. Summary of Activity for 2008
In summing up the work of “Friendship Village” over the past year, a few matters need to be addressed, including an evaluation of the significant changes from the previous year. For example, this year saw a considerable improvement in the activities and overall functioning of the Friendship Village staff (in spite of some internal difficulties described below). The first time in our history we got support from the Israeli establishment (the Township of Haifa and the Ministry for Culture, Science & Sport) and our cooperation with academic institutes was expanded.
1.While the second half of 2007 significantly impacted the financial stability of Friendship Village, the 2008 fiscal year was a success with an increase in income. This permitted us to initiate "Talk Peace – Make Peace Project” (Young Politicians Peace Dialogue) after a hiatus of one year. The delay in funding necessary for carrying out this important project forced us to postpone its implementation from January (as it was originally earmarked for) to late March. As a result, the six-month project was condensed to three and one half months. Thankfully, the relative stability in the political arena created a positive environment in which the project could be realized, yielding a highly efficient and productive session (despite the condensed time frame). 2.Our “Academic Projects” (Woman Educators for Human Rights, Young People Against Racism) were well established in the academic institutes with whom we cooperate and the "Nemashim Project” (One Year of Life for the Society) ran successfully without cessation (in spite of the difficulties that arose in first half of the year; see below). 3.Following a crisis among the staff of the "Nemashim Project”, we had to separate from Mr. Uri Shani, the project’s founder and director. It is with great sorrow that we part from him. Nevertheless, we hope that there will be many possibilities for cooperation and collaboration in the near future. Mr. Gil Cohen, whose experience and personality are most suitable for the challenges that lay before him, replaced Mr. Shani as Project Director. 4.Additional projects that we had hoped to realize in 2008 have unfortunately been put on temporary hold, primarily due to a shortage of funds. Our application for the "Beyond the Barriers Project” – a European-Mediterranean Summer Training Program that we ran successfully in 2004 and 2005 -- was rejected by its main funder, the European Commission (Euro-Med Youth).
Another project initiated by the Municipality of Haifa, "Students' Village," wherein university students live in apartments supplied by the township in exchange for weekly hours of social work devoted to the underprivileged population, was given to us to oversee. Unfortunately however, prolonged negotiations for funding failed and we were unable to see the project through.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to greet Mrs. Danielle Mitterrand following her acceptance of our invitation to join the International Public Board. Her presence on our Board is an exceptional addition to our reputation.
Projects in Detail
1. Academic Projects: Excellent cooperation with four Academic Institutes (The Emeq Yizre'el Academic College, The Oranim Academic College for Education, The Gordon Academic College for Education and the Faculty for Sociology of The University of Haifa) throughout the last year contributed significantly to the success of this project.
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 six years that this project has been realized, 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. 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.
Each participating academic Institute receives financial participation from "Friendship Village." 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 to whom we can transfer our message of understanding, tolerance and cooperation. These courses successfully contribute to closing the gap between the academic world and the real world. In 2008 we held five academic courses in four institutes, with approximately 100 students (50% Jews and 50% Arabs) participating.
The Gordon Academic Institute for Education presented a minor difficulty. In the summer of 2007, a training program for woman teachers was held in cooperation with the institute and in partnership with the "Women Coalition" Organization. This year, due to technical reasons (i.e., the extension of the school year following the one month long teachers' strike the previous September) there were almost no teachers interested in summer training programmes. We therefore we had to cancel our course which was earmarked for July 2008. 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 the ideological position of the President who was unwilling to cooperate. In the end, following internal pressure from the side of the Academic College staff members, and some compromise from our side – the course of "Woman Educators for Peace and Human Rights" was executed.
In the Department of Sociology of the University of Haifa we held our annual course, "The Sociology of Occupation."
Summary on Continuity of Partnerships
A summary of the joint programmes of the 2007/08 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 academic institutes we are cooperating with, it seems that the next year we shall conduct the following courses:
Emeq Yizre'el – Two courses spread over two semesters
Oranim – Two courses: one will be 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. Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (Talk Peace – Make Peace), 2008
Presented to some donors under the title of "Talk Peace – Make Peace,” to others as "Young Politicians Peace Dialogue,” this project met with slight delay in the 2008 fiscal year. After successfully completing three previous cycles, there was a cessation of one year, with a look towards its renewal in the current year. Unfortunately, only toward the end of March 2008, was sufficient funding assured. The project was thereby initiated in April rather than January, as originally planned.
Recruiting Israeli participants was eased by the warm recommendations of former graduates; approximately 30 nominees competed for twelve places. Following personal interviews, the final Palestinian partners selected their group too. However, in end of the two separated selections in the Palestinian group turned out to be younger and less experienced. Additionally, they were in a lower status in their organizations than the Israelis were. Throughout the three and a half months of this very intense course, all participants met twice in bi-national encounters for long weekends in Turkey, twice for short weekends in Beit Jallah and three times for uni-national sessions.
At the end of October we held a one-day encounter in Beit Jallah, to which all participants of the project from the last four years were invited. The purpose of this encounter was to revive and renew connections with old participants, and to test the cooperation between partners on different levels. About 30 participants – Palestinians and Israelis – participated in the encounter. The political content included lectures and discussions about the option of one bi-national state should political negotiations become stagnant and a two-state solution dismissed. The meeting also provided an opportunity to check the possibility of holding an advanced course for all former participants. Such a course would provide continuity for the regular annual course for participants who wished to intensify their experience and skills in the field of conflict resolution. Many of the participants strongly supported this idea.
3. “Nemashim” (One Year of Life for the Society)
2008 marked the fourth year of this year-long volunteer program.
The young volunteers (ages 18 to 19) use theater and other artistic mediums to work with teenagers and children in the Arab and Jewish under-privileged populations in Haifa. The third cycle of this exciting project started in August 2007 with six participants: three Jewish girls, two Arab boys and one Jewish boy. In subsequent months, one of the Arab boys came to the conclusion that the project was not suitable for him and he left the group.
The group shared a rented four-room apartment called "Kommuna;” thus the full title: "NEMASHIM Kommuna". In addition to working as volunteers in art education, all members of the group worked 15-20 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 circles in participation with children and teenagers of Newe Yosef, a neighborhood populated by Jewish inhabitants 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 Ministry for Welfare.
In addition to the general work in the field of art education, the group performed three theatrical 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. As mentioned above, the crisis in March was the outcome of disagreements about the goals of the project, as well as personal differences between the project’s team members. The unrest prompted Mr. Uri Shani, the director and “father” of the project, to quit. The event shook the group, which took some time to recover. Mr. Gil Cohen, a video artist that is an expert in working with youth, replaced him.
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 youngsters remained and from the second cycle, there were two. Connections were also sustained between others who were learning in Haifa University, following their own volunteering cycle.
Before the end of 2007 work was initiated to recruit a new group of volunteers among theater- oriented high schools. This effort was conducted through a preparation course of six weekend long theater workshops. In the end, a new group inclusive of five Jewish and Arab volunteers was selected to participate in the 2008/9 Nemashim Kommuna: four girls and one boy. One of the girls is Arab.
This group started its "Year of Volunteering" in mid-August in a four daylong preparation seminar and replaced the former group in the first week of September. The new group became familiar with the work they had to do and is now fully engaged with many aspects of social work in Halisa and Newe Yosef. In December the first theatrical play was performed successfully for the children living in these neighborhoods.
In spite of our considerable success with all of our projects, our staff members have recently experienced a certain feeling of stagnation. In our 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. A plan to hire a professional fundraiser was among the ideas presented in these discussions. As for new projects, we will examine expanding our 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, was also discussed. The purpose of this project would be to teach the two historical narratives of the two cultures through regional visits to geographic sites that have a common history.
Unfortunately the growing economic crisis doesn't make our work 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 these issues. 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.
On this occasion of submitting this Annual Report, I would like to express my gratitude to all our donors. It is only due to their goodwill that Friendship Village succeeded so far to promote Jewish-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement and cooperation.
Caritas Italiana Haifa Township Caritas Switzerland Kibbutz Maabarot Secours Catholique DIPG CCFD Stammer-Mayer Fdn. Finnish Embassy in Israel Sabo Fdn. Kadoorie Foundation Ramsay Foundation Umverteilen ! Bay Foundation British Shalom – Salam Trust Humanitarian Trust Israeli Inheritance Fund Mr. Elhanan Streit
Jonatan Peled March 2009