The School for Peace was established at Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam as part of the village’s effort to bring about a more just and egalitarian relationship between Arabs and Jews.
The School for Peace (SFP) was created in 1979 as an ideological educational institution of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam. Through encounter workshops and training programs, we try to implement the principles on which the community was founded.
Our goal is to develop participants’ awareness of the conflict and their role in it, and enable them to probe and construct their identity through interaction with the other; our orientation is shaped by the quest for a truly humane, egalitarian and just society.
The School for Peace is an autonomous entity. Funding for its activities comes mainly from foundations and Friends of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam associations abroad, as well as from fees charged to participants. The SFP is run by an executive board and a managerial staff headed alternately, in rotation, by an Arab director and a Jewish director. The professional staff comprises a roughly equal number of Jewish and Arab facilitators, with academic backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences, and special training in facilitating groups in conflict. Every encounter program is run by Arab and Jewish facilitators on an egalitarian basis, and strives to address the needs of each national group, acknowledging natural limitations in the ability of each to understand the other.
Since the School for Peace first opened its doors, some 35,000 Jews and Arabs have attended its programs. Some are conducted at the school’s campus at Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam; others take place elsewhere in Israel, Palestine, the region, and beyond.
The SFP offerings are diverse and include uni-national and bi-national programs and activities. They are offered to a variety of groups from different sectors of the society – schoolchildren, teachers, students, social service professionals, activists in social change organizations, attorneys, planners, the general public, and professionals who work in various roles with both the Arab and the Jewish populations.
Our intention is to enable participants to enrich their perspectives, to critically examine things ordinarily taken for granted, and to try to comprehend the turbulent and violent processes taking place all around us. We have found that a unique learning experience can be offered by relating directly to events, in a safe space that permits people to examine their feelings and thoughts in the group setting. Facts and information alone are inadequate to create social awareness and prompt a renewed examination of things as they are: We must pose new possibilities and challenge the existing reality. Our team of facilitators brings a critical approach to current reality and emphasizes the implications of majority-minority relations and the asymmetry in the existing power relationships.
Our work is guided by four basic assumptions:
1…The beliefs and outlooks on which a person’s identity and behavior are constructed are deep-seated and stable, and generally resistant to change. Our work attempts to expose these outlooks and permit people to grapple with them.
2… The conflict rests on an encounter between two national groups, not between individuals; hence we see the group as having an essential importance, beyond the sum of the individuals comprising it.
3… The group is a microcosm of reality and thus offers an avenue for learning about the society at large.
4…The encounter group is an open entity, linked to and influenced by the larger reality outside.
The facilitation staff is trained in an approach that stresses dialogue, based on these four assumptions. Facilitators try to uncover and delve into the pertinent relations in the society and to deconstruct oppressive structures – and this approach, in and of itself, conveys an enriching experience that exposes participants to an alternative discourse.
For information about activities and publications of the School for Peace, please visit the dedicated School for Peace web site.