This reflection was originally posted on the Masa Israel Blog.
By David Sklar, Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim
Over the last four months, I have been participating in a new Masa Israel volunteer program called Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim. Looking beyond the worn-out rhetoric of the conflict, this program initially attracted me by allowing me to see the harsh realities on the ground and meet the people who are working for real change in Israel and abroad. As someone who believes in the importance of dialogue and co-operation, I was particularly attracted by one of Achvat Amim’s main focuses, working with the Hand in Hand school in South Jerusalem. This school, a successful experiment in Arab-Jewish education, is one of only five in Israel. Since the beginning of January I have been teaching English as well as Drama. While learning to navigate through the chaos of the Israeli education system, (as someone coming from a structured Canadian upbringing), this school has given me hope for the future of Israel.
I started off eager and slightly naïve. I wanted to get into the “thick” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I wanted to devise a drama program about what my students have to go through on a daily basis and how the school has shaped their lives for the future. I wanted to witness the “other” and have them show me the conflict. Once I stated my intentions with my group, however, I quickly got my own crash course. The students paused, and rolled their eyes.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
The students started in. “They always want us to do that. No one gets it.”
Apparently, I wasn’t the first with this brilliant plan. Whether it is from the teachers, their parents, or donors from the school, the students felt that they always had to play up how they love one another and that they are “working for peace.”
Don’t get me wrong; they liked the school and even some of their teachers. But they didn’t see things from an outsider’s perspective.
“Karen isn’t my Jewish friend – she’s my friend. And Ruba isn’t my Palestinian friend I fought with yesterday; she’s my friend I got into an argument with.”
These students live their reality. For them, it isn’t about building bridges, or creating an abstract peace plan. They are friends and colleagues. They study together; they play together and get into fights. They care about their test this afternoon, passing and eventually graduating.
Their unprejudiced outlook on the situation is refreshing –here are people who come from different backgrounds and have different statuses in this country, and yet see one another not as political stats but as people.
My time at the school has been challenging, rewarding and made me want to continue teaching in the future. My students have given me the confidence to engage with intelligent youth and create a program that addresses everyone’s needs.
David Sklar of Montreal, Canada, is currently spending five months volunteering with Human Rights NGOs in Jerusalem with the Masa Israel program, Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim.
Our partners at Rabbis for Human Rights got in touch to write a little something about Achvat Amim!
Check it out at their page here!
Here are some excerpts:
Rabbis for Human Rights is pleased to be partnering with Achvat Amim (“Solidarity of Nations”), an exciting new 5 month long volunteer program for young adults in Jerusalem based on the Jewish values of “tzedek” (justice), “shalom” (peace), “tikkun olam” (repairing the world) and “achvat amim” (solidarity of nations).
Achvat Amim offers young adults the chance to live in Jerusalem while volunteering and learning about human rights, Judaism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples, the program directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while offering a framework for meaningful volunteer work and practical skills development with leading educational, community, and human rights organizations.
Program Director and co-founder, Daniel Roth on his hopes for the participants of Achvat Amim- Solidarity of Nations:
“I hope that Solidarity of Nations – Achvat Amim participants have positive life-changing experiences as individuals and a meaningful collective journey. I hope that we will actively connect our exploration of Jewish tradition, history and values with our vision and strategy for making a better world. I hope that our participants are connected to the struggle for justice and peace here and that they incorporate the value of self-determination for all peoples into their lives.”
Participant David Sklar of Montreal, Canada:
“Since arriving, I have never stopped learning to think critically about Israel and the conflict.
Every day, whether it is at the school, Hand in Hand, on trips throughout the region, or having meaningful conversation at home with our program leaders, I have always felt respected for my sharing my beliefs. I knew I chose a challenging program but I never thought it would reward me up to a life-fulfilling journey.”
Read the rest at Rabbis for Human Rights' page
Applications are now open for the next cohort of Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim.
The photo is from the entrance to an exhibition near Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek, which was organized by some of the same people who are working in this program. The exhibition was dedicated to learning about 100 years of work toward the ideal of solidarity of nations in Israel, Palestine and the world over. The big yellow words read: Achvat Amim.
Original article is at: http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/anglo-file/rank-and-file-1.526982
LIFE IS A KIBBUTZ PICNIC: Graduates of Hashomer Hatzair North America will celebrate 100 years of the world movement next Saturday at Kibbutz Shomrat. Efrat Levy, the chair of Hashomer Hatzair North America, is scheduled to fly in for the event. It will include a picnic followed by a “rousing presentation” by activist Daniel Roth, event organizer Yehuda Beinin told Haaretz Thursday.
Roth, a recent immigrant to Israel from the Canadian movement, is scheduled to lead a discussion on the concept of personal fulfillment. He is an educator and social activist, and works as the program director of the Solidarity of Nations − Achvat Amim human rights initiative. “Creating an identity with Israel as a whole has always been a challenge,” said Beinin, who is originally from New Jersey. “This paradigm needs to be reexamined.” Beinin estimates that over 400 graduates of the North American movement, which has been sending people to Israel since 1934, have settled in the country. For more information, call Yehuda at (054) 561-4680.
The "Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim" Program Director on IDC Radio 106.2's "Your Tour Guide to Israel" show
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