Friendship Village
International Center for Education for Peace and Human Rights in a Multi-Cultural Society
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  2011-12 Annual Report

Message to our Friends and Supporters.- A foreword

By the introduction of this report unfortunately I have to indicate that the 2011-12-activity year, was the most difficult one along the 12 years long activity of Friendship Village.  Still as with previous years, this one was also devoted to projects for 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, however all along the year we had to struggle with unprecedented financial shortage. 
The capability of a small NGO like Friendship Village to keep on its activity is not self evident. Growing difficulties in raising financial support abroad, almost total lack of support by the Israeli Government together with growing atmosphere of racism make education for Jewish-Arab cooperation more and more difficult.

Year by year, the violence of the settlers in the Occupied Territories against their Palestinian neighbors rise 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 ask recognition by the U.N. The same time the Israeli government channels the public attention toward the conflict with Iran, while nurturing the deepest fears of the people. 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 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 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 2012                                                                                                Jonatan Peled – General Director

Activity Summary for 2011-2012

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 2011 to July 2012, which partially overlaps with the former report covering the period from January to December 2011.

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) accomplished its last year under the umbrella of Friendship Village. It was transferred to the "Halissa" Social Centers management. Our very successful "Young Leaders Peace Dialogue (YLPD)” project had to be delayed for difficulties in its financing: instead of the end of 2011 it started only in June 2012.

2.    The staff of Friendship Village went through a thorough change: in the end of 2011 Ms. Revital Yonai took over the management of the Academic Project, Mr. Uri Shani started to direct the "Nemashim Project" on its last year and Ms. Keren Assaf was hired to run the YLPD Project.


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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 three Academic institutes: The Emeq Yizre'el Academic College for Education and the Gordon Academic College for Education and the Haifa University. All 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 nine 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 2011-12 academic year three 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)
2011-12marked the sixth year of this year-long volunteer program.

The "Nemashim" project of "Friendship Village" has finished this activity year in the end of July 2012.
All the 5 volunteers who started it in September 2011 finished full of satisfaction and a lot of achievement on both field of theater and social – educational – artistic activity in the "Halisa" underprivileged neighborhood of Haifa. This was the 7th year of this wonderful project that was funded along these years by Italian, Swiss and British foundations, together with funds from the Haifa municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Culture.

This year was the last of this wonderful Jewish-Arab social – educational – art project in our framework. Following a long negotiation with the Halissa Social Center, it was  decided that the Project would be handled over this Social Center, while – in addition of some external funding – it will be under their responsibility and will be funded by local financial sources.

In spite of the modest number of volunteers, group functioned successfully throughout the course of the program. They run approximately twelve 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.

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 Leaders Peace Dialogue (YLPD)
Along the course of 6 years (2005 – 11) 6 cycles of the Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (YPPD) that this year was changed to "Young Leaders Peace Dialogue (YLPD) 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 cycles of this Project, followed by an "Advanced Course" in participation of graduates from previous cycles, this year we meant to renew it in form of the usual framework: 24 young Palestinian and Israeli political and community leaders who would meet to 7 monthly sessions, two of them long weekend abroad. Although we meant to start the Project in November 2011, it had to be postponed, out of problems in funding, to June 2012. At last, following an unexpected grant from Caritas Luxemburg, we started it toward the end of this activity year. Moreover – the support of Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Luxemburg, the major donors of this Project was assured until the end of 2014 ! As for now 2 sessions were already hold: two uni-national meetings of all participants and a long weekend session in Turkey.

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I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all our donors who supported us along the 2011-12 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 ItalianaBay Fdn.  (Switzerland)
Caritas SwitzerlandHumanitarian Trust   (UK)
Caritas LuxemburgWaldesian Church (Otta per Mille)
Eisen Pickard Fdn.  (Switzerland)Haifa Township
British Shalom Salaam Trust (UK)Kibbutz Maabarot
L.R.Group (Israel)Israeli Ministry of Culture & Sport
                                     
 






31 August 2012