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  "Trouble in Paradise"

July 28:  The Ha'Aretz newspaper published today what is, in general, a negative report of the social situation in NSWAS.  The article can be found in the archives of the newspaper's website  The article focuses upon various social conflicts troubling the village at present.  The Community's responses to the article appear below.

 

To: Ha'Aretz Newspaper
Letters to the Editor


Re: Article of Neri Livneh appearing in the weekend supplement of July 28.

The article related to problems and difficulties in the Jewish - Arab village of Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam (NSWAS). The Hebrew article was entitled "The Conflict," and the English title appeared as "Trouble in Paradise." These names reflect the surprise of the reporter and some of those interviewed (I was one) to the very existence of such problems and difficulties in a village that "professes to work for peace."

Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam was established with the aim of dealing with conflict, rather than ignoring it. It was never our intention to exist in a bubble detached from reality. Thus, all of the difficulties in Jewish - Arab relations that exist outside the village are reflected within it. Still, there are important differences between what happens outside the village, and what happens here. In NSWAS there is constructive cooperation between Jews and Palestinians, which has brought measurable success. With little initial support from the Education Ministry, the village has established a bilingual, binational kindergarten and elementary school. Last year its enrollment numbered 258 pupils, some 90% of which come from outside the village. Another institution, the School for Peace, conducts encounter meetings between conflict groups. Its methods have earned the esteem of the academic community in Israel and abroad. Alongside these successes and others, there are also difficulties, some of which are related in the article.


Sincerely,

Abdessalam Najjar,
Coordinator, Public Relations

 


Jerusalem, August 7, 2000

  Att:      "Letters to the Editor"
            "Ha'aretz Daily"
            P.O.Box 233
            Tel Aviv

 

Dear Editor,

 As a senior member of NS/WAS, and a co-founder of the community, together with the visionary founder Bruno Hussar, I feel it's my personal obligation to respond and bring forth my testimony, following the article of the reporter Neri Livne, which appeared in the Friday supplement of your newspaper on Friday, July 28, 2000.

 This article caused a lot of sorrow to many of NS/WAS's friends and I believe that amendment is essential.

 It is my testimony that NS/WAS is a place to be honored, dealing with an exceptional challenge of living together of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. My companions, whom I have seen coming to us one by one, are good people, whom I respect and admire. For the last twenty years they have been initiating exemplary projects, which are important and renowned in Israel and abroad. Without those people, our land would have stayed barren, just as we received it in 1970.

 It is my testimony that NS/WAS is a community still searching its way through trials and hardships. Its collisions with the social and political reality outside intensify the usual problems, which are common within every group of people who try to do things together. Hardships and sufferings are not alien to us: these are human, reasonable, a proof that we are real, like everyone else. We are very much aware of our problems and were not waiting for a journalistic article in order to sit together and sort them out.

 Even if someone from our community takes the liberty to publicize certain events, which are regretful, of course, and which can happen in our community like in any other; even if this person thinks that our community does not deserve its name anymore and we need to "burn the laundromat" - still I am sure that most of us continue to believe in the challenge, which we have chosen - to live together in mutual respect and fraternity. The way is not easy but we do not doubt it and people who don't agree to this way have no place among us.

 We will not change the world, but we do offer an alternative and try to hold on to it, with modesty and despite difficulties. With God's help we will continue to grow and fulfill the modest service which we took upon ourselves.

Yours truly,

Anne LeMeignen