Message to our Friends and Supporters
With the close of the 2012-13-activity year, Friendship Village completed yet another successful term of working with Israelis and Palestinians and the Israeli Jewish and Arab youths of our collected futures. As with previous years, this one was devoted to projects devoted to building trust and understanding between the divided groups.
Last year, the violence of the settlers in the Occupied Territories against their Palestinian neighbors rose significantly. However, the most dramatic political event was the expansion of the "Arab Spring" turmoil to Syria. Nevertheless, within Israeli borders the mood remains rather "tentative." Throughout 2012-13 the Israeli democracy itself came under brutal attack by right wing nationalist extremists. Attempts were made by Knesset Members and NGOs to de-legitimate left wing and progressive organizations and positions, as well as all the Israeli Arab community. Although Prime Minister Netanyahu had to surrender to pressure from the American administration and to declare a temporary freeze on construction in the occupied West Bank, he continues to make every effort to strengthen the grip of Israel in the Palestinian territories. These areas are now characterized by violence and covert support is given to every misdeed of the settlers, who enjoy the full protection of the Israeli army.
The response within the two populations (Israeli and Palestinian) is rather similar: accelerated political polarization. On the one hand, extreme nationalism and religious fanaticism are rising. On the other hand, people are seeking ways to engage themselves in activities geared towards an understanding of the opposing groups in an effort to insure possibilities for future cooperation. In general, there continues to be an enormous divide between the two groups and an unwillingness to understand the real needs and difficulties of the “other.” This, with a lack of faith in the political process, inevitably leads to mutual suspicion and thwarts any kind of progress at the negotiating table. In the end, this cycle of distrust, suspicion and alienation allows for the extremist elements in each camp to grow and to obtain greater power, while peace forces continue to weaken.
Still, for those who reject violence there is a desire for dialogue and a belief in its outcome. The motives of these “moderates” go beyond simply a longing for peace. Rather, there is a desire and a readiness to understand the other side; to accept basic values of equality, solidarity and justice, and to work towards compromise. As in the rest of the world, these opposing forces are in a continual struggle for the heart, mind and soul of their societies. In Israel and Palestine – maybe more than anywhere in the world – the potential withdrawal of those who struggle for peace and solidarity from the political arena threatens any chance for a workable peace. The rise of ethnocentrism and the acceleration of power among the fanatical forces in both societies endanger the entire region. The struggle is not conducted along national lines. Rather, each force is united by its inhering ideological claims. The struggle for a better, more peaceful and just society in Israel is central to the future of the Middle East. The staff at "Friendship Village" makes a determined effort to implant ideas of solidarity and mutual respect in a framework of openness and understanding of the needs and interests of the other. "Friendship Village" projects are focused on students for education, teachers, young politicians, and youth organization activists.
NGOs like us can not and do not pretend to "bring peace" to our area.
•We are strengthening the forces of moderation, openness and respect toward the other. •We prepare activists who will spread these values all over the society. •We believe in deep going educational work, rather than in demonstrative acts that focus on public relations designed for the media. We believe that this will ensure lasting change in our region •By supporting our projects, you help build a foundation for solidarity and give strength to the peace promoting forces in the Middle East.
July 2013 Jonatan Peled – General Director