Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Salamis the only Jewish –Arab cooperative village in Israel. Its inhabitants live and work together and search for ways to advance understanding and peace between the two peoples. NS/WAS is one of the few places where Jews and Palestinians can feel equally at home, where they share the decision-making process and the responsibility. With these principles as its starting point, the village has embarked on different educational projects. One of these projects is the Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Salam Arts and Cultural Centre.
Through the years the people NS/WAS have used art in many ways as a means of dialogue.
Art of all forms is both intellectual and spiritual. It is by definition a bonding pastime. In our activities we utilize this wonderful medium as a communication tool which bi-passes over-intellectualization and goes straight to the heart. Art dissolves defensiveness, by depicting and expressing truth in the most candid and authentic manner. It enhance awareness of the emotions involved in cultural conflict.
Our workshops comprise Art, Music, Story and Drama Therapy techniques aimed at crossing cultural borders, and creating mutual respect and understanding.
The Centre has developed a wide range of activities in three specific spheres:
Today we have here in NS/WAS twelve resident artists active in various spheres of art. We also have many more artists at more or less advanced stages of coming to live in the village. These constitute our present and future team for activities.
In the future all this activity will be concentrated in a complex of buildings dedicated to the project. The Complex will comprise two units. One of these will be a Centre for Fine Arts, which will include a museum for traditional and modern arts of the two peoples and studios for art work. The second will be a Centre for Performing Arts, equipped with an auditorium and workshop spaces. The Centre will also include provision for therapy through the arts used as a new dialogue form between the two peoples.
Through the years there have been many and varied art and cultural activities here in NS/WAS. We held the two very exciting "Open Days," where first 12,000 and then 15,000 Jews and Arabs sat together at a mixed concert with all the leading stage artists of both sides. We have had visits of national and world-renowned artists in all spheres. Many have contributed artworks to the Village.
Two stage performances were produced here on the subject of co-existence and shown to thousands of tourists and local visitors to the village. Over the last 10 years workshops have been conducted in the project "Art as a Language of Communication." Teenagers and adults from Israel and abroad have participated in these workshops. The groups have come from diverse or conflicting cultures: Besides Jews and Palestinians we have worked with Jewish and German groups, Protestant and Catholic Irish groups, Jewish -American and Afro-American groups etc. We have traveled to Europe and to the US performing and running workshops to very diverse groups. The workshops address in addition to the Jewish –Arab Conflict other issues such as the Jewish Reform-Orthodox issue, anti-Semitism, etc. The last trip to the US included performances to mixed audiences in New York, Chicago, and Boston and a weeklong workshop in Minneapolis with White, Afro-American and Hmong children using Performing Arts Therapy as a way in enhancing awareness to cultural conflict
The climax of these workshops was the conducting of two summer workshops organized and led by Diana Shalufi-Rizek and Daphna Karta Schwartz . In two consecutive summers they brought together Israeli and Palestinian Artists for a weeklong workshop, dialoguing through the arts.
All these activities did much for the agenda of co existence, besides generating income for the NS/WAS guesthouse and a group of NS/WAS members.
Until recently, all such activities were organized through the guesthouse. Lately we have seen a growing demand for these kind of activities. We are responding to this by creating a framework that will develop new ideas, initiate more projects and coordinate all the work done in this sphere.
As plans are going ahead for the Campus of Peace, there is also a necessity for a development team to plan the "Arts and Cultural Centre," which will be a part of the Campus.
Before all this there is need of a preliminary budget so as to create at least two, part-time positions for the vanguard team. This team will coordinate and organize the cultural activities and forward the planning of the Centre.
In my artistic activities in the country and abroad I have come to realize that there are many people, institutions and foundations that up till now have not donated to any activities in the village and would be interested in donating to cultural and artistic activities. There is a special interest in artistic and cultural activities in the sphere of cultural and ethnic diversity.
An Art as a language of Communication Summer Workshop in NS/WAS