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Neve Shalom / Wahat Al-Salam: A Jewish-Arab School for Peace


by Grace Feuerverger - 1998

All students in Israel confronted with cultural difference and intergroup conflict and violence owing to the ongoing struggle between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and in the Middle East more generally. This inquiry provides an overview of the lived experiences of a number of students and facilitators who have been involved in a peace-education program sponsored by a school in a small village in Israel. Through the sharing of pedagogical experiences, as well as personal and professional stories, a new paradigm for peacemaking is created. This study is an exploration, by means of these peace-workshop encounters, into the desolate psychological landscape that Jews and Arabs must navigate, and into their emotional journey towards breaking down the barriers of fear, hate, and mistrust that have saturated their daily existence. The main goal of this study was to collect and examine data from the participants in this conflict-resolution educational endeavor through in-depth interviewing and participant observation in order to highlight the multiplicity of tensions, failed hopes, dreams, and traumas that are pivotal within the configuration of their personal and professional lives. The author explores the social and psychological complexities inherent in this educational odyssey towards peaceful coexistence, and discusses the sites of struggle and negotiation in the “border dialogues?that the students and facilitators gradually created for themselves in their search to give equal expression to their national identities. She examines the epistemologically complex implications of understanding conflict resolution as a dialogical relation, the purpose of which is to create a geography of inclusion within the context of an Israeli educational setting.


All students in Israel confronte with cultural difference and intergroup conflict and violence owing to the ongoing struggle between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and in the Middle East more generally. This inquiry provides an overview of the lived experiences of a number of students and facilitators who have been involved in a peace-education program sponsored by a school in a small village in Israel. Through the sharing of pedagogical experiences, as well as personal and professional stories, a new paradigm for peacemaking is created. This study is an exploration, by means of these peace-workshop encounters, into the desolate psychological landscape that Jews and Arabs must navigate, and into their emotional journey towards breaking down the barriers of fear, hate, and mistrust that have saturated their daily existence. The main goal of this study was to collect and examine data from the participants in this conflict-resolution educational endeavor through in-depth interviewing and participant observation in order to highlight the multiplicity of tensions, failed hopes, dreams, and traumas that are pivotal within the configuration of their personal and professional lives. The author explores the social and psychological complexities inherent in this educational odyssey towards peaceful coexistence, and discusses the sites of struggle and negotiation in the “border dialogues” that the students and facilitators gradually created for themselves in their search to give equal expression to their national identities. She examines the epistemologically complex implications of understanding conflict resolution as a dialogical relation, the purpose of which is to create a geography of inclusion within the context of an Israeli educational setting.


“I would have wanted

(but I am only telling this to you privately)

to be a child in another country.

In a country where there would be no news

about the dead and wounded and wars.

In a country which wouldn’t need an army or soldiers;

and where one would not be afraid or worried all the time.

In a country where there would always be peace;

and one could walk anywhere and travel anywhere;

In a country where, except for the cars on the highway,

there would be nothing dangerous.

I would have wanted to be in another country,

but this is my country,

my home with its sunshine, the sea and the anemones;

with my mommy and daddy and aunts and uncles.

It is my State and I am devoted to it.

I just wish it would have been a different country.”


The poem above, which reveals the landscape of Jewish-Arab conflict and violence that confronts all students in Israel, was written by a twelve-year-old child who lives in the village of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam. This article provides an interpretive inquiry into the relationship between Jewish and Arab high-school students and their facilitators within an outreach educational program sponsored by the School for Peace (SFP) in this small village devoted to the principle of egalitarian co-existence between the Jewish and Palestinian1 peoples. The Hebrew and Arabic words Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam mean Oasis of Peace. Indeed, the village, located about thirty kilometers west of Jerusalem and a few kilometers off the main Jerusalem–Tel Aviv highway, is a small, calm oasis within a deeply polarized country. Its residents exemplify a genuine attempt at partnership between two groups whose cultures are in geopolitical and sociohistoric conflict. This village, founded in 1972, is no ordinary place, and neither are its educational institutions. It is a social-psychological experiment—a place where people of a certain level of education and personal conviction have chosen to come together to enact a collective vision of justice and care. The villagers are in general well-educated, liberal-minded, and interested in giving their children a chance at a more peaceful future. Their philosophy of a Jewish-Arab village in Israel, living and teaching peace and equality, is rooted in the democratic ideals of dialogue and cooperative problem solving. Their peacemaking efforts are embedded within a psychological terrain of vulnerability and risk taking. They are involved in an emotionally intense endeavor which takes place, both psychologically and socially, “on the edge”.

THE VILLAGE OF NEVE SHALOM/WAHAT-AL-SALAM


The village2 is situated on a hilltop and is surrounded by green fields full of wild flowers and olive groves and by other collective rural settlements in the area, such as kibbutzim and moshavim.3 At the bottom of the hill, several kilometers away, is the Latrun Monastery with its vineyards, run by French Trappist monks. There are two means of access to the village: an old, picturesque dirt road which is very bumpy and muddy in bad weather and a new, soft asphalt road which meanders around the fields and orchards. In fields not far from this road, but blocked from view by a small forest, are the tents and sheep of a Bedouin family who have lived there since before the existence of the village. As one enters the village, the first buildings one encounters are the youth hostel and its dining hall. On a clear day, the expansive view of the rolling and peaceful Ayalon valley below is breathtaking. Looking westward at sunset one can sometimes catch a glimmer of the Mediterranean Sea off in the distance. A small main road with little white houses and red roofs runs through the village. The houses reflect the diversity of the population. Some are in traditional Arabic style, others are a mixture of European and Middle Eastern designs. Each home has a pretty garden of all sorts of spices, vegetables, and fruits. Many plants grow wild in the village.


One could argue that the village of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam depicts the ideal of a small society in its attempt to respect differences and to inspire a moral vision of dialogue and equality in the midst of a geopolitical framework of conflict. There is a strong commitment to a sense of community and integration within the village. There is also, however, a need to maintain the Jewish and Arab identities as separate entities. The tension between these two is quite evident in the moral dilemmas that constantly confront the villagers in their efforts toward peaceful co-existence, and, which also affects the objectives of their schools.

THE TWO SCHOOLS: A BRIEF DESCRIPTION


There are two educational institutions in the village: the elementary school and the School for Peace. Although the focus of this paper is on the School for Peace, it is useful to offer a brief overview of the elementary school here, because these educational institutions are symbolically intertwined and emerge out of the same desire for Jewish-Arab co-existence.

THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL


The elementary school opened its doors in 1984; the pre-school and kindergarten, three years earlier. What is unique about the Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam village school is that it allows Jewish and Arab children to learn together on a daily basis in a full Hebrew-Arabic bilingual, bicultural, binational setting. It is coordinated by a teaching team of Jewish and Arab educators, some of whom are residents of the village and some of whom live in neighboring villages and towns. Since 1991, students from nearby Jewish and Arab villages are bused to the school as well.


The elementary school is located at the northeast side of the village (the entrance to the village is at the southwest) and consists of three small buildings: a kindergarten, the multi-grade elementary schoolhouse with a staffroom/kitchen in the center, and a bomb shelter which is also used as a classroom. The school’s open design plan allows much freedom of movement. It is a small, closely knit environment, and most of the students have at least one sibling in the school. Some of the teachers have their own children in the school. There are approximately 140 children from kindergarten through Grade 8, with two kindergarten teachers and twelve elementary teachers. Each class has one Jewish and one Arab teacher who work in a team-teaching mode. There is also a pre-school class with about fifteen toddlers. The children feel comfortable in the school: this is definitely “their” school, and one is immediately struck by their sense of ownership and the sense of empowerment which derives from it. Five or six village dogs are always sniffing around the open porch of the school and in the yard, waiting for the children to come out and play with them at recess, lunchtime, and at the end of the day. It is a noisy, gregarious, happy place.


Previously, I conducted a qualitative inquiry into the elementary school, located within the larger social organization of the village. I explored the personal, as well as the professional experiences, of the participants in their quest for intercultural harmony. The specific educational initiative of this school as a “moral community” provided a window through which the issues of schools’ relationships to multicultural and multiracial communities could be observed and elucidated in a more generally global context. (For an overview of the school ’s main educational objectives, see Feuerverger, 1995.) Briefly, the school attempts to deconstruct the traditional school discourses in Israel, which usually reinforce the dominant/subordinate status of Hebrew and Arabic, respectively, within the curriculum. In a more recent article, I showed how language awareness plays a major role in the school proper and in its overriding commitment to foster an emancipatory discourse of education, based on conflict-resolution and peacemaking (Feuerverger, 1997b). Although other students around the country do not have a similar opportunity, it must be added that a number of grassroots efforts have recently appeared that bring Jewish and Arab students together in informal educational settings (see, for example, Maroshek-Klarman, 1993; Shohat, 1993).

THE SCHOOL FOR PEACE


The aim of the School for Peace is to bring Jews and Palestinians together from all over Israel for workshops which are conducted in the village. The target populations are students, teachers, educators, psychologists, social workers, and activists in peace organizations who are interested in specific training in facilitating group processes within the context of the conflict. Each of the programs at the SFP takes place over a period of from three to six months and includes one very intensive three-day workshop where the participants are divided into a small mixed group of twelve to fourteen Jews and an equal number of Palestinians from high schools all over the country. Numerical equality between Jews and Palestinians is always maintained, and each group’s needs are given equal priority. The facilitators are a permanent, professional staff of Jews and Arabs, in equal numbers, trained at Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam. Before the participants come together for the three-day intensive encounter, they are involved in a number of monthly meetings, conducted in a group setting, and that are all- Jewish or all-Palestinian at the SFP, in order to meet each group’s separate learning needs. All the meetings, including the three-day encounter, take place in the village in a one-story building and its adjacent courtyard. During the three-day encounter at the SFP, the students live in the specially constructed youth hostel nearby, four to six in a room—strictly separated by gender. This intensive encounter is conducted in Hebrew and Arabic and is headed by two facilitators, one Jewish and the other Palestinian.


Ahmed, a Palestinian facilitator, discussed the purpose of the three-day encounter in a personal interview:


The structure of the School for Peace and of its workshops is guided by principles of equality. The three-day workshops are all conducted in both Hebrew and Arabic, and each working group is small and is headed by two facilitators, one Jewish, the other Palestinian. This framework provides support and assures the legitimacy of every participant’s position. . . . The encounter has a power that no other activity related to the subject has. It is an experience which opens both a variety of possibilities and risks, but there is no substitute for it. The realities of Israel do not give the young people of both groups a chance to meet on equal terms. So the encounters that take place are usually accompanied by feelings of fear, humiliation, disappointment, and distrust. What we try to do is provide a way to process and understand these feelings, helping our young people to be better able to cope with the Jewish-Palestinian conflict.


I wrote an earlier overview of the SFP workshops as a working model for teaching conflict-resolution between Jews and Arabs in Israel (Feuerverger, 1997b). I would now like to inquire more deeply into the experiences of Jewish and Arab high school students and their facilitators at the three-day intensive SFP workshop encounter that took place in December 1991. There is very little qualitative research that addresses the complex and multiple feelings of being a stranger, of victim identity, and of the longing for legitimacy that both Jews and Palestinians possess in the Middle East. Here, I examine the dynamics of a collaborative educational conversation that offers the possibility of a relationship between the students and with the facilitators that honors their different social, historical, and cultural narratives. As a participant-observer,4 I will look at the areas of struggle and negotiation in the “border dialogues” that the students and facilitators gradually created for themselves in their search to give equal expression to their national identities. In so doing, I offer a reflective analysis of what conflict resolution means for these participants within the specific context of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict and which may have implications for teaching conflict resolution and peace education internationally.


Conflict resolution and peacemaking are inexorably intertwined. In fact, peace comes not from the absence of conflict in life, but from the ability to cope with it. Peacemaking therefore can be regarded as a long, arduous process toward conflict resolution that is ongoing and never to be taken for granted (see, for example, Apple, 1979; Lasch, 1995; Reardon, 1988). Many schools in North America, for example, are now becoming committed to the principles of peace education (Adalbjarnadottir, 1992; Banks, 1990; Brock-Utne, 1989; Delpit, 1995; Graff, 1992; Hanson & McAuliffe, 1994; Merelman, 1990; Posner, 1994; Stevahn, Johnson, & Johnson, 1996; Wallis, 1994). Peacemaking becomes possible only if we are able to confront human difference and acknowledge its legitimacy. One of the most widely accepted dimensions of peace-education reform in the United States and Canada is the school-conflict education strategy of peer-mediation training. This program teaches students how to manage conflicts constructively by using negotiation procedures and peacemaking skills. The Community Board Program and the Anti-Violence Program in the United States are examples of how students can take responsibility for changing the level of violence within the landscape of racial and ethnic diversity in their schools and communities (see Kreidler, 1989; Larson, 1991; Mathews, 1994; Sadalla, Henriquez, & Holmberg, 1987). Developing models for nonviolent leadership, conflict mediation, and respect for difference are key features of these programs.


The philosophy behind such educational initiatives is that relationship-building and problem solving are two sides of the same coin. Having taken these American models into consideration, the overall emphasis of the SFP encounter groups is on developing communication and negotiation skills to be used in interpersonal and intergroup situations within the teaching-learning environments of Israeli schools. The aim is to provide a significant, “hands-on” opportunity for teachers and students to gain an understanding and share knowledge about the social-psychological dilemmas that plague both Palestinians and Jews in this war-torn region. Many workshops take place every year at the SFP. For example, in 1995-1996, the SFP organized ten encounter workshops between Jewish and Palestinian adolescents, as well as many other workshops for school teachers, graduate students, and peace workers. These workshops encourage the process of sensitive listening which is essential to all forms of professional development, both for the learner and the teacher. The sessions stress the importance of assuring the legitimacy of every participant’s position, empowering participants as storytellers and providing a space where dialogue becomes possible. These “border zones,” which Anzaldua (1987) describes as “those . . . multicultural spaces, sometimes called ‘common ground,’ where disparate cultures meet,” are intended to provide a non-threatening, non-evaluative setting and to foster a sense of community and respect for difference in the midst of violent conflict. Through the sharing of pedagogical experiences and personal, as well as professional stories, a new paradigm for peacemaking is thereby created. In these workshops, facilitators and students are encouraged to explore pedagogies appropriate for the development of conflict-resolution skills as an inductive process (that is, proceeding from observation) and to understand that these initiatives occur in the context of praxis (that is, participation in an action/reflection process).


Briefly, then, the main objectives of the SFP encounters are:


1. to deepen the participants’ familiarity with themselves and with the other side.


2. to raise the participants’ awareness of the complex reality of relations between the sides and to enable them to absorb this complexity.


3. to make the participants aware of their ability to select their attitude toward the conflict, to influence their lives and their surroundings and thus, to help mitigate the conflict.


4. to help the participants to choose non-discriminatory positions and modes of behavior and to give legitimacy to all peoples’ needs, rights and aspirations.


5. to give the participants an opportunity to experience cooperation between the sides. (From Curriculum Guidelines of the School for Peace. [Zak, 1992, p. 5])


Since its founding in 1980, the SFP has had funding from private foundations and personal donations. In 1993 the workshops were recommended to public schools by the Israeli Ministry of Education, which now provides partial funding through its Education for Democracy and Coexistence program (see Shohat, 1993). Moreover, the teachers who now take part in these workshops receive in-service training credits. The SFP has attracted tens of thousands of participants. They include not only in Jews and Palestinians from within Israel but also, more and more, from the West Bank.


The rationale for the SFP is succinctly stated in its position paper:


In the reality of the enduring conflict between Jews and Palestinians that has cost many lives and caused irreversible damage, the need for finding a just peace solution is more urgent than ever. One way of bringing about social change is through relationships incurred between groups participating in an intergroup process in the context of the conflict. Facilitating such a delicate, sensitive process requires specific professional skills, and there is a need to develop opportunities for training practitioners in this field in Israel. . . . A natural and suitable place to establish the training project is Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam. . . . [The village] provides a safe and supportive environment for such training. The main outreach program of the community is through the SFP. For the past eleven years the SFP has been developing and conducting unique models for conflict management workshops for Jews and Palestinians. (Sonnenschein & Halaby, 1991, p. 1)


The overriding goal of the SFP, therefore, is “to enhance the participants’ awareness of the complexity of the Jewish-Arab issue and to develop the ability of the participants to take a multi-dimensional view of themselves, others, the different identities and the complexity of the two very different peoples engaged in a difficult conflict” (Sonnenschein & Halaby, 1991, p. 3). This conflict-resolution model was developed jointly with faculty members of the Psychology Department at Tel Aviv University (see Friedman, 1992). It derives from classical scholarly work on intergroup conflict and cooperation, group-dynamics theory, and also from models of small-group interaction and motivational-cognitive processes and their effects on intergroup attitudes: stereotyping and the formation of prejudice, majority and minority group experience of “otherness,” and the dynamics of conflict resolution (see, for example, Adorno, Frenkel-Brunwik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950; Amir, 1976; Bar & Bargal, 1988; Bettman & Moore, 1994; Katz & Cahanov, 1990; Lewin, 1958; Stephan, 1987; Tajfel & Turner, 1985). The emphasis is on cognitive and emotional processing of the different aspects of the conflict and their influence on each of the participants. Bar & Bargal (1988) explain:


Psychologically repressed hostility and anxiety and long-lasting frustration in intergroup relations may create aggressiveness on one hand, and hopelessness on the other hand. The intergroup encounter aims to create a possibility to live with the conflict (even while there is no political solution to it) at a minimum of personal, interpersonal and social cost. Among the ways to “live with the conflict” are:


1. Realizing the conflict has at least two sides and that from each side things are perceived differently.


2. Understanding that each individual living in the area is influenced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a different way.


3. Developing self-awareness and feelings of self-worth; working through the fears of the other people; differentiating between fantasies and realities; raising awareness that there is no simple and one-sided solution to the conflict, and working through the feelings of loss that derive from this; strengthening personal and national identity.


4. Developing a certain mutual trust.


5. Assessing the relations between the peoples, recognizing the solutions to the conflict as perceived by each of the peoples, and examining the complexity of each solution.


6. Getting acquainted with the other people and recognizing their full and equal rights in all domains.


7. Raising awareness of the asymmetry in the situation between the two peoples.


8. Developing the awareness that each individual has the power to produce change and thus contribute to a reduction in the level of the conflict. (p. 24)


Tirzah and Ahmed were Jewish and Arab facilitators in charge of the three-day workshop that I observed. Tirzah articulated the raiso n-d’être of the SFP in these words:


We hope these workshops here in Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam will be relevant for peace-education workers everywhere. We increasingly believe that what we are doing here in Israel and in this village has direct meaning for situations in other places around the world. We have no solutions, but at least people from both sides are being given a chance to air their feelings. At least, that’s a start. It has been an amazing learning experience for me, and working with Palestinian facilitators and students has opened my eyes to a lot of issues that I had simply taken for granted before. Conflict between groups is a global problem, and we have to learn how to break through. Peace has still not been achieved, but in these workshops we’re trying to address the problems, no matter how messy and scary they are. Ahmed also speaks:


In spite of the very difficult situation that is filled with violence and extremism which is getting worse on both sides, we have to encourage the young ones to come and meet and break through the impasse. They are so afraid of the encounters; they are afraid that they will lose control of their feelings. So many are full of rage and fear. Our aim is to tell them that those feelings are justified—that they are a part of reality, our reality. The SFP gives them the extraordinary chance to see one another face to face, and to realize the complexity of the conflict that we are all immersed in. Our agenda is not political grandstanding. We want the teenagers to get in touch with their deeply hidden but deeply felt emotions, so that they can be authentic with each other. Of course, we can’t avoid the politics, but we try to show both sides that each group has economic, social and family problems. We try to get past only this political and military face of the conflict. And see it in more human terms.

TOWARD A PEDAGOGY OF HOPE: THEORETICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS


This study can be regarded as an exploration, by means of this SFP workshop encounter, into the desolate psychological landscape that Jews and Arabs must traverse, and into their emotional journey toward breaking down the barriers of fear and mistrust that have permeated their daily existence. As researcher and as a Jew, I have attempted to weave a collective story of different but parallel journeys into the nomadic experience of “exile” that I believe is central to any discussion of peace efforts between Jews and Arabs in Israel. I try here to examine the epistemologically complex implications of understanding the search for peaceful coexistence as a dialogical relation within the specific context of this Israeli educational setting. Buber’s (1958, 1965) theoretical focus on the centrality of dialogical meeting—that is, on an understanding of the self as both personal and social in an ongoing process of construction and reconstruction through encounters with other selves—informs the discussion that follows. I collected and examined data from the adolescent participants and their facilitators through in-depth interviewing and observation in the encounter workshops, in order to highlight the complexity of tensions, failed hopes, dreams, and profound trauma that are pivotal within the configuration of their public and private lives. My aim was to underscore the power of these peace workshops in terms of transforming the hegemonic discourse into an emancipatory one, and to thus create the seeds of a pedagogy of hope. The participants became, in fact, reflective practitioners who began to examine themselves in relation to the “other” and became, in Giroux’s (1991) words: “border crossers,” by being able to listen critically to the voices of one another. This emancipatory discourse has the potential to empower students to become architects rather than pawns in their own education (Feuerverger, 1996).


The theoretical framework of this study and of the SFP encounters is situated in the critical need to scrutinize and analyze the historical and ideological conditions that have disabled these Jewish and Arab students from being able to open communication with one another. According to Bourdieu (1996) “to write an educational program is a philosophical act in favor of reason. Forms of collaboration across boundaries have an urgency in this time of restoration. . . . We must defend open-minded and democratic educational endeavors in a time when dark forces in society are trying to eradicate reason.” Indeed, the workshops for peace can be seen as “borderlands . . . where the interrelationships of different cultures and identities . . . [are] sites of crossing, negotiation, translation and dialogue. . . . Within such a pedagogical cartography, teachers [and students] must be given the opportunity to cross ideological and political borders as a way of clarifying their own moral vision, as a way of enabling counter-discourses . . . to expand the possibilities for different groups to enter into dialogue to understand further the richness of their differences and the value of what they share in common” (Giroux, 1994, p. 340).


I used case-study and narrative methodologies to document perceptions of the meaning of conflict resolution and peacemaking in education (see Connelly & Clandinin, 1990; Eisner, 1991; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Hornberger, 1990; Huberman & Miles, 1984; Mishler, 1986; Schön, 1991; Yin, 1984). This interpretative or qualitative approach is in congruence with many postmodern theorists interested in issues of intersubjectivity and reflexivity in research activities. For example, Geertz (1988) and Denzin (1988) offer an understanding of theory not as explanation or prediction, but as interpretation, or “the act of making sense out of a social interaction,” instead of abstract generalizations. Glesne and Peshkin (1992) claim that “experience is not just cognitive, but also includes emotions . . . every human situation is novel, emergent, and filled with often conflicting meanings and interpretations” (p. 19). I focused on meaning-making as grounded in personal life history—that is on the cultural narratives of my participants and their ancestral longings—and how their experiences were revealed in their fundamental values, their beliefs, their perceptions, and, in fact, in the “world-view” that they carried (consciously and unconsciously) with them into the SFP workshops. hooks (1994) discusses, for example, the need for rethinking ways of using life history to focus on issues of identity and to challenge the notion of identity as static. In the case of these SFP workshops, the meaning of identity—especially national identity—is of paramount importance. It should be mentioned here, however, that one of the future directions for this study should include an evaluative component and follow-up ethnographic work.


The centrality of emotion in this pedagogical journey suggested that issues of identity and nationhood cannot be explained solely through an intellectual and cognitive process, but rather through a different focus on affect, interaction, and interpretation. In other words, the lived experience needs to be seen as an interpretative rather than a causal story. I concur with Gilligan (1982) who argues that a different developmental pattern can emerge when thinking is “contextual and inductive rather than formal and abstract.” Her research uses a narrative approach in the study of moral development and moral issues in education. In terms of the “biographies of vulnerability” that permeated the discourse of the workshops, I, as researcher, was mindful of Oleson’s (1992) claim that “body and self are intertwined. We need to attend to cognition and emotion, using both phenomenal and interactive approaches” (p. 218). I have tried, accordingly, to convey a sense of the mood and feeling of the workshop sessions that I observed and to show how emotionally powerful these educational encounters were both for me as researcher and for the participants in their struggle to re-envision and reshape a meta-text for Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel.

THE THREE-DAY ENCOUNTER


I offer some excerpts from the in-depth interviews that I carried out with students and the facilitators during my research stay at the School for Peace in Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam in order to conceptualize the discussion further. I also used field notes and journals as tools to try to bring meaning to the stories that my participants shared with me in and out of the experiences of the workshop encounter. The interviews were taped and then transcribed after I returned to Canada. My knowledge of Hebrew is passable but my Arabic is very poor, and therefore a number of Israeli colleagues, both Jewish and Arab, helped me with the transcriptions from both Hebrew and Arabic into English.


In order to convey a sense of the scene and mood of the SFP and its participants, I tried to create a text through story as personal narrative. Mishler (1986) suggests that “telling stories is a significant way for individuals to give meaning to and express their understandings of their experiences” (p.75). Connelly and Clandinin (1990) state that “education and educational research is the construction and reconstruction of personal and social stories; learners, teachers and researchers are storytellers and characters in their own and others’ stories” (p. 2). Eisner (1991) agrees that “schools . . . have moods, and they . . . display scenes of high drama that those who make policy and who seek to improve practice should know. The means through which such knowledge is made possible are the enlightened eye—the scene is seen—and the ability to craft text so that what the observer has experienced can be shared by those who were not there” (p. 30). The story of the school, its “high drama,” can be read as a “natural psychological unit” (Rayfield, 1972, p. 1085). Van Manen’s (1990) notion that meaning-making is grounded in personal narrative is, indeed, central to this methodology. Through an account of the participants’ experiences in the three-day encounter, I have attempted to present a picture of the “border dialogues” of these individuals who are paradoxically located at the margins and at the center of history and ideology. These dialogues are as fragmented as the splinters of glass that continually explode in the terrorist acts that have become, tragically, a common occurrence in Israeli life; they dwell together in an immense psychological separation created by this vicious circle of violence; and they lie in the shadows of deep mourning, loss, anger—but also of cautious hope. The reflective analysis that follows is intended to show how the SFP offers an innovative conception of Israeli life by exploring the risky business of bringing forth diverse voices for the purpose of inquiring more effectively into the hopes, fears, and dreams of the participants from both sides of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. The workshops are intended to allow the participants to become reflective practitioners who become “border crossers” by being able to listen critically to the stories of one another (Giroux, 1991; 1994). I was witness to the unconscious and conscious attempts of those involved in these peace education initiatives to break down personal, cultural, and political barriers which are congruent with Giroux’s notion of “border pedagogy,” permitting teachers and students to rethink the spaces where dominant and subordinate groups are situated, and thus transform their own relationships. I present below a summary of the many interviews and participant-observations that took place over the course of this research in order to provide further context for our discussion.

FIRST GLIMPSE: PERSONAL MUSINGS


I first arrived in the village on a cold, rainy night in mid-December 1991. Two of the villagers (who are also members of the school staff), Joel and Ibrahim, drove me from Jerusalem where I had been staying on campus at the Hebrew University. In the car we ate freshly baked Arab bread spiced with za’atar5 (colloquially called sum sum). The lights of Jerusalem shone behind us as we headed westward. Here follows an excerpt from my journal, written the night that I arrived in the village after having had dinner with Joel and his wife, Margalit (who works at the SFP), and their two daughters.


There is no way that I’ll be able to fall asleep tonight! I’m just too excited. I just had a delicious dinner (of fried eggplant and corn on the cob and hot fresh bread) with Joel and his family. There is a certain honest innocence about him. He is originally from North America and made “aliyah” [immigration to Israel] about twenty years ago. He has a great sense of humor. We laughed all during dinner. Margalit is a “sabra” [born in Israel] and much more “hard-nosed” and reality-based, but also an idealist at heart. I feel so comfortable with them both. And their two children, Hannah and Sarit, were chattering away in Hebrew and trying to speak to me in English. They are also learning Arabic in an immersion setting. A genuine attempt at respect for one another. Is it really possible? They look strong and happy and are growing up in such a special environment. The future is in their hands and maybe—just maybe—they will have the tools to create peace in this troubled land. The stars are twinkling in the sky and I feel very snug here in my room. I have finally escaped the big city atmosphere that has been a part of my life always. This is the village I have always dreamed of. In fact, I feel as if I really belong! I can’t wait to see this place in the daylight.


Margalit and Joel had tried to explain how the village operated, but most of all they wanted to know why I had come. This was not an easy question to answer. I offered my initial response, which was to document the peace initiatives of the villagers by collecting data on the elementary school and the SFP. In order to explore the educational stories in Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam, however, I had to revisit my own reasons for traveling halfway around the globe to a place engulfed by conflict. On the intellectual level, I came as an educational researcher to document a bilingual, bicultural, binational learning environment which could potentially provide a new and global dimension for exploring moral issues within the context of cultural and linguistic diversity and intergroup conflict. However, issues of conflict resolution and peacemaking do not operate solely on a cognitive dimension. Upon reflection, I came to realize that I brought to this research work my experience as a child of Holocaust survivors—a wounded individual trying to confront the existential loneliness of exile and Diaspora6 in my personal life. Psychologically, I have always found myself on the margins of society, searching for a sense of continuity and hope. Consistent with Pinar’s (1988) view that identification with marginalized social groups is a key educational, autobiographical, and curricular issue, I came in order to confront my own “authentic voice” of sorrow by witnessing the ideological and moral distress of both peoples—the Jews and the Palestinians—who are enmeshed in this primordial struggle for survival while competing for the same physical space. Each group, in its own way, longs for legitimacy in the Middle East.


Edward Said (1990) claims that the loneliness of exile is “compelling to think about but terrible to experience” (p. 159). “Exiles are cut off from their roots, their land, their past. . . . [They feel] an urgent need to reconstitute their broken lives, usually by choosing to see themselves as part of a triumphant ideology or a restored people” (p. 163). As a child of Holocaust survivors, being Jewish, for me, has always been a painful journey from the center to the margins; that is, it represents in part an experience of mass expulsions and genocide, a nomadic wandering throughout the centuries in order to find a sense of home and of legitimacy in the world. This strangerhood, or otherness, in the Diaspora is a disturbing way to live. The Palestinians now inhabit a Diaspora of their own, remarkably enough as a result of the Jewish attempt to end theirs. The wound is deep and the rift unhealable. The challenge is to learn how to accommodate the stranger and his or her language and culture in Israeli society, as well as in other societies (see Shabatay, 1991). Julia Kristeva (1991) suggests that in order to make friends with “the other” in our contemporary cities, “we must confront ‘the other’ in the deepest part of our souls, in the psychological no-man’s land where the ‘foreigner’ lurks—he is the hidden face of our identity, the space that wrecks our abode, the time in which understanding and affinity founder” (p. 1). Respecting the existence of the “foreigner” or “the other” in Israel is a central aspect of conflict-resolution and peacemaking, which I believe can be defined as a sensitivity and a conscious respect and understanding of the myriad languages and cultures in our world and of their role for humanity.

“BORDER DIALOGUES”: LANGUAGE, “OTHERNES S, ” AND EXILE


Both Jews and Palestinians feel their “otherness” deeply as a result of very different historic realities. For example, the resurrection of Israel after the Holocaust of World War II and of Hebrew as a communicative language (see Fellman, 1973) may be looked upon as an act of Jewish redemption, an act of hope. “In language we inhabit, construct and extend realities. . . . Language is what permits our being to be, to occur, to be explored, carried out and carried on. . . . It is where what we refer to as our historical, cultural and personal identities are not simply formed, but, more significantly, performed. Language calls out for a voice, a body. Such a summons propels us beyond the limited refrain of instrumental speech and writing into song, dance and dream” (Chambers, 1994, pp. 132-133). In the case of the Jewish people, the dream is to reshape historic space through the modern revival of the Jewish nation and thus to re-envision the place of Jews in the secular world. Hebrew has become the linguistic vessel for this dream, and therefore being Israeli (and Jewish) can be looked upon as a metaphorical journey through cultural, historical and personal borders (see Derrida, 1979; Giroux, 1991).


But what of the journey of the Palestinians? What of their language and culture? Language is not solely a means of communication; it is also a way of constructing our cultural selves and creating a sense of belonging in the world within the context of the historical narratives of our particular group (Adams & Tulasiewicz, 1994; Chambers, 1994; Fishman, 1991; Garcia, 1994; Lambert, 1982; Spolsky, 1989). In these SFP encounters, language plays a major role in shaping the experiences of the participants and in the construction and negotiation of knowledge within the workshops (Diamond, 1991; Van Manen, 1990). I agree with the theoretical position of Donmoyer (1985) that questions of meaning are questions about what language ought to be used to frame propositions about the world. “Languages are not true or false; they are appropriate or inappropriate or more or less adequate.” In this regard, a great obstacle to meaningful contact is the asymmetrical relationship between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel. Although both are considered official languages, Hebrew is, in fact, the dominant language in the country. The Arab minority in Israel constitutes 17 percent of the total population and learns Hebrew as a second language—a very problematic activity for them on both a personal and institutional level; for, embedded within the layers of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the competition between the learning of Arabic and Hebrew in the school system. (For details about the difficulties within the Arab educational system in Israel, see Mari, 1985.) Although most Palestinians are bilingual, they feel an emotional ambivalence toward Hebrew language competence because this can represent a sense of betrayal to their Arab national identity (see Abu- Rabia & Feuerverger, 1996). Furthermore, most Jews in Israel do not have a strong command of Arabic.


Two perspectives from the interviews with participants on the asymmetry between Hebrew and Arabic in Israeli society are of interest.


A Palestinian male participant in the workshops remarked:


To us [Palestinians], Hebrew is the language of the oppressor. We are always approaching the Jews from a position of weakness because our Hebrew is obviously not as good as theirs. We always feel in a second class position because of this. It’s right there in the language choice. And yet if we would speak Hebrew as well as they do, we would be assimilated and lose our Arabic identity. We can’t do that. It’s out of the question. It’s not even possible. So it’s a real problem which will not be solved until the Israelis give our identity full equality.


A Jewish female participant said:


For Israeli Jews there is so much invested in Hebrew. It represents a deep victory for Jewish survival. So Hebrew is dominant. Many Jews are more hesitant to speak Arabic because, being the majority, they can get away with not knowing Arabic well, and also, they are afraid to have contact with Arabs because the media present them as menacing, as all being terrorists. So there’s a great impasse and these workshops are trying to undo this sad state of affairs. There is suspicion on both sides. If the Palestinians choose to speak Hebrew in these discussions, there has to be a supportive atmosphere because obviously most don’t speak Hebrew as well as the Jews. And if the Jewish students speak too quickly or use too much slang, then the Palestinians would have lots of trouble following. I’ve seen it happen and it’s important for the facilitators to not allow it and keep things in balance.


One of the goals of these SFP encounters is, therefore, to overcome the obstacles of language inequality and to engage the participants in meaningful communication by personal interaction and to bring about an understanding of the “self” in relation to the “other” in order to create a discourse of empathy and caring (Gilligan, 1982; Noddings, 1984). The workshops, in effect, give them the permission to embark on that journey. Some of the workshops are conducted in an all-Jewish or all-Arab group setting in order to meet each group’s emotional needs. The majority of the sessions do, however, take place in a “binational” format where numerical equality between Jews and Palestinians is maintained and each group’s needs are given equal priority. The SFP workshops strive to create an atmosphere where Hebrew and Arabic hold equal membership in the workshops and the meaning that is created is one of inclusiveness, mutual respect, and a commitment towards peacemaking.


As participant-observer in a number of workshop sessions, I explored the multiplicity of tensions resulting from a lack of recognition in some parts of Israeli society of the legitimacy of a Palestinian national identity. On the other side, the Arab minority group is unwilling to recognize the legitimate fears that reside deep within the psyche of the Jewish group, as a result of the genocide during the Holocaust and also as a result of the hostility that most Arab nations display toward Israel’s existence in the Middle East (Benvenisti, 1995; Shipler, 1986). To my mind, the advantages of the SFP program reside in its basic attempt to give these Arab and Jewish young people a chance to meet on equal terms in order to begin to manage this delicate and complex conflict constructively by using negotiation procedures and peacemaking skills. The stark reality is that without a program like the SFP, these teenagers would never have the opportunity to express their feelings toward one another. On the other hand, one disadvantage of the program lies in the fact that three intensive days in a neutral environment is not enough to come to terms with the enormity of the issues that must be faced. In fact, one difficulty that may arise is that the participants may treat what happens in this special place as unreal. This is a good argument to place more emphasis on the follow-up aspects of the program and to include more intensive contact hours in the encounter. The courage to bring these two groups together in their formative teenage years stands, however, as a profoundly significant step in the right direction towards peace.

THE FIRST DAY: NARRATIVES OF VULNERABILITY


I remember vividly the icy silence that descended on the room as we began the first meeting of the workshop. I sat quietly in the back, as nervous as everybody else that morning. We could all hear the deafening sound of chairs creaking in the cold and damp. It was a moment heavy with waiting, but open with infinite possibilities. There was so much meaning in this brooding and painful silence. The only movements were outside the door where the village dogs had congregated as if they knew something special and difficult was happening. I sensed that they wanted to help us through this terrible impasse. I wonder if any of the participants felt this. I never asked them. They were all so self-absorbed in their mutual fears. Many sat stooped as if they were carrying the weight of all the Israeli-Arab wars on their backs. I thought of Atlas, the Greek god with the globe on his shoulders. It was a sublime moment of perfect symmetry—a moment when everything stands before us, where we can make or break anything. It was awesome.


Ahmed, the Arab facilitator, calmly explained the schedule for the morning and allayed fears by stating clearly that this was not going to be easy and that there were no expectations. There was a reassuring quality to his voice and warm sighs filled the air with relief. Ahmed was very firm that differences between the two groups must be acknowledged at the outset: differences in nationality, culture, and religion; majority or minority affiliation within Israel; and the different ways in which political, cultural and linguistic realities affect each side. He pointed out that one significant feature of the workshop was to supply students with information on the conflict which would prepare them for a more constructive dialogue. Ahmed explained to me in a private conversation later that morning that in Palestinian schools in the West Bank, in particular, students are exposed very selectively to their own history and culture. They have little or no exposure to Jewish history. In like manner, the Jewish teenagers arrive at the workshops with many preconceived and stereotypical notions about the Palestinians. There was a half-hour break, and we all shuffled out into the courtyard. The dogs were eagerly waiting for us. The air felt a little less heavy as I watched some participants mingling together while drinking soda and chatting about the dogs. Others stayed in their respective corners.


At the beginning of the discussions, many Jewish participants opted for a blurring of the differences between the two groups in order to avoid painful and threateningly divisive issues. When the facilitators asked the group whether the focus should be on interpersonal issues or on political issues, the majority of the Jewish group chose the former and most of the Palestinian group chose the latter. Interestingly, the Jewish choice won out. Rachel, a Jewish participant, explained: “It’s better we get to know each other before we go to the controversial issues.” An unrealistic fantasy of togetherness began to take hold. But after a while Yasir, an Arab participant, quietly protested by saying: “It’s very frightening to look at the real issues, but if we don’t, nothing will change. And this whole meeting will be a waste of time.” Many of the Jewish participants glared at him. What he had done was, however, invaluable. He had opened a window onto an agenda for real dialogue about living in a state of war and terror. It was critical to pass the niceties of good manners and empty words as quickly as possible. Evidently it was difficult to overcome the fear and mutual suspicion that lay underneath the sanitized surface of fragile smiles.


Ahmed remarked later in a personal interview:


While the starting point of the work is based on recognizing our similarities, from our standpoint, it is equally important to stress the differences in order to recognize and cope with the conflict. Every attempt to remain on the level of “we’re all human . . . ,” mitigates the opportunity to touch upon the painful issues that divide the two peoples. It is not easy, but there is no other way. As time passes and the participants become more familiar with one another through discussion and through sharing meals and “breaking the ice” sorts of activities as well as leisure activities, they begin to loosen up and start to skirt around the real issues of the conflict. Then we know there is a chance for a real dialogue to begin. The question of who is more of a victim, who is more guilty, who is more humane emerges and unbearable feelings start to come out.


Finally, after many attempts on the part of the Palestinian group to tell the Jewish group to “face the reality of the conflict,” a Jewish participant, Ariel, exclaimed: “O.K., we’d better get down to business and start talking honestly. I didn’t come all this way for nothing! Let’s face it, we do have stereotypes that all Arabs are terrorists.” It was a pivotal moment—and a painful one. Ariel was then made to feel like a traitor by some of the Jewish participants. A number of the Jewish teenagers jumped up to say how they did not feel that way and that Ariel was being an “idiot.” They had entered a danger zone in terms of who was in control of the situation. Ariel had shifted the balance of power and thus placed the Jewish group in a vulnerable position. I could sense that the Jewish participants, on the whole, wanted to escape from dealing with the situation. The Arab group was silent. At that moment, Ahmed, the Arab facilitator, stepped in and pointedly asked the Arab members whether anyone had a response to this impasse. Tirzah, the Jewish facilitator, then spoke softly but with conviction:


We are here not to be polite and show how well-mannered we are. We are here in order to try and deal with this terrible reality in our lives. Let’s try to take advantage of the opportunity. I promise you that I won’t point any fingers at people. I know for one thing that I have felt that stereotype very strongly when I was growing up. Ahmed and I have had some pretty heavy discussions about how Jews and Arabs perceive each other. What are your feelings on this?


By confessing her own biases, Tirzah was giving permission in effect to the Arab group to enter the discussion. A space was created to shape text and to liberate voices. Ahmed continued the process by stating that all topics for discussion should be negotiated among all participants. The facilitators tried to legitimize the anxieties that both Jews and Arabs suffer in the society. It was time for another break, and I noticed how the Jewish and Arab students were beginning to mingle more freely with one another. In fact, when they returned to the room, some began to “border cross” by choosing to sit with members of the other group. Ahmed and Tirzah continued to mediate and to prevent some participants from manipulating the discussion. They discussed very openly the processes that were occurring in the room. They focused on the dynamics of dominant-subordinate group relations and how the realities inside the room paralleled those outside the room in the wider society. For example in reference to the “Ariel” incident, Ahmed pointedly chastised Menachem, one of the Jewish participants, who had attempted to silence Ariel by calling him an idiot and by delegitimizing Ariel’s comments about Jewish stereotypes of Arabs:


Do you not realize that you completely annihilated Ariel’s voice because you were so intent on keeping the status quo? I understand that you were threatened and felt anxious by Ariel’s comments, but that’s why we’re here. You have to allow people to speak, and you have to listen to their point of view even if it’s disturbing. It’s the only way to begin facing the conflict.


He asked what Menachem thought about this, and Menachem responded in this way:


Maybe Ariel has a point but we come by these images honestly. I am afraid of the terrorist attacks, like the one on the bus in Jerusalem not long ago. I hate the feeling of being the “weak Jew” who can be attacked. It goes back to the Jews in Europe during the War. They had no power and they were slaughtered. And the truth is the Arabs in the neighboring countries here in the Middle East don’t really want peace with us. They are enemies to us. They make us feel like we don’t belong here. We have to defend ourselves.


Another break. This time the students started to mix still more freely as they walked to the cafeteria. I decided to take a walk to the elementary school to clear my head. On the way, I saw two of the workshop participants: a Jewish girl, Shira, and Assam, a Palestinian boy. They were sitting on a rock, deep in an intense discussion. They saw me and motioned me to join them. Assam looked upset, insecure, and angry but was willing to talk to Shira who had luminous brown eyes and very pale skin. His eyes were a flashing blue set in a dark, sensitive face. They were both seventeen years old and voicing, for the first time, their fears and concerns in this emotionally safe place located on the margins of society. They both spoke with great feeling—trying to cross the abyss that had separated their peoples for so long.


Assam: “It is time for Israeli Jews to realize that we have an identity as a nation. The Palestinian people. We want our existence to be accepted.”


Shira: “I came here very afraid and I still am. But I want to do something positive with my fear.”


Assam and Shira sat next to each other when they returned to the workshop. I could sense that all of the students were more prepared to acknowledge the complexity of the conflict. Their actions illustrated the words of bell hooks (1990) who writes that “marginality is much more than a site of deprivation. . . . It is also the site of radical possibility, a space of resistance. . . . It offers to one the possibility of a radical perspective from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds” (p. 150). Clearer lines were drawn in terms of national identity. Stories of desperation and despair emerged from both sides. Power struggles between the groups became apparent. Many of the Arab participants expressed frustration over what they saw as intransigence on the part of their Jewish peers. They struggled to gain recognition for the acts of oppression done to the Palestinians, particularly to those in the Occupied Territories. An Arab participant complained: “You never legitimize what happens to the Palestinians. You always put us down. You see us as primitive, cruel, knife-wielding. When will that stop?” A Jewish participant responded: “Maybe we do put you down, but if we stop, you will do the same to us only more cruelly. If power will be in your hands, when they come to stab me—will you defend me?”


The session ended in a painful cliffhanger. It was the end of the first day. We all returned to our rooms. I was living with a family in the village and quietly walked into their little guest room. I was thankful that nobody was home because I was too exhausted to speak. I wrote in my journal that night:


Neve Shalom/Wahat-Al Salam. Words with an exotic flavor. An adventure that I want to be a part of. This little village where people have given Life meaning. Here one confronts one’s own existence, one’s identity, one’s neshama [spirit, in Hebrew]. What inspires confidence is the sheer will and energy that these villagers have chosen to give to this place in order that their children may have the possibility of a more peaceful future. But hearing the stories today of these young teenagers in the SFP is heartbreaking. The suffering, the fear, the hatred is too much too bear. You see it in their eyes. I don’t know how they handle all the tension. Can this hideous conflict ever be resolved? It seems so unfair that these young people are in a situation of war with one another. I think of young people in other countries whose lives are more carefree, and I ask myself why does it have to be so harsh here? Also, I think my Holocaust background makes me even more sensitive. I am vacillating between hopeful high’s and devastating low’s of despair. This place will do it to you. I’m emotionally drained. I want to see a happy ending for a change! My heart is full of pain. What is illusion, what is truth? So full of beauty, and so full of conflict! I feel a bottomless pit of sadness for this tragedy here between the Jews and Arabs in this “promised land”. It’s an emotional hurricane!

THE SECOND DAY: LONGING FOR LEGITIMACY


Each group had great difficulty recognizing the needs of the other. Various activities were organized so that the participants became more familiar with the conflicts in each other’s lives (for more detail on the specific organization of SFP workshop activities, see Sonnenschein & Halaby, 1991; Zak, 1992). One activity that was very helpful was a role-playing technique which lasted for most of the day. It was fascinating to watch how the skits unfolded and how key they were in allowing the students to bring out their voices. It gave them an opportunity to confront real problems and to be critical and empathetic of the processes that occur around them. The group was divided into subgroups of three or four participants. Each participant in the subgroup described a conflict in which he or she was involved, within their families, with friends, in class or elsewhere. Most participants who dramatized the stories played the role of someone else. After half an hour of preparation for each skit, the subgroups reconvened and presented their dramatizations. I watched as a Jewish student played the role of a Palestinian mother in the West Bank who had just been informed that one of her children had been killed by Israeli soldiers in a confrontation. She began to cry and so did most of the participants. It was a pivotal moment. One Jewish boy blurted out in the silence of sorrow: “Why choose that example? It’s not very common.” Many Arab as well as Jewish peers retorted in disapproval. One Palestinian girl said: “The fact that it happens is horrifying. Don’t you understand that?” Another skit involved a bus in Jerusalem which was attacked by Arab terrorists. Many Jewish passengers were killed or maimed. It was also a very frightening portrayal. Again many sorrowful tears and much anger. The following are some of the comments that emerged out of this role playing:


You [the Palestinians] always see us in the aggressor role. You never want to acknowledge how afraid we are with all this terrorism. In fact we’re such a small nation engulfed by huge Arab countries all around who want to get rid of us. All the wars show that. (A Jewish male)


But you [the Israelis] have one of the strongest armies in the world. You don’t want to give the Palestinians their rights and their nationhood. Violence brings more violence. We deserve to have our homeland too. (A Palestinian male)


When I close my eyes and imagine Palestinians [from the West Bank], I see masses of angry people wanting to take out their revenge on me and suicide bombers killing my family on a bus or in a shopping square. These are my nightmares. I know it isn’t rational, but it is happening, and there is so much tension everywhere. (A Jewish female)


What do the Israeli Jews have to be afraid of? Their settlers run around with guns and what do the Palestinians respond with? Stones and knives. Do you have any idea what it is like? Permission from the military authorities to do anything, the military roadblocks, the soldiers everywhere. (A Palestinian female)


So many of us [Israeli Jews] are in favor of a Palestinian state. It’s not like Israel wanted to conquer territory and oppress a million Palestinians. The Arabs threatened to wipe us off the map in 1967 and we protected ourselves. And there have been more wars since then. Of course I sympathize with the Palestinians, but there are two sides to it. We’re also losing lives and coming out of this with broken bones and a broken spirit. The Hamas is a dangerous, fundamentalist force that is intent on our destruction. (A Jewish female)


The complexity of the issues began to crystallize for many. Ouaffa, a Palestinian female student explained to me halfway through the workshop:


At the beginning both groups were very suspicious of each other. We didn’t feel safe to express that right away. We just wanted to show that our position was right. We were totally blind to each other’s needs. There was lots of politeness, silence, and then, as time went on, lots of arguing; and then we finally got to negotiating what we would talk about. Our facilitators were great. They just let things come out. They were supportive of how we felt, no matter what. That opened room for discussion and new ways of understanding one another. For example, we, the Palestinians, have over and over again brought up the issue of discrimination and vulnerability as a minority in Israel, which is of course, so true, but for the first time, I listened as the Jewish students expressed their fears as a minority in the Middle East. I never really appreciated how afraid they were and that they had a right to that fear. After all, they really are a tiny minority in the Middle Eastern world, and most of the terrorist attacks are against them.


One participant, a Jewish male, expressed the issue very succinctly in one of the group discussions: “When someone feels that his or her pain is not being recognized—especially about our feelings about the Holocaust—it is difficult for that person to listen and give empathy to someone else in pain.”


A Palestinian participant angrily shot back: “You always bring up the Holocaust. We [the Arabs] are not responsible for that. You may feel very vulnerable in the Middle East, but that doesn’t give you the right to oppress and humiliate us, the Palestinians. What about the terrible stuff happening in the Occupied Territories? You can’t turn your eyes away from it and pretend it isn’t happening!”


The atmosphere was highly charged emotionally. I held my breath and choked back some very painful feelings. The participants were opening up, and the raw divisions were becoming exposed. Conflicts were coming to the fore in the form of pressure that one group exerted on the other—and one voice on the other. Through role playing, the students were given the opportunity to cross personal and cultural borders as a way of clarifying their own journey toward a vision of their national identities. These are dialogic works in Mihail Bakhtin’s (1981) sense. It is a way, as Roger Simon (1992) explains, “of getting students beyond the world they already know in order to challenge and provoke their existing views of the way things are and the way they should be” (p. 17). There was an overwhelming need for these adolescents to claim their cultural, social, and historic place in the world.

THE ROLE OF THE FACILITATORS: TEACHING CONFLICT RESOLUTION


At some point during the second day the role of the facilitators emerged more clearly. Their task in this heated environment was a formidable one. The facilitators sought to engage in what Tabachnick and Zeichner (1993) describe as “a culturally responsive/relevant pedagogy . . . that is sensitive to cultural and linguistic variations and that builds upon the cultural resources . . . of the students” (p. 117). There was a sense of authentic partnership in curriculum-making within the search for intergroup coexistence. They were cognizant of the fact that they had an asymmetrical power relationship with their participants and that an unintentional verbal comment or non-verbal expression could greatly influence the dynamic of the group. I witnessed their continual and profoundly intricate excursions around the injured personal experiences that the participants began to reveal while a sense of safety and trust was created during the hours that followed. Ahmed, the Palestinian facilitator told me during one break:


I am not a politician, but I have a real feeling that I am now doing political work, in the good sense of the word. The SFP is an educational institution which devotes itself to a political goal—but only in the context of bettering human relations. I consider myself therefore to be an educator who works in the political terrain. It’s as if this village and this SFP is a daily protest against war and injustice. And our conflict resolution work is full of tension. A friend of mine [who is an Arab living in a village in the north of Israel] sees this place as a devious means for the Israeli government to justify its actions by saying— “but look, we are doing good things to bring the two peoples together.” He’s never been here, and yet he’s making this terrible judgment. He simply doesn’t want to see that here the process of peace has begun, that it IS possible if we want it to be. And it isn’t as if the Israeli government is so happy about this place. They’re quite ambivalent. So again, where does he get this information? It’s all stereotyping and misinformation. I live here. I know it’s real. Faisal Husseini, our Palestinian leader was here last year, and he said very openly that what goes on in this village and in the SFP is the ideal that we are striving for. For me, that confirms that what I am doing is valid and has political, as well as human, significance. Without a political consciousness, it is hard to work out our problems here. So that is always in the background as the students come together to the workshops. What excites me is the dynamic that is created during the encounters. Most of the adolescents that come are interested in speaking about the political situation, and that’s a point of departure. But they quickly begin to realize that it’s much deeper than that. I demand from them something more—to sit together, to dare talk about their fears and their mutual distrust, to talk about their personal problems, to reverse the wall of ignorance that separates them. They have to start looking at the issues in a more balanced way, and that’s authentic political expression.


According to Sonnenschein and Halaby (1991), the working method for the facilitators is based on intensive experiential knowledge in social-psychological intergroup processes specifically designed for the Jewish-Palestinian workshops. They are trained to explore the conflict through the experiences of the participants as they are revealed in the sessions. In the sessions that I observed, there was a constant linkage between the discussions in the workshop and the reality outside. Working from the premise that the SFP group serves as a microcosm of the larger reality, the facilitators continually returned to the central thread that runs through the conflict and the group dynamic of the workshop—that is, the power struggle over who controls the situation and over the failure to grant legitimacy to each group as part of that power struggle. Many Jewish students found it difficult to grant legitimacy to the Palestinian national identity; whereas, many Arabs were not willing to grant legitimacy to the fears felt by the Jews. At bottom, they each needed to acknowledge their own historicity and, especially, that of the other.


What emerged for me, as I observed the sessions, was the salience of the personal stories. They were sacred and had to be honored. As researcher, I believe now more than ever that without crossing into the land of personal history, there is much territory that we cannot begin to walk on within the context of peace education (See Bar-Tal, 1995; Felman & Laub, 1992; Geretz, 1995; Gumpel, in press; Lemish, 1995). With every passing moment of my participant observation, I saw this conflict-resolution enterprise as a kind of group psychoanalysis in action. Right from the start, the facilitators were able to carefully deconstruct the masquerade of polite manners that blocked the potential for dialogue.


The encounter sessions followed the experiential learning model of the late Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1970), who envisaged the teacher as facilitator, not as a lecturer or transmitter of all knowledge. These sessions focused on pedagogical exercises that are essential for teaching conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence (see Pivovarov, 1994). In this quest for meaning and authenticity in conflict resolution, I concur with John Dewey’s (1938) concept of “teaching and learning as a continuous process of reconstruction of experience” (p. 111). Both Tirzah and Ahmed showed me how teaching conflict resolution can be seen as a hall of mirrors, a central symbol of the confusion in society about the urgency of peace education. They were not afraid to unearth the “cosmic silence” (to borrow a phrase from Matthew Fox, 1979), buried in the failed hopes, humiliation, sorrow, and rage of the primordial struggle in which both Jews and Arabs in Israel and in the West Bank find themselves. They were, after all, dealing with participants in their formative stages of development, and these tribal bonds to the land intersect with everything in their spiritual and psychological lives. Refusing to look at the illusions and realities of this attachment to a common homeland is a dangerous game, and understanding that is, in fact, a fundamental issue for the survival of both peoples in this tormented land (Benvenisti, 1995).


Teaching conflict resolution, therefore, has a literal life, but as I watched the sessions unfold, I sensed that it also has a spiritual dimension. This SFP encounter attempted to empower the participants individually and as members of two different national groups—but also as a group of human beings whose purpose was to examine the thorny issues that bar the road to peace. The facilitators tried to engage their charges in a discourse of deeply-rooted existential anxieties because that is the reality of the situation. They did this without pointing fingers at anyone: their goal was to give each individual protection and respect. This was not a simple matter, given the gravity of the conflict and the resulting narrowness of vision and blind constraints that permeated the landscape. What struck me most was how the facilitators, in their own ways, were able to incorporate aesthetic and moral dimensions amid the distress experienced in this peace education enterprise. “We have to confront the deep feelings of humiliation that Palestinians feel [especially in the West Bank]. That can hurt more than physical violence. We have to take our share of responsibility for this situation,” explained Tirzah to the Jewish participants at the end of the afternoon. A Palestinian participant described the role of the facilitators this way:


Ahmed and Tirzah were like our intellectual leaders. They taught the values of democracy and coexistence. They didn’t preach politics. Sometimes they played the devil’s advocate, but that was for educational reasons. As a young Palestinian, I felt like they were listening to what I had to say; they made me feel important. Inside that room they made me feel equal and gave me confidence in myself and made me feel like I was a member of Israeli society where real reforms are necessary. They understood when I showed my anger and hatred. My only regret is that all Arab students don’t get a chance to have this opportunity.


The facilitators displayed, in spite of the difficulties, the joys of being fully present within the participatory dynamics of involvement and detachment in their work. They seemed to know when to speak and when to keep silent. And no matter what the tone of each conversation was, they never failed to honor the experiences of the individual participants. In so doing, they showed a profound caring that, as Bakhtin (1981, 1986,; Gilligan (1982), Noddings (1984, 1991), Tappan (1991) and so many other educators posit, is at the root of all good teaching. These facilitators embodied the notion that there is no difference between teaching conflict resolution that is consciously displayed and teaching conflict resolution that is unconsciously lived. To my mind, therein lies the power of the SFP peace encounter.

THE THIRD DAY: DECONSTRUCTING THE DISCOURSE OF VICTIMHOOD


Throughout the third day, the participants grappled with their feelings of victimhood. Underneath the surface of the immediate moment, lurked the profound woundedness that makes reconciliation between Palestinian and Jew very problematic. Bourdieu (1996) suggests that metaphor can be used as a powerful device that both conceptualizes and illuminates the educational discourse. Indeed, the metaphor of the “suffering victim” stands guard like Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Pluto’s Underworld in Greek mythology, forbidding entrance through the gate of Jewish-Palestinian relations. My commentary is not meant to minimize the victimization that both Jews and Palestinians have suffered as a result of historical and political realities. Their victimhood is the ghost that lies in the shadows of every interaction—the disturbing presence which has caused their estrangement. This sense of deep injury comes from two specific events: the displacement of the Palestinians as a result of the Israeli “War of Independence” in 1948 and the genocide of the Jews in Europe during World War II. These catastrophes are wounds deep in the hearts and minds of both peoples and have had severe consequences. The collective ethos of the state of Israel is based on the affirmation of the nation as a refuge for the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust of World War II. Israel, therefore, has become a symbolic representation of the passage from the annihilated soul of the Jews to its resurrected personhood, and therein lies the struggle to establish a sense of national identity and to claim a political and cultural place in the Middle East.


The Intifada7 arose from another kind of wounding. The Israeli Arabs want to be recognized as a legitimate national minority, linked to the Palestinian’s demands for a state in the territories (West Bank and Gaza). The sad truth is that this yearning for legitimacy is shared by both Jews and Palestinians. The Palestinians long for their own state, and the Israeli Jews long to be wholly recognized as a legitimate state within the geopolitical framework of the Middle East. Both hopes are still only a dream. The “border pedagogies” used by the facilitators focus directly on this anguish. When the participants in the workshops slowly began to recognize the legitimacy of each other’s national liberation movement, that of the Palestinian, people and that of the Jews, then the dialogue became equal. Or, at least, if I may suggest it, the possibility of equality emerged. Not all problems were solved in the workshops. However, a place of equal dialogue was painfully created, and in that place, progress became possible. It is what Freire (1970) called “liberation as a mutual process.” He wrote that “to speak a true word is to transform the world” (p. 75). Ahmed said to me in private: “The feelings of the participants should not be suppressed; indeed, they must be honored and allowed to surface.” I witnessed how the facilitators encouraged the students to move beyond the impasse and open a space where both groups could attempt to conquer the obstacle of their own pain and express empathy for that of the other group. The intention was for the encounter to become a safe place where trust is built, can therefore become the psychological container for these “bad” feelings, and can permit the participants to recognize their problematic emotions regarding one another. In this site of authentic negotiation, they are encouraged to abandon any pretense to a fixed truth about their views of one another, so the concrete structure of their mistrust and anxieties can begin to crumble.


Within the discourse of the workshops, the participants gained—as did I—a deeper understanding of how personal narrative is layered, complex, and potentially transformative, and how learning is deeply social (see Clandinin & Connelly, 1995; Feuerverger, 1997a; Jackson, 1995; Richardson, 1994). The stories that emerged opened up a space for movement, for emotional border crossing, for bringing specific needs to a common ground. The disputes, arguments, anger-filled discussions about injury, loss, and death of loved ones shaped a territory of the unexpected that the participants on both sides recognized for the first time as their common inheritance of exile, displacement, and diaspora. I was confronted with a vista composed of diametrically opposed subjectivities that had to be restructured into a meaningful present. Mordechai, a Jewish teenager, confessed in the middle of the day:


Before this workshop I was embarrassed to show emotions; to speak about love, sympathy—about how afraid I am to go into the army and to have to deal with what is going on in the territories. The fact that


the course focused on emotional and also rational elements helped me with this. Today I will not hesitate to say what I feel.


After an arduous discussion about social injustice in the Occupied Territories, Temada, a Palestinian female said:


It’s about time that we Palestinians are able to show our anger about the situation. When I think about what is going on in the Territories, and I have relatives there who are suffering daily, I want to scream


Ronit, a Jewish female, sighed in relief as she explained what she felt was important about these workshops:


These workshops don’t just deal with dry theoretical material, but confront the conflict head-on through a very experiential approach. So many people feel a sense of powerlessness and anger in our society. That kind of frustration is so deadly. And yet we’re all afraid to really talk about it from our hearts. We’re discussing the effect that all the terrorism has on each of us personally. I have hardly ever discussed that in my regular classrooms. It’s too overwhelming. So we try to bravely go on after every attack. But, inside, our hearts are being torn up. We still feel like the persecuted Jew deep inside.


Rafiq, a male Israeli Arab, captured the mood of the day:


I always had the feeling that the Jews in Israel were so confident about their place in the world. It comes as quite a revelation to realize that underneath their external bravado, they have terrible feelings of being in exile and feel so worried because of their history of persecution. It’s so strange to learn this. I’ve had some personal discussions with some people here that I will never forget, no matter what happens. It is really quite a strange mess.

THE SPECTER OF THE HOLOCAUST IN THE TENSION OF THE PERSIAN GULF WAR


The excerpts above represent a vision of reality that inhabits the shadows and lies in the shades of ambiguity. The memory of the Holocaust was the eternal ghost that haunted the sessions, but it was especially apparent on the third day. Many Jewish participants spoke of the tension that was engendered by the Persian Gulf War in 1991, eleven months before this workshop, (when Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait and, among other activities, sent SCUD missiles into the heart of Israel), and how it created a kind of post-traumatic response to the Holocaust for many people in Israel. Whether they were survivors personally or children of survivors or neither, did not matter. The Holocaust festers like an open wound that commands the attention of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. Most Palestinians, and Arabs generally, in the Middle East, find it difficult to understand this phenomenon. They see the conflict as localized and the Jews as oppressors. Many are indifferent to this utterly unimaginable trauma that has irrevocably marked Israeli and other Jews. Some Arab participants said that they thought the Jews were using the Holocaust as “a ploy to get what they want in the Territories and to justify their oppressive behavior.” They, the Palestinians, too have suffered greatly as a result of the Middle East conflict, but they fear that in comparison with the Holocaust, their pain will not be taken seriously. “It is as if we, the Palestinians, have to pay for what the Nazis did to the Jews in Europe. It’s not fair,” confided a Palestinian participant from the West Bank to me in private. Indeed, it is not fair, and here, I believe, lies the paradox that stands in the way of reconciliation and healing.


The Gulf War also underscored the different emotional reactions of Arabs and Jews (and here I speak of those who are committed to peaceful coexistence) toward the reckless behavior of Saddam Hussein. At the end of the day, Tirzah described how the events of the Gulf War deeply affected the villagers of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam:


On the surface, we all, both Arab and Jew, were appalled at what was happening [in the Gulf War]. But on some level, my Arab neighbors were not as afraid as I and other Jews were. I guess Saddam was able to mobilize, as he did for many Arabs in the Middle East, the feeling of pride in Arab identity against the West, in particular the United States. We Jews, on the other hand, had a sick feeling that overcame us in our sealed rooms meant to protect us against the toxic chemicals that Saddam promised to deploy with the missiles. He boasted that he would burn half of Israel! The feeling went straight back to the gas chambers of the concentration camps where many of our relatives were murdered. We Jews shared in a collective fear. It was a totally different experience emotionally. As if we, both Arabs and Jews, were in the same room but watching two totally different films! We had long agonizing discussions about this afterward.


Ahmed added:


The Holocaust was an event of such horror and magnitude that of course, we Palestinians can’t compete with that kind of suffering. But I think that the Jews have to get past that and acknowledge our own pain. Saddam, rightly or wrongly, came across at the beginning of the Gulf War as a leader in the Middle East who could restore our badly broken Arab identity and pride. Many Palestinians were entranced by that. It is important to realize just how low and injured we feel. I hope we can get over this “gulf”—literally. We [the Jews and Palestinians] have to keep talking and listening to one another.


In spite of this existential tragedy of the two peoples, their language in the SFP workshops traveled from the margins of the enmity in which they were entrapped to the center of the discussion, where their discourse created a sense of belonging in their common suffering, rather than in a competition of suffering. A kind of blended story of victimhood began to emerge. In other words, they began to recognize in the other’s narrative, heir own story and the interconnected themes of displacement and strangerhood (Kristeva, 1991; Said, 1990) which brings the wandering Jew and Palestinian together from their arid terrains of enmity and despair. The intertwined destinies of Ishmael and Isaac now stared one another in the face. They began to name the historical sources of their conflict, and to name is to gain power through language. As Heidegger (1977) argues, “We dwell in language and its limits are the limits of our world” (p. 394). So, too, language can be reworked, deconstructed, and reconstructed within the framework of dialogue. Adrienne Rich (1979) claims that “language can be used as a means of changing reality” (p. 67). A Jewish participant’s reflections at the end of the third day are relevant to this discussion:


Trying to find a route to peaceful coexistence is a very radical political act. You look at this country where there is so much hatred and fear and a closing of the mind. For the most part, the Arabs live in their villages and we live in ours, side by side. And each one creates their own fantasies and myths about the other, all embroidered with fear. In this workshop, I feel as if some of those myths are being broken down and we are examining one another directly. We have escaped from our “ghettos” and I think that’s radical. It’s an authentic encounter. There have been some horrible arguments in these workshops, but, in spite of the fact that we’re still far from having solved the problem, I personally feel less despairing: because nobody forced the other to give up their identity. There were times when we got past the power games and that was incredible.


One of the most interesting aspects of that third day was not so much who spoke but who listened. In the shadowy spaces, the rage of injustice was given a hearing, thus stretching the boundaries of language and meaning. In listening, the participants were invited to construct knowledge and to maneuver within the zones of ambiguity, to rethink their sense of time and place within the depths of the conflict. These observations encouraged me as researcher to consider the epistemological value of the images that were woven into the fabric of the discussions. These images became a pedagogical device for conflict-resolution and peacemaking residing on the precarious borders of reflection, speculation, and reconsideration.


A Palestinian male discussed the Intifada within the struggle for equality:


The Intifada for me is a struggle for equality, liberty, and the realization of our rights. In this workshop we talked about creating better relations between these two peoples who live on this land. I don’t know whether we were successful. But I am persuaded more than ever that we have no choice but coexistence. I feel after this workshop that the conflict isn’t just territorial or geographic but very much more centered on the quality of our relations as two peoples who are bound to one another whether we like it or not. We have to find ways of understanding that. To me it becomes a spiritual issue as well as a political one. I never thought of that until today. For example, the problem of who owns Jerusalem is so important. Neither side wants to give up their rights to Jerusalem. Can we find a way to appreciate each other’s cultures? Peace. What does that mean? Learning to trust the other? Putting down the weapons? Believing in each other’s fears? Is it Utopia only, or is it possible? I see that in this village it’s possible. So maybe it is.


A Jewish male added:


The workshop offered us the framework and the time to confront difficult questions and to reach a point at which we could listen to each other without feeling a need to compete over who suffers more. We saw that as Jews and Palestinians we shared a mutual need to have our pain recognized, or understood, by the other. Without answering that need, I’m not sure that we will succeed in building the trust which is essential to any serious attempt at cooperation.


All during the three-day workshop, there was a remarkable oscillation between the frontier perspective of facing the enemy and acknowledging differences on the one hand, and the static wasteland of hatred and fear, on the other. Within this passage was the struggle to establish a modusvivendi—to release diverse voices in the wilderness of competing victimhood. The sessions were permeated with the internalized guilt, doubt, fear, sorrow, and hatred that both groups experience within the mental prisons of this bitter conflict.


At the end of the third day, a Palestinian female sadly asked: “My younger brothers are already terrified of the Israeli soldiers. They see the violent stuff on television and they know it’s real. How do I explain it to them?” And a Jewish female summed it up: “We’re both drowning in quicksand next to each other, but can we stretch out our hands to one another or will we sink in the mud with our raised fists?”


That last evening the students enjoyed a social gathering filled with laughter, traditional Arab and Israeli dancing, and singing. They exchanged telephone numbers and addresses. The next day, in the morning fog, they slowly bade one another goodbye, tears in many eyes. I asked a Palestinian girl whether she thought this workshop would make a difference. She confided to me as she climbed onto the bus: “It has already made a difference. Something in me has changed. We may not have solved the problem, but I come away with a real treasure—my heart is now filled with less hatred and instead there’s a greater understanding of how complicated this conflict is. I saw what’s behind the mask of my enemy. I think the process has to start from there.”

CONCLUDING REMARKS


The School for Peace workshop has as its purpose the creation of a perspective for conflict-resolution and an awareness for both Jews and Palestinians of the need to live together in everyday circumstances, albeit holding on to their respective wounds. My intention was to document the experiences of the participants and their facilitators in order to present a multi-layered picture of the very complex and arduous progress toward coexistence. This workshop encounter represented a reframing of social and psychological spaces, a radical shift in understanding and interpretation of events, all the while attentive to the differences in the Jewish and Palestinian histories. Throughout my observation of these sessions, I was confronted with elements of poetry amid the fragile relationships that emerged—of misery, fear, ambiguity, and, sometimes, bliss. Conflict resolution does not operate from a limited agenda but rather must be infinitely flexible to be effective. The salient message that wove its way through the fabric of the workshops was the continual need among the participants for negotiation, discussion, dialogue, and change in their search to give equal expression to their national identities. They have been too fearful, too angry and too isolated to recognize the legitimacy of each other’s presence. As a researcher, I had to acknowledge that whether in open conflict or not, we are all in search of balance and that we seek in our peers or participants the “other” that is missing, or the “self” that is recognizable. Conflict is not a wholly fixed thing; sometimes it is the tiny and seemingly irrelevant comments that can damage or destroy our relationships. Sometimes it is the blatant terrorist attacks.


I attempted here to inquire into the social and psychological complexities inherent in this three-day educational odyssey toward peaceful coexistence. The workshop discussions coalesced with a consistency of themes, images, and poetic voices that could be appreciated as a unified sequence of altercations, confrontations, and negotiations. I have tried to weave together a research story which would walk inside and outside the center of things, acknowledging the illusions, fantasies, and possibilities of peace in this troubled part of the world. Within the layers of each dialogue, the concept of teaching and learning conflict-resolution often seemed more fiction than reality. Sometimes it was a magical connection of special intimacy. The search for negotiation and reconciliation was at the core of this dialogue. It is not formulaic—what we long for in peace education is a “communion” in Buber’s terms (1958), the dialogue between persons which results in mutual validation. To my mind, teaching conflict resolution is an intuitive art. In the end, what matters most is how we treat each other—how much respect and care we give each other in and especially out of the peace classroom, in and out of our texts and curricula.


Jews and Palestinians continue to search for an affirmation of their place in geopolitical terms, and the power of their unresolved history stands as a moral dilemma within the larger framework of the search for global peace. The reentry of the Jewish people into the geopolitical cartography of the world through the modern state of Israel has been hard won. Two thousand years of exile, wandering, persecution, and ultimately, genocide, lie deep within their psyche, creating a collective story of the quintessential stranger/outsider in the geography of humankind. Their place in the Middle East is still highly contested with great hostility from the Arab nations that surround them. Many Palestinians do not understand this. They see the Israeli Jews as aggressors and oppressors who have come to take away their homes. The Palestinians have their own story of persecution, dislocation, and misery, and they are entitled to it. Their story is now also one of diaspora and exile. This is the tragedy of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict that now stands at the crossroads of war and peace, of hope and anguish. This is why I felt honored to be present at these SFP education workshops.


I conclude with the eloquent words of writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, (1989) which seem to encapsulate the efforts of these participants in their journey towards the threshold of the possibility of peace:


This story has something of the night; it is obscure and yet rich in images; it should end with a feeble, gentle light. . . . This story is also a desert. You will have to walk barefoot on the hot sand, walk and keep silent, believing in the oasis that shimmers on the horizon and never ceases to move toward the sky, walk and not turn around, lest you be taken with vertigo. Our steps invent the path as we proceed; behind us they leave no trace, only the void. So we shall always look ahead and trust our feet. They will take us as far as our minds will believe this story. (pp. 7-8)


My heartfelt thanks go to the many individuals that were involved in this study. They gave of themselves selflessly, and their honesty and caring were overwhelming. I am grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for funding this study. This paper was written, in part, while I was on study leave in the School of Education at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 99 Number 4, 1998, p. 692-730
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10286, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 3:12:58 PM

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  • Grace Feuerverger
    University of Toronto

 
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