeli society and feed the conflict between Jews and Palestinians. Through their interactions with “the other,” the SFP enables the participants to develop a healthier and clearer ethnic identity. They leave with a better understanding of the reality in which they live and how to work towards changing that reality for the better.
The School for Peace is an autonomous entity. Funding for its activities comes mainly from foundations and Friends of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam associations abroad, as well as from fees charged to participants. The SFP is run by an executive board and a managerial staff headed alternately, in rotation, by an Arab director and a Jewish director. The professional staff comprises a roughly equal number of Jewish and Arab facilitators, with academic backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences, and special training in facilitating groups in conflict. Every encounter program is run by Arab and Jewish facilitators on an egalitarian basis, and strives to address the needs of each national group, acknowledging natural limitations in the ability of each to understand the other.
Since the School for Peace first opened its doors, some 35,000 Jews and Arabs have attended its programs. Some are conducted at the school’s campus at Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam; others take place elsewhere in Israel, Palestine, the region, and beyond.
The SFP offerings are diverse and include uni-national and bi-national programs and activities. They are offered to a variety of groups from different sectors of the society – schoolchildren, teachers, students, social service professionals, activists in social change organizations, attorneys, planners, the general public, and professionals who work in various roles with both the Arab and the Jewish populations.
Our intention is to enable participants to enrich their perspectives, to critically examine things ordinarily taken for granted, and to try to comprehend the turbulent and violent processes taking place all around us. We have found that a unique learning experience can be offered by relating directly to events, in a safe space that permits people to examine their feelings and thoughts in the group setting. Facts and information alone are inadequate to create social awareness and prompt a renewed examination of things as they are: We must pose new possibilities and challenge the existing reality. Our team of facilitators brings a critical approach to current reality and emphasizes the implications of majority-minority relations and the asymmetry in the existing power relationships.
Our work is guided by four basic assumptions:
1…The beliefs and outlooks on which a person’s identity and behavior are constructed are deep-seated and stable, and generally resistant to change. Our work attempts to expose these outlooks and permit people to grapple with them.
2… The conflict rests on an encounter between two national groups, not between individuals; hence we see the group as having an essential importance, beyond the sum of the individuals comprising it.
3… The group is a microcosm of reality and thus offers an avenue for learning about the society at large.
4…The encounter group is an open entity, linked to and influenced by the larger reality outside.
The facilitation staff is trained in an approach that stresses dialogue, based on these four assumptions. Facilitators try to uncover and delve into the pertinent relations in the society and to deconstruct oppressive structures – and this approach, in and of itself, conveys an enriching experience that exposes participants to an alternative discourse.
The organizational structure
Description of the development of the SFP through the years.
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