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Annual General Meeting of Friends Associations

Tuesday 14 May 2013

This year’s annual general meeting, to which representatives are invited from support groups around the world, got off to a great start with an evening reception at the swimming pool. At the event we welcomed old and new friends, and honored our oldest friend of all, J. Zel Lurie, who will be 100 this year. Another long-term American supporter of the village, Mr. Richard Goodwin, was present at the occasion. Mr. Goodwin directs his philanthropic efforts in the Middle East through the Middle East Peace Dialogue Network, which was also represented at the AGM.

Zel Lurie first encountered the village around 1980, when he came to see Wellesley and Coral Aron, who had just moved to the village. A little later, Wellesley Aron asked him to found the American Friends of Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam. He has been involved ever since.

The sessions of the general meeting extended over three days, from Tuesday to Thursday, providing the opportunity to cover every aspect of the village and its educational work. Updates, brainstorming, Q&A and more informal meetings all had their place. On Wednesday morning, the participants visited Ramallah, where the School for Peace has projects with Palestinian NGO Tawasul.

In Ramallah they met with Palestinian government officials, visited the tomb of Yassir Arafat and also paid a visit to the Mahmoud Darwish Museum, where they were welcomed by the director.

Back in WAS-NS, the participants learned about plans for the Peace College. They also toured the village with Eitan Kremer and Dyana Shalufi, who are both involved in the new Peace Rooms and Paths project (aka "Shvileh Salaam"). The walking tour concluded at the cemetary, to pay respects to former School for Peace Director Ahmad Hijazi and his son Adam.

On Thursday, author Prof. Amia Lieblich came to describe her new book "In Spite of It All", which is based on interviews with WAS-NS community members. Prof. Antonin Wagner of the Swiss Friends gave a presentation on organizational effectivity.

The Annual General Meeting concluded with a ceremony in honor of Mr Hermann Sieben, chair of the German Friends of Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam, who will next month celebrate his 80th birthday. Mr. Sieben, one of the longest and most loyal supporters of WAS-NS, plans to retire later this year. Mr. Sieben explained how he first came to be involved in the village, when he was still responsible, on behalf of the German government, for youth exchange projects between his country and the Middle East. A representative from the German Embassy spoke about her decades-long connection with Mr. Sieben, and a number of village members also spoke. An olive tree was planted, and a plaque was unveiled, naming the garden at the village entrance in honor of Mr. Sieben

The Annual General Meeting was a time to renew connections with representatives from many of the countries in which Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam is represented by friends associations. It was an opportunity to exchange ideas for future development and to be inspired by all the work that is being done, both at home and abroad.

(Photos: Glenn Chon, Howard Shippin)
Additional photos (by Nadine Nashef) can be found here

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In the Ramallah Cultural Palace Grave of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (by Ramallah Cultural (...) Reception at the Swimming Pool

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