In retrospect 2008 wasn't easy and yet we succeeded in entering difficult high schools and had some unique meetings. The year started with a long teachers strike. When the lessons were renewed the teachers had a lot to catch up with and still some high schools decided not to give up on hosting PCFF members and having dialog meetings at their school.
Our high school dialog meetings are the most important educational activity developed by the PCFF. Our members prove to be the most effective promoters of peace and reconciliation. During 2008 I directed many efforts to high schools and youth movements which have a different point of view than ours. Thorough and comprehensive preparations and explanations opened a door which allowed our members to pass on our views in an impressive way. In some places the process took three years, in some less, in any case the persistence was worthwhile.
Rabbi Davidovich, the head of Rosh Pina's preparatory course for military service of religious youth, hosted us this year for the second time and allowed his students to be exposed to our activities and ideas. After a long effort we met some students from the Dantziger high school in Kiryat Shmona (a city in Northern Israel which suffered over the years from Katyusha rockets) and I believe that the meeting Ali Abu Awwad and I had with the students will facilitate more meetings next year. The tough meeting we had in Amal Tiberius was successful due to our member, Muhammad El Bau, who succeeded In developing a relationship with the students who cursed him at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting in Tiberius reassured me of the need to keep these meetings going.
Mazen Faraj and I had a difficult meeting with MA students from Bar-Ilan University who study conflict resolution. Most of the students who live in settlements were not indifferent to our sayings. Mazen opened a window to reality in the occupied territories for them that they were not aware of. Meeting Mazen allowed them to re-think about this central issue in the Israeli-Palestinian existence.
When we speak to skeptic and sometimes hostile audience we offer them a look into a much wider reality and let our listeners understand for the first time how complex the situation is. Many times I can see how the invisible wall between Israelis and Palestinians cracks and falls when people are being exposed to our activities and the values we try to promote through them. The lectures expose us to new listeners and help us base ourselves in high schools' programs.
Many students who attend our dialog meetings show interest in our activity and want to take part in it. Until lately, we didn't have any continuation program we could offer them. The Reconciliation messengers program, which we started this year for the first time, allows those who want to do so to continue their work toward peace. At the end of May we had our first Peace Messengers seminar in East Jerusalem for 14 social worker students from Sapir collage (near Sderot), and 12 students from universities in the West Bank. The seminar was a great success and with all the difficulties which came up we could see how a meeting of Israelis and Palestinians makes the message of co-existence stronger, especially in our bloodshed reality.
Our educational activity comes with many difficulties but the commitment and devotion of our educational staff make our activity successful. As always we continue to support our discussion leaders in their work and at the end of August we will meet for a weekend to discuss our goals. During the next school year we will meet several more times to improve our skills.
May we all have a great school year.
The Israeli dialog meetings coordinator
Photography: Esther Erythropel