Promoting, Supporting and Demonstrating Jewish-Arab Cooperation and Equality in Israel
Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, Israel - Major Jewish-American organization have been discussing, recently, the reality of Jewish citizens in Israel living together with the State's Arab citizens. The Israeli Democracy Institute, United Jewish Community, Jewish Funders Network, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, UJA-Federation of New York, New Israel Fund, Alfred and Hanna Fromm Fund, and the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, and even AIPAC, have all formed task forces, held conferences and panels or are planning events addressing this issue.
All of these efforts reflect a growing trend and understanding of the importance of addressing the issue of Israeli-Arabs, citizens of the State of Israel, who often experience discrimination in various spheres - national, economic, social, cultural, etc. Arab citizens make up 18% of Israel's total population and their demographic is growing rapidly.
The community of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam ("Oasis of Peace" in Hebrew and Arabic) has been focusing its efforts on promoting equality and understanding between Jewish and Arab citizens for nearly thirty-five years. 26 Jewish families and 26 Arab families - all citizens of Israel - live together and raise their children together in this unique community. The village offers experience and expertise in leading programs that promote Jewish-Arab interactions and understanding. Its bilingual, binational Primary School was the first such school in Israel when it was founded nearly twenty-five years ago. Arab and Jewish students learn each other's languages, cultures, histories and traditions and breakthrough many of the stereotypes and barriers that separate them. The majority of the students come from around the "Oasis of Peace" expanding the school's reach to parents and friends as well.
"It is important that the discussion is turning to this issue, but it will be critical that genuine equality for all peoples of Israel is central. The example of the "Oasis of Peace" is a key place to turn to in order to understand the challenges, and opportunities, to create such a state." explains Deanna Armbruster, the Executive Director of the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (www.oasisofpeace.org), a U.S. based 501c3 not-for-profit organization working to support and publicize the work of the "Oasis of Peace."
Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is also home to the School for Peace, a conflict management institute that also works to build positive relationships between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. Its workshops bring together Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, as well as Palestinians living in the West Bank, for important dialogue workshops and conflict management training to promote equality.
The "Oasis of Peace" has been bridging the gap between Arabs and Jews living in Israel for more than three decades and has been a pioneering voice in this area. Its workshops and school often offer participants their first opportunities to meet someone from the other side. Its residents demonstrate daily that Arabs and Jews can live together with equality, understanding and peace. As attention in the U.S. turns toward the improvement of Jewish-Arab relations and the plight of Arab-Israelis, the model and programs of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam can provide insight and guidance.
American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam
12925 Riverside Drive, 3rd Floor
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Tel. 818-325-8884, Fax 856-325-8983