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The volunteers: {Oasis-of-Peaceniks}

Thursday 10 January 2008

Throughout all the years of its existence Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam has depended on the voluntary efforts of many people at home and abroad. There are those who give valuable monetary support from afar, and others who come here for a few months or a year – literally to lend a hand. Like the families who have chosen to live here full time, these volunteers are motivated by their wish to play a part in building a peace community. Today, thirty years after its inception, volunteers continue to arrive in Wahat al-Salam Neve Shalom from all corners of the world and dedicate their time and energy to help the village achieve its objectives.

Meet the volunteers…

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Shelby and Rosa

At the time of writing there are two volunteers, both from Germany and both working in the Primary School. Rosa, a twenty-year-old high school graduate from Wipperfürth, near Cologne, arrived July 2007 and plans to stay a year. She learned about the village thanks to her father’s friendship with Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam pioneer Reuven Moskovitch. Rosa says that one of the things she most enjoys about being here is getting to know so many “kind and interesting people”. She also enjoys most of her work at the school, particularly working with the children and feeding and caring for the animals in the Primary School’s new “Zoo Lab.” Upon her return to Germany, Rosa plans to study psychology.

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Felix

Felix, a twenty-year-old high school graduate from Herzogenrath, also near Cologne, came in August 2007 and will stay for a year as part of his national service. (Military or alternative civil service is required of all German males.) Felix first visited Israel in 2005 to participate in a German-Israeli youth exchange program. The program presented an exclusively “pro-Israel” view of the conflict. This was only shaken when, upon his return to Germany, he read a book by by Israeli attorney and activist Felicia Langer. Felix was shocked: the book toppled his former image of Israel as a “just” state. Although he remained determined to do his national service in Israel, he contacted Langer to inquire if there was a “more impartial place” where he could serve. She recommended Wahat al-Salam Neve Shalom. He immediately applied to volunteer, was accepted, and has not regretted the decision. He says he especially enjoys the international atmosphere of the volunteer house, the beautiful and central location of the village, and the opportunity to meet so many extraordinary people from Israel and Palestine. He points out that his work isn’t always fun (mentions sweeping the floors). But he enjoys it sometimes (mentions building the Zoo Lab with village resident Voltaire Shamshoun). Felix plans to study in the Netherlands after his return.

… and our new intern

A significant recent change has been the addition of an internship position. For many years, interns have been successfully employed by NSWAS Friends Associations. From now on, there will be an opportunity to work in Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam itself. The intern’s role will be to research funding opportunities, to write project proposals, grant applications, reports and articles, and to help with the Visitor Program. The position is intended for English speaking university students or recent graduates, especially those with a background in public relations, NGO work or other relevant skills. The intern will live and work in the village for a period of six months to a year.

Our first intern is Shelby Port, a twenty-three-year-old graduate of the International Studies program at the University of Washington. Shelby has volunteered with Seattle-based NGOs, interned for a US Senator, and spent time with the Peace Corps in Jordan. Also in Jordan, she worked for a girls’ youth center and a USAID development project, picking up some spoken Arabic along the way. Seeking to prolong her stay in the Middle East, she applied for volunteer work in Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam. But in view of her experience the C & D staff decided she would be a better candidate for the newly-created internship position. In this capacity, Shelby has been with us from July 2007 and plans to stay until the summer.

Leisure time

Besides their service to the village Felix, Rosa and Shelby take an active interest in peace activities in the region. On a typical weekend, one, two or all three of them will be attending Friday demonstrations at the Israeli separation barrier at Bil’in, participating in missions to protect West Bank farmers during the olive harvest, protesting house demolitions by the military south of Hebron. For relaxation they watch documentaries, visit museums; and take part in cultural activities that have included a Ramallah rap concert. Says Felix, “People need to be active in the peace movement and do what they can... otherwise, nothing will change.” No doubt, Felix, Rosa and Shelby will continue to participate in such activities for as long as they are in the Middle East; and probably thereafter.

A new mom for the volunteers

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Rita

After many years as coordinator of the volunteer program (a responsibility that makes the notion of regular office hours look silly), Rita Boulos found that she needed to focus on her other demanding role as visits director. But who would replace her? RitaVillage member Raida Aiashe-Khatib bravely stepped forward. Knowing the importance of this role, as well as its many challenges, we wish her success.



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