Last weekend a group of fifteen students from Sapir College in Sderot participated in a two-day seminar together with Palestinian students from the West Bank. The seminar was the product of a two-year cooperation between the Department of Social Work at Sapir and thePCFF, which has long-term relationships with Palestinian students.
The success of the seminar reinforces the fact that academia can play a vital role in promoting a culture of peace in conflict situations.
Academia provides an arena for the sharing of knowledge and ideas. Ideas and knowledge both broaden and challenge our perspectives enabling us to think and rethink our viewpoints, our worldview and our values.
Social work students at Sapir were exposed to theoretical and practice principles that challenged them to reflect on their views. Within the classroom where theoretical frameworks from social work help to expand the mind, and where dialogue is encouraged, students were challenged to think critically about how they view Palestinians, peace and the conflict. Critical thinking in turn, led to a sense of curiosity and a desire to test reality in "real-time," together with Palestinian counterparts.
The two-day seminar was complex. In the sessions that dealt with the national narrative some students felt that their narrative was not sufficiently recognized. Sessions that addressed personal narratives left some with a sense that the seminar was not providing enough time to tackle the "real issues." Nonetheless, the dialogue continued, and just by the fact the fact that we were there and engaged with one another left many of the participants with a sense of possibilities for something very new.
Now back at home there is a rush of emails being sent back and forth. The seminar participants are working on how to deepen and expand their experience to include additional students. This is a very important start for yet another circle of reconciliation.