Friendship Village
International Center for Education for Peace and Human Rights in a Multi-Cultural Society
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2010-11 Annual Report

A message to our Friends and Supporters - Foreword

With the close of the 2010-11-activity year, Friendship Village completed yet another successful term of working with Israelis and Palestinians and the Israeli Jewish and Arab youths of our collective futures.  As with previous years, this one was devoted to projects devoted to building trust and understanding between the divided groups: Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (YPPD) – Advanced Course, Woman Educators for Peace, Democracy & Human Rights and Nemashim – One Year of Life for the Society.

The success of a small NGO like Friendship Village to keep on its activity is not self evident. Growing difficulties in raising financial support abroad, together with growing atmosphere of racism make Jewish-Arab cooperation more and more difficult.

Last year, the violence of the settlers in the Occupied Territories against their Palestinian neighbors rose significantly, while all over the West Bank covert support is given to every misdeed of the settlers, who enjoy the full protection of the Israeli army. The revolutions over the Arab world introduced an element of insecurity, even fear among the Jewish public in Israel. The Israeli political leadership reacted with hysteria to intentions of the Palestinian leadership to declare a sovereign state next autumn, together with the popular demonstrations of Palestinians along the Northern borders of Israel last May. I believe, that there is a connection between this turmoil and the fact that since the first half of 2010, 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.

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. 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 or 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 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 last year's activity report.  
                                                              
July 2011                                                                                        Jonatan Peled – General Director


Activity Summary for 2010-2011

Introduction

Due to administrative necessity, the work summary for “Friendship Village” activities over the course of one year is submitted in two annual reports. Governmental agencies and some donors require a summary according to the calendar year while remaining associates and friends receive a more accurate accounting of the work - which is according to the activity year - from September to August.

The report below describes Friendship Village activity from September 2010 to July 2011, which partially overlaps with the former report covering the period from January to December 2010.

1.Friendship Village “Academic Projects” (“Woman Educators for Human Rights,” and  “Young People Against Racism”) were implemented with cooperating academic institutes. "Nemashim” (One Year of Life for Society) ran successfully without cessation. Starting in October 2010 the first time ever, we managed an "Advanced Course" of our very successful "Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (YPPD)” project, as a second stage of it in participation of previous courses graduates. 

3.    The staff of Friendship Village stabilized: Gil Cohen directed the “One Year of Life for the Society” and the YPPD Projects. Rimonda Mansour fulfilled with great success the position of Educational Director and Revital Yonai is responsible for the Academic Projects.
Inas Tilhami who left for maternity leave was replaced as Social Envoy of the "One Year of Life" volunteers by Hitam Na'amne who started her job with full of energy.


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Projects in Detail

1. Academic Projects:  Like all along the last 8 years, this year we accomplished in this Project 5 academic courses in cooperation with two Academic institutes: The Emeq Yizre'el Academic College for Education and the Oranim Academic College for Education. Both of them are located in the North of Israel and they are our long time partners in this Project.

Although we made effort to run up to 15 courses this year, unfortunately the amount of funds that we succeeded to raise didn't allow us to reach this target. As the Project is modular in a certain sense (each course costs around 6600 Euro) we could fit the number of courses to available financial sources. Most of the courses stuck strictly to the determined subject (Inter-ethnic Women Dialogue), in some cases we had to modify it according to demands of the partner Academic Institute. In every case all participants were young woman students for education.

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 eight 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 the students benefit 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 2010-11 academic year two academic institutes held five courses with approximately 100 students (60% Jews and 40% Arabs) participating. . Each participating academic institute received financial participation from "Friendship Village."

Quotes from summations by participants:

“The workshop contributed a lot to me and I would register for more such workshops if they opened up. Even if it wasn't very helpful in resolving the conflict between us, it helped me personally. Also, the facilitation method made me aware of my wish to understand myself and my thoughts. I also learned a lot about knowing when to talk and how to ask questions which are important to me.” (Arab participant)

“It was very difficult for me to be here. I had avoided these issues for years. It's good that it finally happened. I learned to look at issues from another viewpoint, to listen to the other side, and to be interested in the conflict.” (Jewish participant)

“Despite the disputes and the shouting, I am happy I was here. It helped me get to know the other side. It helped me personally because I dared to talk out loud in the group, something I had never done before.” (Arab participant)

“It's high time these kind of things happened. In the previous two years, we hadn't talked to one another at all. Even if the topics are difficult, you have to open them up and see what comes out of it. This was the first time I could hear what people think. This project is important: to allow the opportunity and strength to speak about these issues, because during every day life you can't. I gained a lot here.” (Jewish participant)

“The workshop has taught me to listen to the other side better before I judge it. I also learned that sometimes you talk, but the contents don't match your expression. I learned a lot here, and I would like to return for a similar workshop.” (Arab participant)

“I'm starting to understand how the other side thinks, sees and understands things. I wouldn't be aware of these things if it weren't for this course. Sometimes I had the feeling that each side tries to stick to its viewpoint and justify it. Many things were hard for me to hear and accept, but it was important to listen and to know, and during every day life there's no time for that.” (Jewish participant)

A summary of the joint programs of the 2010/11 academic year was held with all participating partners. In general, the summaries were very positive and the continuity of cooperation with them was assured.

2. “Nemashim” (One Year of Life for Society)
2010-11marked the sixth year of this year-long volunteer program.

This year unfortunately only 3 young volunteers take part in the project (unlike the usual    5 – 6 participants) – all of them Jewish girls: Shir, Hila and Adar. This time we didn't succeed to overcome the usual difficulties to recruit Arab high-school graduates to the Project, although two young Arabs – a boy and a girl – who finished the Project's preparation seminar joined its theater part, as players in the theater plays performed by the Kommuna.

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 fifth cycle of this exciting project began in August 2009 with five participants. This time, unlike in former years when participants were both Jews and Arabs, all of them were Jews (three girls, and two boys). The group shared a rented four-room apartment called a "Kommuna;” thus the full title: "NEMASHIM Kommuna".

This year unfortunately only 3 young volunteers take part in the project (unlike the usual    5 – 6 participants) – all of them Jewish girls: Shir, Hila and Adar. This time we didn't succeed to overcome the usual difficulties to recruit Arab high-school graduates to the Project, although two young Arabs – a boy and a girl – who finished the Project's preparation seminar joined its theater part, as players in the theater plays performed by the Kommuna.
In spite of the modest number of volunteers, group functioned successfully throughout the course of the program. They run approximately twelfe different art and theater groups in participation with children and teenagers, primarily in Halisa, an Arab neighborhood with a Jewish minority (mostly of Ethiopian origin). The participating circles were both uni and bi-national. The ultimate goal of the project was to create as many connections between the two communities as possible. For this purpose the group's activity was expanded to the neighboring Newe Yosef and Tel-Amal Jewish neighborhoods.

This year unfortunately only 3 young volunteers take part in the project (unlike the usual    5 – 6 participants) – all of them Jewish girls: Shir, Hila and Adar. This time we didn't succeed to overcome the usual difficulties to recruit Arab high-school graduates to the Project, although two young Arabs – a boy and a girl – who finished the Project's preparation seminar joined its theater part, as players in the theater plays performed by the Kommuna.

It is important to note that these neighborhoods are among the most difficult ones in Haifa: New immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia and veterans from North Africa populate Newe Yosef and Tel-Amal, while Halisa is regarded as the poorest neighborhood in the city. Some of the activity was spread even 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 and with elementary schools.

In addition to the general work in the field of art education, the group performed two theater plays a short time before the completion of the volunteer project. 

Once again, this year met with great difficulty in finding Arab volunteers to participate in the project.
Part of this problem is that it is more normative for Jewish youth in Israel to volunteer for one year after finishing high school than Arab youth for whom such activity is still unfamiliar.  Every year is therefore met with great difficulties in recruiting young Arab men and women to the project. As for the future we shall have to reconsider our methods in preparation for the coming year.

3. Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (YPPD)
Along the course of 5 years (2005 – 10) 5 cycles of the Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (YPPD) Project were hold. All together more than 100 young Palestinian and Israeli political and community leaders and activists took part in them. The goal of the project was – to bring together young leaders of the two societies, in order to carry them through a trust building process that will make them capable to listen to each other with open mind and ear. We believe that the experience that the young participants met along the Project's course will give them means to negotiate and to cooperate on better way than people who never experienced such encounters.
After 5 years we came to conclusion, that an Advanced Course should be hold, in which graduates of the YPPD Project would be given an opportunity to use their experience in the Project, to work together in small working groups focusing on delicate issues in dispute between the two peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis. If they would come up with a Position Paper accepted by the two sides - it would be excellent. If not – they still managed to work together, to listen to the other side and to understand its positions.
We are glad to present a summary of the Final Report of this Advanced Course

The advanced Course in participation of interested graduates of the YPPD project and similar projects, allowed them to extend their skills in methods of negotiation and conflict management and to train them in practical cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli young leaders.

The Advanced Course of the "Young Politicians’ Peace Dialogue" (YPPD) project was executed as planned, meeting successfully the established goals and objectives:
-24 participants, who represented a miscellaneous composition of young Palestinian and Israeli political and social leadership. They belonged to parties like the Palestinian Fatah, the Israeli Likud, Kadima, Labor, Meretz as well as civil society and media activists.
-A fruitful dialogue was going between Palestinian and Israeli participants all along the series of meetings and seminars, also between the Israelis among themselves and the Palestinians among themselves.
-The subjects to study were selected by the participants themselves.
-Independent studying the selected subjects
-Joint summering of the four working papers: description of existing situation, description of wanted situation and recommended ways to achieve them. Although in some cases the partners didn't succeed to come to common ground, they still discussed over the issues in good spirit – and the most important, they worked together and succeeded to edit joint working papers.
-Creation of good personal relationships between participants from both side
-Inter personal connections for future cooperation
-Analyzing internal processes, in purpose of reflective learning.
Participants' figures:
12 participants from each side were selected from among interested graduates of past Basic Courses. All together 24 young leaders. All of them active in their communities or in political organization they belong to. Some of them are already in position of middle – level political and community decision makers.
Age:  25-35 with a few exceptions.

The YPPD Advanced Course in political Context
The Project was executed in time of local and regional political storms. Along its course revolutions broke out in the Arab world, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority declared its goal to ask next September a recognition by the U.N. as an independent state and the same time – in spite of temporary freezing – expansion of the Israeli settlements over the West Bank was accelerated.
The Flotilla to Gaza made its attempt to brake through the Israeli blockade – with the result of 9 people killed by Israeli soldiers on board of one of the ships.
If we add to these shocking events the murder of a Jewish family in one of the Israeli settlements (Itamar) by two Palestinians and the total freezing of any kind of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, not hard to imagine the tensions between participants of the Project.
And still no one left in the middle, although to the Final Event just a little more than half of the participant showed up, the working groups finished their papers, meetings were managed regularly, in short – in spite of the hard political and public atmosphere the Project was taken very seriously and insistently by all the participants.                                                                                                  

Strategy and Approaches:
We believe in continuous educational process, in which cognitive and emotional components will be involved.
Only parallel work on both levels will be able to bring positive and lasting results. On practical level this means, transferring basic knowledge on the "other side" through lectures and discussions in small groups, when the knowledge will be presented by experts as well as by participants – most of them skilled and experienced on fields of sociology, political sciences and personal involvement in political life of Israel and Palestine. The emotional component was elaborated through workshops in "working groups" of 10 – 14 participants each. Most of the work in this program was done in small mixed, bi-national groups of 6 participants.
The workshops were facilitated by well experienced facilitators –Jewish and Palestinian.
The methods that were used in the project will include several elements:
A - Cross community (bi-national) and single identity workshops.
B - Lectures of experts
C - Discussion working groups                                                            
D - Evaluation groups
E - Open discussions in plenary.
F – Working on Exemplary joint Project
In most of the program the participants worked in 4 mixed working groups of Palestinian and Israeli participants, each one of 6 members. The groups had 4 month to accomplish their joint study projects.
Each working group was counseled by 2 facilitators: one of them was in charge of the group process, and the second of the group product. Each team met several extra times apart from the general assembly meetings along this four month. Most of these meetings were being held with facilitators, according to needs of the Project.

Subjects of the Position Papers: Out of technical reasons and physical limitations, Position Papers were focusing on studying issues in debate, concerning up to date problems, as well as historical subjects. Each working group had the opportunity to choose any issue they wish, with the Organizers advice for specific issues for study.
The issues that were chose were: Refugees, Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereign state and the Jewish sovereign state.
Along the work of the groups different dynamics occurred, such as who initiates and who responds, who takes an active part in forming the final product and who does so to a lesser extent.
It seemed that the Israeli group had relatively greater ambition to reach an agreement and especially to make effort to make it happen. The Palestinian group, who worked within greater restrictions, felt external pressure and worked with critical initial assumptions which they insisted upon, and on which they were not willing to compromise. The Palestinian group was also less prone to leading the process.

The final product eventually reflected the perceptions and wishes of both sides, and they both took part in forming it. There was no coercion of the wishes from either side.
During the group work, past conflicts resurfaced intensely. The Israeli group tried to include amendments which were unacceptable by the Palestinians into the final version. This was done in means of vagueness, and made its way significantly into debate, but the final wording was agreed upon by all.
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Unfortunately the growing world economic crisis put a growing stress on our work. 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 some 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.

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I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all our donors who supported us along the 2010-11 activity year. It is only due to their good will that Friendship Village succeeds to promote Jewish-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement and cooperation.

Caritas Italiana                          Bay Fdn.  (Switzerland)
Caritas Switzerland                  Gabriel Peri Fdn. (France)
Development & Peace (Canada)     DIPF  (Germany)
Eisen Pickard Fdn.  (Switzerland)    Haifa Township
British Shalom Salaam Trust (UK)   Kibbutz Maabarot
U.S.Embassy in Israel               Inheritance Fund
Humanitarian Trust  (UK)           Israeli Ministry of Culture & Sport
                                     
 
31 July 2011