Following the attack on the village itself in September 2020, the intercommunal violence witnessed in Israel a little over a year ago vividly exposed the effects of decades of separation and mistrust between Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens. As ever, the village met these challenges with innovation and the unshakeable commitment to the ideals of peace and equality which have made it famous, playing a leading role in the effort to heal wounds, bridge divides, and move towards a brighter future.

 

               Scenes of unrest in Lod/al Lidd from May 2021                                    The School for Peace destroyed by arson

The School for Peace - having coped admirably with the destruction of its home by arson - has trained over 750 people in the last year, enabling these graduates to mitigate conflict and lessen inequality in their professional and personal lives. The conflict in May 2021 provided a wake-up call to many in Israel, with numerous institutions requesting the school’s services for the first time. Facilitators from the school worked with universities, commercial firms, and NGOs that include Palestinians and Jews on their staffs, helping to establish fair practices and an equal power balance within these organisations.
 
With over 70,000 graduates, the School’s Alumni Hub has a large and diverse membership, with graduates continuing to receive support and coordination from the school as they pursue their own peace initiatives. For example, graduates of the Change Agents Mixed Cities courses have been especially active, taking on leading roles in the city of Lod/al-Lidd and helping this sight of some of the worst violence move forwards. School for Peace staff have also reached more university students than ever over the past 12 months, teaching courses within eight academic institutions – nearly double the number from previous years.

Participants of a School for Peace University Course

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The Primary School, meanwhile, has expanded its reach to the next generation, ensuring that more children are spared the hopelessness and mistrust which were the cause of much of the violence. With many grades now having two-form entry, 331 children from 19 separate communities are now learning each other’s language and discovering that the “other” is not to be feared and avoided, but is rather a friend and a partner in the shared effort towards a more peaceful and equal society. In this video, our friend and colleague Nir explains the school's contribution to this effort.

That the village is leading the way in healing division and challenging injustice is proven by the increased desire to learn from its work on the part of members of Israel’s governing coalition. Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg visited earlier this year and was deeply impressed by the village’s new “eco-peace” model: the combining of peacebuilding with green, environmentally friendly solutions for energy saving, waste management, and environmental education. 5th graders at the Primary School pitched their idea to create a phone application that would allow students from schools across Israel to network in identifying shared environmental concerns, with the minister promising to look into options for state support for such a project.

The School for Peace’s March Alumni Conference, meanwhile, was notable for the active participation of Naama Lazimi, Labor MK and co-chair of the caucus to advance equality in mixed cities. It is profoundly encouraging to see such increased engagement from senior coalition figures. We were delighted, too, that Tel Aviv’s annual DocAviv film festival recently premiered a feature-length documentary on the village, and we look forward to sharing “Children of Peace” with you when it is released more widely.

Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg visits the village.

We know that, like us, you are passionate about the health of Israel’s democracy and about fostering a lasting peace in Israel-Palestine. The model and work of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam remains one of the region’s best hopes for a brighter future and we hope you will continue to support us as we, in turn, continue supporting its courageous residents and staff. In the words of the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel - “When Jews and Arabs get together, work together, live together, they create their own miracle: Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam is such a miracle.”

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