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Young women creating peace – Notes from the village guest house

Thursday 3 April 2008

Ms. Rabya’ Barhoum, sales & marketing manager at the village’s guest house, was especially enthused by a recent group from Creativity for Peace, an organization based in New Mexico (USA). This program works with groups of Israeli and Palestinian young women aged 15-17 to "foster their artistic creativity and communication and leadership skills" and turn them into agents of conflict transformation back in their home communities.

The program held a seminar here on March 6th to 8th for 22 of their young women trainees and graduates with two program leaders, Ms. Anael Harpaz, the organization’s Middle East director, Israel, and Ms. Sylvia Margiah, Israeli coordinator.

"What impressed me was that their activity was so beautiful," explained Rabya’, who has seen many a workshop in progress during her tenure at the guest house. "They did everything with such enthusiasm. Somehow I could tell it was a very authentic, deep experience for them – the singing, the dialogue, and the sharing. They invest in these girls over the long term; it’s not a one-time experience."

The group of young women included Israeli Jews, Palestinians from Israel, and Palestinians from Palestine. Somehow – although it was a terribly violent week in Gaza – these young women were authorized to come through the daunting checkpoint jungle to attend this event inside Israel. One senior staffer of our own was heard to remark that she’d like to know how they did it, because our workshops not infrequently suffer when Palestinians can’t get through the checkpoints to attend. On the other hand, the Creativity for Peace group had reserved space for 40 but the actual attendance was 24, including the leaders. Some of the parents in Gaza, Rabya’ reported, were afraid to send their daughters away from home during a period of such violent upheaval. In our corner of the world, attendance is rarely a foregone conclusion, and we try to focus on the positive and be glad that the workshop could be held at all.

Through the Village Youth Center, the visitors invited all our teens of the same age to come to a social evening get-together, for 4 hours. "There was a lot of curiosity and many questions from their group’s youngsters about what life is like here for our children in a mixed community," reported Maisoun Karaman, Youth Center director, afterwards. "Some of this was challenging for our young people, and they found some of the questions not at all easy to answer, but it also introduced them to the complexity of the three-part encounter (including Palestinians from Palestine), something they are not accustomed to dealing with ordinarily."

As a result of all this positive interaction, Creativity for Peace invited the village to send 3 delegates to their summer 2008 arts and dialogue camp in New Mexico. The village’s young women delegates will be committed to participate in the Creativity for Peace training seminars in Israel during the ensuing year (probably 3-4 meetings) and have also promised facilitate one of our younger Nadi groups next year on a volunteer basis. The camp in New Mexico will provide them with three weeks of intensive daily opportunities for creativity, dialogue, learning, understanding and reconciliation in a relaxed natural setting in the southwestern USA.

Here at Wahat al-Salam Neve Shalom, the process of selecting young people for delegations going abroad has been redesigned recently around a set of objective criteria. This, in an effort to make it fair and transparent, and also to assure that the young people representing us abroad are qualified, capable, and committed, and that they can handle the experience and the follow-up work as facilitators with other young people back here in the village.

Info on Creativity for Peace is at www.creativityforpeace.com . Peace and reconciliation groups looking for a welcoming and supportive meeting venue are cordially invited to contact
Rabya’ Barhoum.

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