Summary Report for the 2008-9 Activity Year
Message to our Friends and Supporters.
Prologue to the Annual Report
With the close of the 2008-09 activity year, Friendship Village completed yet another successful term of working with the Israeli and Palestinian and Jewish and Arab youths of a shared, collective 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 dramatically. At the same time, Israeli authorities, still unable to command compliance among the settlers, did not offer a buffer zone between the two sides. It has become increasingly evident that these “illegal outposts” have covert support by the political and the military establishments of Israel. The election of Mr. Barak Obama to the presidency of the United States in November 2008 aroused great hope that moderate political forces working towards peace through dialogue will have increasing power and long-term impact on relationships between fighting nations. Unfortunately things are still rather awkward. In Israel the most extreme right wing, nationalist government ever, headed by Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu was elected. Although Mr. Netanyahu had to surrender to pressure from the American administration and to declare his acceptance to a "two state solution", he continues to do whatever he can to strengthen the grip of Israel in the Palestinian territories. These territories are lands of violence and a free hand is given to every misdeed of the settlers, who enjoy the full protection of the Israeli army.
The response from the two populations - the Palestinian as well as the Israeli - is rather similar: accelerated polarization defines each society. On the one hand, extreme nationalism and religious fanaticism are on the rise. On the other hand, people are seeking ways to engage themselves in activities geared towards understanding and cooperation with the opposing groups. Unfortunately in Israel, a lack of confidence in the political process and an unwillingness to understand the real needs and difficulties of the “other,” leads to mutual suspicion and thwarts any kind of progress at the negotiating table. This cycle of distrust, suspicion and alienation allows for the extremist elements in each camp to grow and to obtain greater power.
Alternatively, among those who reject violence – the "moderates" – there is a desire for dialogue and a belief in its outcome. The motives for their actions do not stem solely from a longing for peace. Rather, there is a readiness to understand the other side, to accept basic values of equality, solidarity and justice; to compromise. As in the rest of the world, these opposing forces are in 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.
Let me please present to you our last year's activity report.
Jonatan Peled – General Director
Due to administrative necessity, the work summary for “Friendship Village” over the course of one year is submitted in two annual reports. Governmental Agencies and donors require a summary according to the calendar year while remaining associates and friends receives a more accurate accounting of the work, which is according to the activity year, from September to August.
The present report describes Friendship Village activity from September 2008 to August 2009, which partially overlaps with the former report covering the period between January to December 2008.
1.Friendship Village “Academic Projects” (Woman Educators for Human Rights, Young People Against Racism) were implemented in cooperating academic institutes and the "Nemashim Project” (One Year of Life for the Society) ran successfully without cessation. However additional projects including the "Young Politicians Peace Dialogue" (YPPD) have unfortunately been put on temporary hold, primarily due to a shortage of funds. 2.The Municipality of Haifa initiated an additional project, Students’ Village, wherein the township offers university students apartments in exchange for weekly hours of social work devoted to the underprivileged population. This was given to Friendship Village to oversee though prolonged negotiations for funding failed and the project did not get off the ground.
3. Despite the success of the regular projects, staff members expressed a feeling of stagnation. The organization therefore is currently seeking new ideas to expand and to diversify Friendship Village projects and to find additional ways to build understanding between Jews and Arabs and Israelis and Palestinians.
Friendship Village is pleased to announce some changes to the staff: Gil Cohen accepted to direct the “YPPD” project in addition to "Nemashim,” which he also directs, and will therefore replace Yuval Arbel, who has resigned in order to join the Israeli extension of the "Friends of Earth" organization as its Vice-Director.
The staff was expanded by the addition of Kim Bistrong, Director of Resources. This expansion was made possible thanks to a generous donation from England given specifically for this purpose. Friendship Village friends, associates and staff welcome her and are sure that her efforts in fund raising will provide a new push.
Projects in Detail
1. Academic Projects:
There has been excellent cooperation with three out of four academic partners (Emeq Yizre'el Academic College, Oranim Academic College for Education, Gordon College of Education and the Faculty for Sociology at the University of Haifa), contributing significantly to the success of this project (the issue with the fourth college is elaborated on below).
The project was conducted in a similar fashion in each institute. Within the framework of a semester’s academic course, professional-academic elements were integrated with dynamic workshops. These included four weekly successive lessons carried out in one semester. The first two units were devoted to lectures given by an academic lecturer, while the second two units were devoted to dynamic workshops held by facilitators of "Friendship Village.” In these workshops, the issues taught in the preceding lectures were expanded on and explored through personal interactions, bringing the concerns raised to the emotional level. As the courses were devoted to social and psychological subjects including gender relationships, inter-ethnic conflict, the sociology of occupation and more, the personal implication for all participating students was immediately evident and relevant. The impact of the courses was intensified as they included equal participation of Jewish and Arab students (we decided to abolish our course in one particular academic Institute that failed to recruit Arab students).
In evaluating the last six years of the implementation of this project, it is clear that conducting the course in this way has the advantage that each partner gets a very unique personal and emotional experience that is still regarded as academic. These courses successfully contribute to closing the gap between the academic world and the real world. Most significantly however, is that each student benefits from the opportunity to rethink and perhaps alter deeply entrenched conceptions and values. The result of such transformations is that many of the students are compelled to involve themselves personally with socially and politically charged issues.
The positive experience of the program offers a novel means to transfer each institute’s message to its students. At the same time, “Friendship Village” obtains access to Jewish and Arab students, many who will be educators and through whom the message of understanding, tolerance and cooperation can be transferred. In the 2008/09 academic year four academic institutes held five courses with approximately 100 students (50% Jews and 50% Arabs) participating. . Each participating academic institute received financial participation from "Friendship Village."
Gordon Academic Institute of Education presented a real difficulty, however. After long negotiations it was decided that a regular academic course – similar to those offered by the Emeq Yizre'el and Oranim colleges – would be held. The main difficulty in this institute however was due to the ideological position of the President who was unwilling to cooperate. In the end, following internal pressure from the side of the college’s staff members, and some compromise from “Friendship Village” staff, the course of "Woman Educators for Peace and Human Rights" was realized. In the Department of Sociology of the University of Haifa the project’s staff held its annual course, "Jewish-Arab relationships in Israeli society".
Continuity of Partnerships
A summary of the joint programs of the 2008/09 academic year was held with all participating partners. In general, the summaries were very positive and the continuity of cooperation with all of them was assured. Following discussions with relevant staff members of the cooperating academic institutes, it seems that the next year the following courses will be held:
Emeq Yizre'el – One course in the first semester.
Oranim – Two courses: one held over two semesters with a parallel course in the second semester.
University of Haifa – One course in the second semester.
Gordon Academic College – One course in the first semester.
2. “Nemashim” (One Year of Life for the Society)
2008/09 marked the fourth year of this year-long volunteer program.
In this program, young volunteers (ages 18 to 19) use theater and other artistic mediums to work with teenagers and children in Haifa’s Arab and Jewish under-privileged populations. The fourth cycle of this exciting project began in August 2008 with five participants (three Jewish girls, one Arab girl and one Jewish boy).
The group shared a rented four-room apartment called a "Kommuna;” thus the full title: "NEMASHIM Kommuna". In addition to working as volunteers in the field of art education, all members of the group worked 15 to 20 hours per week in a wide range of jobs in order to share in the project’s expenses.
The group functioned successfully throughout the year. It ran approximately fifteen different art and theater groups in participation with children and teenagers of the Jewish neighborhood, Newe Yosef, and Halisa, an Arab neighborhood. Some circles were nationally monolithic while others were bi-national. The ultimate goal of the project was to create as many connections between these two communities as possible.
It is important to note that both neighborhoods are among the most difficult ones in Haifa: New immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia and veterans from North Africa populate Newe Yosef, while Halisa is regarded as the poorest neighborhood in the city. Some of the activity was spread beyond the borders of these neighborhoods and included work with youth in other regions of Haifa as well. All activity was executed through daily cooperation with Social Centers and Youth Clubs run by the Township and by the Welfare Ministry.
In addition to the general work in the field of art education, the group performed three plays throughout the year: a play for children in December, a play written by the participants and performed in April, and a professional theater play in August, just before the completion of the volunteer project.
It is important to mention the strong connections that were fortified through cooperation between the volunteers of the project and its graduates from preceding years. Many of the latter remained in Haifa for one or two additional years in order to continue working with these communities. From the first cycle of the "Nemashim" project, three young participants remained and from the second and third cycles, there were two. Connections were also sustained between others who were studying at the University of Haifa, following their own one-year volunteering cycle.
The 2008/09 group started its "Year of Volunteering" in mid-August in a four day long preparation seminar, replacing the former group in the first week of September. The new group became familiar with the work required of them and became fully engaged with many aspects of social work in Halisa and Newe Yosef.
Before the end of 2008, work began to recruit a new group of volunteers from theater- oriented high schools around Israel. This effort was conducted through a preparation course of six weekend long theater workshops. In the end, a new group inclusive of five Jewish volunteers was selected to participate in the 2009/10 Nemashim Kommuna: three girls and two boys. In spite of the great effort made by the project's team, no Arab volunteer was found this year. It is a key factor that while volunteering for one year after finishing high school is rather normative among the Jewish youth in Israel, in Arab society such activity is still unfamiliar. Every year is therefore met with great difficulties in recruiting young Arab men and women to the project. Nevertheless, until this year the efforts have been successful. This year’s failure to successfully recruit Arab youth however, has compelled project staff to reconsider its method, which it will continue to revise in preparation for the coming year.
3. Young Politicians Peace Dialogue
This Project's last cycle was finished in July 2008 and unfortunately we had to put it this year on temporary hold, primarily due to a shortage of funds.
In October 2008 a reunion was hold, to which all participants of the Project since 2005 were invited. About half of them showed up. In a discussion that was hold during the meeting, many participants expressed their wish for advanced course. Following that event and thanks to support of Caritas Switzerland a two stage project was planned for the next two years: a Basic Course in 2009-10 and an Advanced Course in 2010-11. In the next Courses follow-up and sustainability will be emphasized.
In staff meetings serious thought has been devoted to the initiation of new projects – in addition to present ones. Of course this will need further fund raising efforts (Ms. Bistrong’s addition to the staff as Resources Director will help to expand the financial basis on which to continue present projects and initiate new ones).
As for new projects, the staff will examine expanding Friendship Village involvement among Jewish and Arab student activists in several academic institutes, universities, and academic colleges. A new project " Go in Peace,” a Jewish-Arab hiking group, has been discussed. The purpose of this project would be to present the two historical narratives of the two nations through visits to geographic sites that have a common history. Additional ideas are:
"Kids' TV,” is a projected program in which Jewish and Arab children film details of their lives and present their creations to children from the other side – through the internet. After a certain period face to face relationships will be developed between participants of the project.
"Young Businessmen's Peace Dialogue" is based on the excellent YPPD Project, preparing young Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs who wish to start joint enterprises, to build trust and to cooperate on basis of mutual respect and equality.
With the realization of these project, in addition to the current ones, Friendship Village work will expand its horizons and be more pervasive in Israeli/Palestinian societies.
Unfortunately the growing economic crisis doesn't make work with the projects easier. In addition, the issue of Jewish-Arab dialogue is waning and many funding agencies that once supported such projects have shifted their attention to Palestinian NGOs, Israeli-Arab NGOs or to other regions entirely. It should be kept in mind as well that the Israeli establishment almost totally disregards the issues the projects raise. Private donations are hard to find as Jewish-Arab projects are regarded as "political" and most Israelis who would support welfare projects are overwhelmed with submissions. The only project that enjoys support from inside Israel Is "Nemashim." This is due to its overtly humanitarian aspects; i.e. its involvement in art-education for children and youth of underprivileged communities.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all our donors. It is only due to their goodwill that Friendship Village succeeds to promote Jewish-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement and cooperation.
Caritas Italiana Haifa Township Caritas Switzerland Kibbutz Maabarot Secours Catholique DIPG Alan Slifka Foundation Stammer-Mayer Foundation Barrow Cadbury Trust Sabo Foundation Anna Lindh Foundation. Ramsay Foundation Umverteilen ! Bay Foundation
Rheinisches Landestheater Neuss Bloch Foundation
British Shalom – Salam Trust Humanitarian Trust Inheritance Fund Israeli Ministry of Culture & Sport
And the private donors: Mrs. Ottolenghi, Mr Gomel, Mr Streit