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WAS-NS interns: Faryal, Wilfredo and Megan

Sunday 3 August 2008

How does one intern for peace exactly? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you either live peacefully, you don’t, or you’re somewhere in the middle trying to reconcile the two? Some leaning more towards one or the other. As interns, here at the village we try to learn more ways to develop peace building skills via the Communications and Development Department. The responsibilities include, but are not limited to, developing contacts with various people, corporations, and embassies, writing and editing funding proposals, writing articles for the website and hosting guests. Currently, we have three interns at the C&D office. This is a piece of their story:

Faryal Awan, of Pakistani-Algerian parentage joined the Communications and Development team of Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom in January 2008. After completing her masters degree in Politics of the Middle East from the University of London, Faryal worked in the financial district of London for a year, saving money for a future excursion to the Middle East. Faryal has been interested in the Palestinian struggle for self-determination from a very young age and it has been a life-long dream to work in the region.

She learned about WAS-NS from a British Jewish friend with whom she was involved in Pyschosemitic, an inter-faith events and education agency that uses celebration, music and art to bring people from the Muslim and Jewish faiths together. After a meeting with Raida Aishe-Khatib (primary school teacher) and the British Friends in London, she was very fascinated by this unique village and decided to check it out for herself. Her work at the C&D office has been interesting and diverse. Faryal’s daily responsibilities include researching fundraising opportunities; writing grants, project proposals, articles and other PR material in English; and hosting visit groups and journalists. She was also involved in the preparation of the Annual General Meeting of the Friends Associations held in the Waha and the ’Raising Awareness Tour’ in the UK. Besides her daily responsibilities, Faryal has tried to focus her time and energy on the humanitarian aid program of the village and the highlight of her work has been fundraising for the impoverished and alienated Silwan village in East Jerusalem. Besides the work itself, she really enjoys the people she works with and feels lucky to be working with a staff of such accomplished, intelligent and interesting individuals.

Faryal also worked with the youth in the Nadi (youth club) Along with Maisoun Karaman, Director of the Nadi; she initiated a program for the youth club entitled ’Nahki Inglezi / Speak English,’ whereby she and some volunteers dedicate one evening a week to help 10th and 11th graders with their spoken English. Faryal learns a lot from these weekly encounters as the kids open up about their experiences in the country. She was very saddened to learn about what she and they knew to be the lopsided version of history they had been taught in their Jewish high school.

Faryal enjoys traveling and uses her weekends to travel across the country. She finds cities and villages in the West Bank most interesting because of the lovely, hospitable people; beautiful landscape, the great food, and because she gets a chance to practice her Arabic. After five months of being asked ’Inti Maghrabi? (’Are you Morrocan’) whenever she uttered a word of Arabic; Faryal felt a great sense of achievement when a local Palestinian claimed ’Really, you are Algerian? You speak like us, not them!’

Faryal’s internship ends in December 2008 and she plans to extend her time in Palestine by working for a local NGO.

Ahmad Hijazi, Director of the Communications and Development Office met Yehuda Lukacs, Director of the ’Center for Global Education’ at George Mason University (GMU) this winter and decided to embark on a mutually beneficial relationship whereby WAS-NS would host and mentor two interns from the US. (GMU is located in northern Virginia, about a 30 minute drive from Washington, D.C.) The internship program lasts 6 weeks and offers an excellent opportunity for students wishing to obtain hands-on knowledge through working and living in Israel/Palestine. In mid-June, Wilfredo "Will" Tantoco and Megan Cipperly joined the C&D team after an intensive 10-day seminar, where they met leading Israeli and Palestinian experts; representatives from various Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), think tanks, peace activists, and businesses and government officials. The following is their initial reactions to the village:

Will, a graduating-senior at George Mason University majoring in Government and International Politics, with a minor in International and Comparative Studies joins us from Herndon, Virginia. He began his internship at WAS-NS not knowing what he would actually be doing. When applying to the George Mason University’s Center for Global Education program, students were asked to write a brief essay on what they are interested in and why they want to study in Israel/Palestine. After reading Will’s paper, Luckacs, coordinator of the Israel/Palestine Internship and Director of the Center for Global Education, suggested WAS-NS.

"Everyone in the community has been very welcoming," Will says. "The village is very remote (compared to the suburbs that I’m used to), but peaceful. After all, translated, it is called ’The Oasis of Peace.’” It has one of the best views Will has seen in his life and he’s promised himself to wake up for at least six sunrises for the six weeks he’s here. There’s always a lot to do in the C & D office, but Will sometimes feel as though because of his short time here, there’s little he can really get his hands into. His responsibilities have been editing proposals for fundraising, researching grants, calling embassies for funding, and so forth and adds that his supervisors Ahmad and Faryal have been very helpful in showing him the ropes and giving him an in-depth understanding of how the village is run.

Will feels as though, in addition to learning from the job, he’s been learning a lot from just interacting with the people. He’s already met many people throughout the village. He finds it funny meeting a group of young adults in the village that he will be joking with, smoking shisha, and hanging out with, and then later meet their parents who are local officials, principals, or teachers in the village. The house he’s living in is called the Volunteer House, but he often refers to it as the Hippie House. There so many guests that show up and spend anywhere from a few days to a few months. He says, "Although I’ve only spent very little time with these new friends, I find myself really sad when they leave." The program requires Will to keep a journal and he often times finds himself jotting down little notes – names, words in Arabic or Hebrew, or any sort of “moment” he feels that he’s had. "Overall," he says, "the time has been very enjoyable and I know that the rest of my stay here will be great and I hope to learn more as the time passes."

Will has been thinking of law school and we wish him all the luck in the world! Perhaps he will return to Palestine/Israel championing human rights!

Weblinks for Wilfredo
Story in the Palestine Israel Journal

Will is joined by Megan, a Junior from Yorktown, Virginia, majoring in International Conflict Analysis and Resolution and minoring in Women Studies. Due to the nature of her major, Megan figured the most appropriate place to spend her 6 weeks was in Israel/Palestine. The program suggested she intern at WAS/NS and here she is! Her primary goals while here are to get a basic understanding of how the conflict is embedded in society, learn from the peace process, and perhaps learn a few phrases in Arabic. She says it’s very intimidating living here since most people in the community speak three different languages fluently.

When she first got here, she was surprised about how friendly everyone was. "It’s not strange for locals that you just met to invite you into their house, make you food, and tell you their personal stories. The village itself is extremely beautiful, with a great view of the countryside and charming houses and gardens," she adds. She was happy to be assigned the project of writing about the community’s efforts to be environmentally efficient, since back in the States she spends a lot of her time working on environmental advocacy. Megan might just be the village’s first vegan.

Over the last couple of weeks Megan has been overwhelmed with culture, people, and conflict. "During the week," she states, "the village is a nice break from a lot of the tension on the outside." She finds it refreshing to live in a place where all of the people are aware and actively involved in changing the political situation in the country. She hopes to tell people back home about the political consciousness of the youth here, when she returns to the US. There are opportunities every week to travel to different conferences or events focused on the political tensions here. The conflict here is not something that the people merely read about, it is something they live every day. "I hope that in my brief time here," she says, "I will begin to understand the complexities of living in a coexistence based community within the context of a politically charged society."

Megan graduates in 2010.


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