This was our second year in operation and we were able to carry out several of the projects that we started to develop in 2006, our first year. All of our projects continued to focus on developing Palestinian society by educating young people about the values of democracy and nonviolent conflict resolution. We also continued to collaborate and receive support from international and Israeli organizations, giving Palestinian youth the opportunity to meet the “other” and put their education into practice, dialoguing and building bridges between both societies.
“School of Formation: towards peace, civic and democratic living”
A Palestinian-Israeli study group was established under UPS sponsorship (Pontifical Salesian University) in Rome and in partnership with Eshed, Bat Chen Association and the assistance of Pontifical Institute – Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem. Eshed and Al-Tariq chose 25 Israeli and Palestinian participants who had strong multiplying effects in their society.
The base of the project was the belief that a long-term academic and educational encounter will serve as a bridge to peace, understanding and coexistence between the two nations. The program was implemented in two phases: four days in February in Jerusalem, taught by Eshed and The Way lecturers (40 h.), and six days as part of an intensive workshop in Rome, taught by UPS lecturers (60 h. – 96 – ECT). The syllabus combined the following content: psychology, communication, social work, and educating for peace, democracy and reconciliation and non violence, monotheistic religion, leadership skills. The program was a total of 100 academic hours and the graduates received a professional certification from UPS.
Both groups approached the organizers with a desire to meet again and as a result, a social activity was arranged in Kibbutz Nir David by Eshed.
Beside the support and cooperation of Bat Chen Association, UPS and Eshed, this project was supported by the German foundation “Die Schwelle” and “2Simple Trust U.K”
Screenings of “Encounter Point”
“Encounter Point” is a feature documentary that follows a former Israeli settler, Palestinian ex-prisoner, bereaved Israeli mother and wounded, bereaved Palestinian as they risk their lives to promote a non-violent end to the conflict. One of the films main subjects is a member of Al Tariq and the organization was approached by Just Vision to promote the film. We arranged five screenings in the West Bank that were attended by 250 people. We also organized a joint Palestinian-Israeli peace delegation of four organizations to go to Bremen for the screening of the film.
“Building Trust and Hope” an EU Project with the PCFF
The Palestinian side of the Parent’s Circle Families Forum (PCFF) is under the umbrella of Al-Tariq and many of our activities in 2006 were in partnership with the Israeli PCFF. This year we held 97 meetings for bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families, 11 in Palestinian districts from Jenin in the north to Hebron south including refugees’ camps, villages, schools, universities and local civil society organizations. These meetings were covered by several media outlets in print, television and radio.
Al-Tariq assigned Dr. Kamal Salameh from Al-Najah University to supervise, train and assist our staff and facilitators throughout the project.
In order better gauge the effectiveness of our meetings, the staff of the Peace research Institute in the Middle East (Prime), headed by Professor Sami Adwan, evaluated the meetings from January to October 2007 and presented us with following conclusion, “The majority of the objectives and the goals of the meetings were highly achieved in the light of the prevailing political, social and economic context.” However, he also provided us with a set of future recommendations which we incorporated the following year.
“Youth Internet” with the PCFF
This is the second Youth Internet project that we did with the PCFF where Palestinian and Israeli student participate in virtual dialogue and then meet face-to-face in a workshop.
We chose to work with participants from Tubas, where we held our Summer Camp this year because of the strong ties that we created with the community and their desire to continue working with us. The Tubas municipality donated facilities for the Palestinian participants, which we renovated and equipped with computers and furniture, so that they would have a place to participate in the virtual dialogue.
In November we chose a group of 16 students, 8 girls and 8 boys 15-16 years of age. We held two meetings at the end of 2007 with participants but were not able to have a bi-national meeting until January 2008, due to the teachers’ strike in Israel.
Young Leaders and Wings of Hope Summer Academy, Germany
This project was developed to provide support for young Palestinian and Israeli leaders who have influence in their communities and want to promote peace between the two societies.
The first phase began in July, when we selected 12 Palestinian and Israeli participants. This preparation stage was supported by the “Hans Seidel foundation” in Jerusalem and both groups had the opportunity to participate in two meetings; one national and one bi-national.
The second phase of this project was participating in the International Wings of Hope Summer Academy from August 13th – 27th in Ruhpoldigen, Germany. In addition to support Wings of Hope Germany we also received support from the German Lutheran Church Bavaria, Austrian Youth Red Cross, the Die Schwelle foundation and personal assistance from Merav Nissan the Manager of “Talma Travel” in Jerusalem.
The Summer Academy program was built by our host, Wings of Hope, which has experience working with groups from conflict zones and combining theoretical and practical studies with new experiences to support a dialogue process. Participants learned about the others culture, national narrative and societal conflicts first hand, which changed many of the participants’ perceptions. The camp also touched on the similarities between the three monotheistic religions and provided new information for all participants about the “others” religion.
Palestinian and Israeli participants also had the opportunity to meet young people from Bosnia, Iraq and Germany. This gave our group the opportunity to share their experience of the conflict with other young people who suffered from conflict but weren’t in conflict with each other. Both groups also learned how to respect the views of the other group and use dialogue as a tool to build bridges of peace and understanding, instead of hatred and righteousness. We witnessed changes in the behaviors and attitudes of participants during these two weeks and all participants noted that their belief in peace strengthened and that they had the tools to carry this dialogue on in their own communities.
Following you will find letters that two participants wrote about their experience; one is Mohammad Hamdan from Tubas and the second Noam Tirosh from Beersheba.
Letter from Palestinian participant, Muhammad Hamdan to Israeli participant, Noam Tirosh:
Its really strange how life can change! In 2003 I was preparing for my final exams in high school, during the second intifada. One after the other, my classmates were forced to leave school, as many were imprisoned by the Israeli Army. Eventually only forty students out of sixty four were able to complete their exams. The students who were in jail were friends of mine and have only now been released. Many of them have returned to their studies and completed their exams and will be starting university this year, the year that I am completing my studies. They have lost many years of their young lives, sitting in jail dreaming of university and counting the days until they will be released.
In August 2007 I had the chance to participate in Al Tariq’s Summer Academy in Germany. I still do not know if it was my good luck that one of the participants was you, a soldier who was serving in my town in 2003. It was really difficult for me to decide how I should relate to you, especially as a Palestinian who has lost two of my family members and had several family members seriously injured when an Israeli pilot bombed their car. Were you one soldiers that took my friends to jail?
I was able to overcome my anger because I saw that you changed your mind when you met people from the other side. When you got to know their experience of the Israeli people and had the opportunity to build friendships with us – the only way to change the situation. This belief that people can change, led me to participate in the Summer Academy. At the same time, I wonder why others can’t they be like me. We are all humans and we can decide what is right and wrong. We share the same feelings hope of living in peace, only abnormal people deny that people are the same all over the world.
Through our experience in the Summer Academy, we got to know each other and had a great time together, talking about our dreams and hopes, the conflict and how we can end it. But my questions were; why can’t we do this in our home in our countries? Why do we have to go out side to meet each other? Why do we have to feel afraid from the “other”? When will this conflict end?
Letter from Israeli participant, Noam Tirosh:
Darkness. It is August 2003; I huddle inside a protected vehicle with my friends whose faces are painted. The noise of the heavy diesel engine deafens our ears; these are the moments in which fear becomes reality, reality to a point that you can feel it; in a certain stage you get used to its attendance; you vacate for it an honorable place between the piles of equipment and get used to its existence. Thoughts run inside your head. Was this the last conversation with your girl friend? Did I remember to tell her, “I love you”? Could it be that my mother does not believe my usual story, that I do not put myself in danger?
We are already close to the city. I can feel this without seeing anything. A stone lands hard on roof of our vehicle, disturbing the fake tranquility inside. Soldiers who were half asleep awake in panic and tighten their grip on their personal weapon. We entered Tubas…..
Again it is August; already four years passed since the stone in Tubas, it is 2007. How I laugh and enjoy myself. I am very close to Mohammed who is beside me, Mohammed from Tubas. How can it be that from the same place, the place where not a long ago I knew its inhabitants only through the gun sight of a rifle, I give birth to a relationship with a person whom I share the same thoughts, fears and hopes?
Suddenly life has different meaning, more beautiful. The aspiration to live a normal life, a life that to the most people seems trivial, and this desire unites the worst of enemies. There is no person that truly wants to live in war. The pain is the same pain, also if it is a result of national motivation. The pain is the same pain, the suffering the same suffering and happiness the same happiness.
To sit with Mohammed on the same balcony, to enjoy together the same jokes and share the same aspirations is symbolic. For a moment someone could consider this to be a fake. But this is reality and absolutely true. After all only when we succeed to sit together, laugh, enjoy and mainly accept each other like we are, then we may succeed to make the first step and most difficult step of all in our long journey towards a true peace.
I participated in my life in hard journeys, very hard ones. I found myself marching 80 kilometers in a painful journey towards my maturity as a soldier. I survived a five days escape journey without food and with a huge back-pack on my back. But there is no comparison to the difficulties that accompany the journey towards peace, the hardest, most painful and most difficult journey of all. This is the most important journey for all of us.
Peace can’t be a tactic to have a better life. Peace is not a strategy to achieve material aims like money or lands. Peace is a way of life, a way to rightful life, more moral and a lot more pleasant.
This year our summer camp was held in Tubas (north of Palestine). Our cooperation was with the local authority, as we did in our previous camp. This cooperation enabled us to use the facilities of the local school, and to do a unique and professional program for the participants.
The two week program consisted of the following activities:
First week: Introduction of the camp staff, program and goals, workshops and lectures by local leaders and organizations in first aid, human rights, democracy, children’s rights, dialogue as a tool to solve a conflict and the peace process, sport, art, music and folklore, one day journey to the Palestinian Families Park Bardan
Second week: Workshop by the Red Crescent about general safety and other topics, lecturers about the Israeli Palestinian conflict and discussion on the ways to achieve peace etc., visiting different community service structures and children’s department in the Khaleel Suliman hospital, preparation of the closing event by the children and the facilitators, closing event in the Palestinian Families Park Al-Badaan
Unfortunately we were not able to have 250 children as we planned, due to strains in our budget. Instead we had 200 children who participated in this camp, making our budget for 150 children very difficult. One of the best outcomes of this camp was the support of people in Tubas, which contributed meals, beverage, maps, material, and musical instruments and covered the 50 additional children.
The Palestinian media coverage of the summer camp was very good; there was a 16 minute clip about the camp in on Palestinian National TV, improving our reputation with the Palestinian community, inspiring other NGOs to hold similar camps and giving parent’s the opportunity to learn about how extracurricular activities are beneficial for their children.
We were approached by the community and local organizations in order to help arranging language and computer courses, training course for facilitators, help building a computer center and library for the children in Tubas.
We express our gratitude to NCA for making this camp possible for the second year.
Overseas Delegations and Meetings
Our members and staff were invited to give lectures and interviews, participate in seminars and events, ceremonies and camps in Europe. During 2007 we participated in 9 delegations and seminars in the Italy, Germany, Jordan, and Belgium.
All the expenses of the delegations and lecturer were covered by our host abroad.
The German foundation “Die Schwelle” invited a joint peace delegation which consisted of Israelis and Palestinian peace activists from 4 ngo’s: Breaking the Silence, Just Vision, PCFF and Al-Tariq.