Rotary Jewish-Arab Peace Education Initiative 2016-2018

Rotary International Global Grant 1636666

 

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

To see the development of the program until this end and
to see some photographs, please click HERE

 

Overview

The Arab population accounts for about 21% of Israel's population of 8.5 million,  while 46% of this population is under the age of 18. The entire young population of Israel has already been born  into a bitter national conflict that affects their daily life.

The Rotary Jewish-Arab Peace Education Initiative objectives would be:

•         Acquiring  skills for non-violent  conflict management.

•         Inspiring  dialogue, tolerance and hope among young people.

•         Developing a youth leadership team aiming to contribute towards
           future process changes in terms of  advancement of  peace and
           the development of a joint society.

To accomplish this, about 50 high school students, Arabs and Jews,  emanating from 17 towns and villages and studying in four different schools , in Jerusalem the Galilee regions, will be invited to participate in a two part program. The program will be conducted in 2 different high school grades: 10th  and 11-12th.

An  annual learning plan  will  offer students theories and tools  for the analysis of political disputes understanding their origins and following  the attempts to resolve them. While dealing with these disputes will allow learning from the experience of others, it will also offer the means  to analyze and dwell into the local reality using  an international filter. Another important facet of the program will include study tours in the Galilee and Jerusalem, visiting various Arab and Jewish communities and meetings with NGOs and researchers dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including social engagements. The annual program will culminate in an experiential  peace leadership summer seminar bringing together participants  from both Jerusalem and the Galilee so as to allow the creation of an intimate and intense discourse and dialogue, in order to produce agreements among the groups of potential young leaders involved in the program and build a competent young leadership cadre,  able to deal with conflicts and having the desire to spread the mission of peace in the region.

 

What are the project’s achievements?

The intensive long-term program, brought  together a large group of individuals, Arab and Jews from different  cultures. Participants who otherwise have little opportunities to interact were exposed  to each other’s views, and narratives, yet discovered similarities and formed friendships and trust.

Using   varied methodologies, the program not merely allowed for the acquisition of knowledge and familiarity but strengthened natural leadership capacities.

 

Building trust and understanding among participants, - the program managed to lay the foundation for partnerships between individual participants that may serve them in their future development of cooperation sharing a joint society.

 

What were the methods of implementation.

  • An initial preparatory seminar for the program teachers and instructors delivered by experienced psychologists, conflict mediators and a Rotary Peace Fellow.

  • Workshops dedicated to personal acquaintance.

  • Developing a series of seminars and workshops dedicated to various international conflicts and their resolve.

  • Presentation of the two local Arab-Jewish narratives, their analysis and alternative solutions.

  • Leadership and methodology for social change.

  • Incorporating experiential learning.
     

The 50 Participants, 25 Arabs and 25 Jews from 17 different towns and cities shared an intensive program of  workshops and experiential learning including personal home visits and overnight stays. These sessions took place alternately in the various schools. Unfortunately, mainly due to cultural constraints, whereby Arab young women participants were not allowed to share in the planned summer camp, - a logistic modification of plans became necessary, replacing the summer camp by six short term seminars.  

Six seminars were held, with overnight stays (including one in which Jewish children hosted Arabs in their homes and Arabs hosted Jews). These seminars,  held predominantly in mixed communities around the country, were dedicated to  social activities, meetings with activists of conflict resolution, visiting Arab and Jewish communities and participating in conflict resolution simulation games.  They offered important opportunities not merely to learn and experience from first-hand the “other” culture but to be introduced both to local coexistence as well as to local conflicting situations.

 

Participants have met many role models listening to their presentations and conducting discussions. Some of these were:

 

  • They met a representative of the ‘Women wage Peace’ Organization.

  • They met a Rotary Peace Fellow who mediated the Cyprus crisis, and is working now with refugees in Greece.

  • The met a Jewish family in the mixed city of Ramle, inhabiting a home , together with the Arab family who lived there before 1948.

  • They met the Jewish-Arab ideological community (Neveh Shalom).

  • They met the Rabbi and the Sheikh of the city of Acre, who were involved in a crucial mediation task during ethnic violent events in their city.

  • They met the directors of Arab-Hebrew theaters  in Acre and Jaffa, and saw a play in both languages.

  • They participated in a Jewish-Arab circus workshop in the Galilee, and met a Jewish-Arab dance company.

 

Study Tours

The participants were guided by ‘Ir Amim’ ,an NGO dedicated to rendering Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for all who share it -  on a study tour of Jerusalem to introduce participants to the social, economic and political issues impacting life in the city for its multiple religious, cultural and national groups as well as Jerusalem’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They also conducted three additional study tours in the mixed cities of  Ramle, Jaffa, and Haifa.

 

Simulation games:

Each seminar had a central conflict theme, where participants experienced simulation games and exercised assignments they had prepared.

Such simulation games included conflicts like Northern Ireland, Cyprus representing  international aid organizations dealing with the crisis in southern Sudan. Various crisis situations were broadcast from a television studio while the participants, playing the various roles of the sides to a conflict – had to respond and practice mediation in order to reach peaceful solutions.

 

These methods were designed to enable an experiential approach to the program’s goals , of inspiring dialogue and tolerance among the participants emanating from varied background and culture. Breaking barriers was an essential task and its success created the infrastructure for future cooperation and hope.

Of particular significance were the opportunities to share accommodation during seminars while also visiting each other’s homes.  These  informal  opportunities for interaction were greatly appreciated by the participants.

 

The extensive exposure to conflict resolutions of various national conflicts while playing the various roles in conflict  simulation games,  tuned out to be conducive  vehicles for the acquisition of conflict management skills.

In parallel, working in mixed small groups has been advantageous  in the development of leadership skills, as well as mutual cross- culture  cooperation,  which would hopefully be sustained long term.

Throughout  the entire program, expectation  from the participants to take responsibility for their mutual future has been emphasized. The level of tasks has been increased gradually resulting in jointly independent facilitated  activities by the participants.

The presentations of varied narratives and opinions as to the future of the region, which were often very different from the stereotypical  presentations , contributed to the building of understanding and trust among participants. Furthermore some found that their aspirations are similar and the word ‘hope’ was often repeated.

 

What were the technical and other capabilities of the project operators?

The program was led by a team that  included a Rotary Peace Fellow, a teacher with MA degree in Conflict Resolution; a trainer with extensive experience in guiding bi-national groups and a producer. They have been supported by a group of Arab and Jewish teachers, an educational psychologist and Arab-Hebrew  translators. All material has been published in both languages by the local printing house. Specific guides have been hired for tours of the mixed cities.

 

Withstanding the recurrent storms

 

The quite surprising positive phenomenon of this project has been its resilience to the changing untoward political and social circumstances in the region. While stormy political and conflicting events were raging – the stability and continuation of the program were not affected. That in itself was a major achievement and evidence to the solidity of the approach.

 

What features and capabilities were acquired by the participants that  will serve them in the future?

A. leadership skills

B. confidence in their counterparts- based on personal acquaintance,
     as well as acquiring the discipline of listening to different narratives.

C. Commitment to their future sharing of a joint society.

 

Sustainability
 

The Regional Board of Education has taken the program on board and has decided to integrate it into the school curriculum in Civics as part of the matriculation program. Thus this pilot initiative will benefit from public funding and guaranteed sustainability.

 

We hope that the this unique experience, will  have assisted in confronting the otherwise common conflicting attitudes among this group of youth, encouraging them to take an active leadership role in their communities thus inspiring tolerance and acceptance of diversity which are so badly needed in this part of the world.

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