Friendship Village was established in 1996 as an International Seminar Center dedicated to imparting values of respect and tolerance to young people living in a multi-cultural environment. The essence of its mission is to guide today’s youth towards building trust and adopting tools for communicating with the "other," and to strive towards peaceful conflict resolution. Friendship Village is devoted to helping young people to recognize commonalities between conflicting communities and between those in divergent cultural, national, religious or ethnic backgrounds.
The existence of a multi-cultural society within Israel’s borders necessarily demands a rigorous commitment to educating for peace and democracy. Friendship Village focuses on education towards cross-cultural understanding, respectful coexistence and inter-cultural cooperation, rooted in real equality, tolerance, democracy and peace. The organization's main activities include workshops and seminars designed to educate young Jews and Arabs in Israel to build a better society in Israel and in the Middle East.
Friendship Village is a registered non-profit Organization. It is not affiliated with any Israeli political party.
The Peace Process
In spite of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the peace process between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority has not progressed. Rather, political leaders representing both sides yield to pressures that will not permit them to move forward with a workable plan acceptable to both sides. Indeed, they often resort to the most historic means for settling disputes -- force and violence. Naturally, such disputes are rarely settled and in fact breed more hatred and suspicion with each incident. New waves of rage, terror and violence emerge making the situation ever untenable as the vision for any resolution cedes into the distance.
The staff at Friendship Village believes that education is one of the key tools available to foster understanding between the various interest groups. No lasting peace can be established without structuring a culture of peace and coexistence. Because change is vital for the survival of both peoples, norms, values and entrenched habits must be challenged, to ensure a broader, if not more sympathetic, understanding of the other side.
The main obstacles to understanding the historical and social context of the conflict are mutual suspicion and mistrust. Through our workshops, educational curricula, activities and across-the-border dialogue projects, some of the barriers that have led to misunderstanding are dismantled.
Peace and democracy in a multi-cultural context is one of the key challenges confronting Israeli society to date. Although Israel is regarded as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” such a perspective may be justified solely in political terms. According to many recent studies and surveys, racism, xenophobia and anti-democratic trends are, in fact, deeply entrenched norms in the Israeli mind. These trends are magnified by the absence of peace with most of the Arab world, especially with the Palestinian people. Additionally, while Jews and Arabs live side by side, they are socially almost completely separate. The relationship that does exist is characterized most generally in terms of alienation, ignorance and fear.
The future of the relationship between Israel and the Arab world (beyond that of Israel and the Palestinians) is strongly linked to the ability of the Jewish and Arab populace of Israel to live and cooperate in peaceful and respectful co-existence. This means providing a context for Arabs and Jews to learn about each other and creating an environment that fosters and enhances dialogue. A growing consciousness about the need for peace, and the possibilities of obtaining it, i.e. reconciliation and the development of democratic values in a multi-cultural context, has brought urgency to efforts to cope with inter-cultural conflicts. Education is one of the most direct and efficient means towards this goal. Friendship Village conducts educational activities necessary for peace, democracy, and inter-cultural coexistence in Israel and Palestine.
The educational work of Friendship Village is occupied with three areas;
1 - Israel
2 – Arab nations throughout the Middle East
3 – All multi-cultural societies in which there is cross-cultural conflict
In expanding its activity, Friendship Village will become a universal center of critical significance for its role in educating youth against racism, anti-Semitism and various kinds of political and social discrimination. Values of democracy, tolerance, human rights, peaceful conflict-resolution and co-existence will be emphasized through its educational programs.
Although efforts to combat racism and discrimination are not unusual in Israel (nor abroad), there is no other institution in Israel that focuses on issues of education specifically targeted for a multi-cultural society. Additionally, there are a very limited number of educational institutions that concentrate on promoting these values. Within Israel, efforts thus far made have been on the behalf of NGOs with similar aims.
In Friendship Village, young Israeli Jews and Arabs will be educated to live in a multi-cultural society, based on peaceful co-existence and cooperation for the benefit of all its constituents. Its message is already spread through various educational activities, including workshops and seminars and academic courses. The young people from other troubled countries of the Middle East and from abroad, will learn about the character, the culture, the real needs and interests that lay in the basis of their conflicts. They will also learn to cope with their conflicts through non-violent means.
Since 1999 projects for young Jewish and Arab women educators, political leaders and for schoolteachers were hold. As for now (2014) two iner-cultural projects are run by Friendship Village: "Young Leaders Peace Dialogue" (YLPD) - an Israeli - Palestinian project for young political and community leaders that has been implemented with yearly renewals since 2005. Our second project is the "Woman Educators for Peace, Democracy & Human Rights" in participation of woman teachers in charge and academic students for education. In most of our projects we cooperate with various partners, including the Emeq Yizre'el Academic College, the Gordon Academic College, the Oranim College for Education, the University of Haifa and the Palestinian Center for Citizenship & Democratic Transformation.
Young Leadership prepared in the Friendship Village, will spread over Israel and abroad, the message of peaceful co-existence and cooperation in a world, that most of it is composed of multi-cultural societies.
Educational curricula and programs, according to specific needs and conditions of Israel and of different countries, involved in the activity of the Friendship Village, will be prepared.
Friendship Village is a registered Non Profit Organization (Amuta). It is not affiliated with any political party.