Arab, Jewish Israelis making friends online

JAFFA, Israel (Press Release)–Khouloud Ayouti has been working at the Peres Center for Peace for two and a half years in the Peace Education department. Since joining the team, Khouloud has been instrumental in maintaining and growing programs in the fields of technology and IT, while enhancing Peace Education through Technology programs.

She truly believes that there is tremendous potential to connect Jews and Arabs and Israeli and Palestinian youth through the integration of traditional and social peace-dialogue programs, including both face-to-face interactions and virtual ones.

Khouloud currently manages the “Bridges for Peace” technological project, which is held in conjunction with Google Israel and the ORT Educational Network. Through the Google+ Hangout technology, this unique project brings Jewish and Arab Israeli youth together, where they can overcome stereotypes, find common ground and promote coexistence.

“These programs connects Jewish and Arab teens through virtual media, creating the opportunity for cross-border relationships in a safe and secure environment that would otherwise be impossible,” says Khouloud.

According to Khouloud, “The project began as a pilot in December 2012 with 112 participants and was called ‘Hanging Out for Peace.’ This year, the name was upgraded to the ‘Bridges for Peace’ project, which is now comprised of 250 participants from 10 different high schools, all members of the ORT Educational Network. Once the students are chosen, circles of 4 Jewish students and 4 Arab students are formed, with one Hebrew-speaking facilitator and one Arabic-speaking facilitator leading each meeting based of an online curriculum specially developed for the project.”

Both groups of students are able to get to know one another in a safe environment through a series of virtual dialogue sessions using the Google + Hangout platform. The circles interact three times through Google+ Hangout before having a physical face-to-face meeting at the Peres Peace House. Following the in-person meeting, they have four additional online sessions, where they work together in their groups on the final project, which they aim to present at the final in-person physical meeting.
“Last year,” Khouloud describes, “The final project task was creating a film. However, this year the participants have the choice to create whatever they desire. For instance, the group from Acre has decided that they would like to tour and explore each other’s neighborhoods, in a method where they can be exposed to their peers’ hometown through their own eyes. Another circle will be creating a multicultural restaurant. Both Jewish and Arab participants of different ethnicities are creating a menu consisting of their own respective foods and recipes, and bringing their friends and families to the final meeting so they can all try new dishes.”

While the program is a great starting point in breaking down stereotypes, Khouloud stresses, “These official meetings are the first early steps in the process of peace. Yes, the program’s main goal is to allow the participants to meet each other in a safe environment, find similarities among them and remove misconceptions. Nevertheless, eight meetings have made a lot of progress and impact – It’s incredible!”
The Hangout+ platform generates a change in the participant’s lives and turns the idea of coexistence into something logical. “It breaks down barriers between young people, both physically and mentally. With Google+, Facebook and other forms of social media, the participants discover a real bond that is strengthened even after the program ends.”
The Bridges for Peace project is particularly important for Khouloud, since she was around the participants’ age when she began considering issues such as peace and coexistence herself. “All my life, I was suffering from an identity crisis, since my family has been living in Jaffa for hundreds of years. When I was 16, I realized that one of my biggest dreams was to work for an organization that promotes coexistence between Jews and Arabs; it’s my passion, and for that I am lucky to work at the Peres Center for Peace. I hope to continue contributing to our society and improving the lives of those around me.”

Thanks to passionate project managers like Khouloud, who work hard, and put lots of efforts in creating a sustainable peace, Jews and Arab youth can understand that coexistence is possible and real and lasting friendships can be formed.

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Preceding provided by the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa
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Shared vital ” water” resources: A Milestone of Cooperation

Press Release

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2013 – A milestone regional cooperation agreement was signed today at the World Bank Headquarters by senior Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian representatives. This agreement will support the management of scarce water resources and the joint development and use of new water resources through sea water desalination. The agreement, in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), was signed by the ministers responsible for water in the three cooperating governments: H.E. Minister Silvan Shalom for Israel, H.E. Minister Hazim El-Naser for Jordan and H.E. Minister Shaddad Attili for the Palestinian Authority.

The MoU outlines in broad language three major regional water sharing initiatives that will be pursued over the coming months by the cooperating parties. These initiatives include the development of a desalination plant in Aqaba at the head of the Red Sea, where the water produced will be shared between Israel and Jordan; increased releases of water by Israel from Lake Tiberias for use in Jordan; and the sale of about 20-30 million m3/year of desalinated water from Mekorot (the Israeli water utility) to the Palestinian Water Authority for use in the West Bank. In addition, a pipeline from the desalination plant at Aqaba would convey brine to the Dead Sea to study the effects of mixing the brine with Dead Sea water. In order to proceed with these actions, especially the desalination plant at Aqaba, technical work and studies will need to be undertaken.

The MoU is an outcome of the cooperation since 2005 between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority on the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Program. This MoU also represents a new initiative arising from the Study Program. This phase is limited in scale and designed to accomplish two objectives: to provide new water to a critically water short region; and the opportunity, under scientific supervision, to better understand the consequences of mixing Red Sea and Dead Sea waters. At this time, the specific role of the World Bank is to assist the three governments in moving forward with the activities covered in the MoU.

“I am pleased that the long term engagement of the World Bank has facilitated this next step by the three governments, which will enhance water availability and facilitate the development of new water through desalination,” said Inger Andersen, Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, on behalf of the World Bank at the signing ceremony.

US programs to promote Reconciliations

The single largest supporter of the Jewish State of Israel is the United States.  Being that, and notwithstanding the US Pro – Israel Alliances have its massive innovations to assist the Israeli peoples efforts in reconciliations with its Arab Neighbors and Palestinians. These programs are by far the largest in the word,

Program Overview 

Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) grants are part of a congressionally mandated effort to support people-to-people reconciliation activities that bring together individuals of different ethnic, religious or political backgrounds from areas of conflict to address the root causes of tension and instability.  Since the program’s inception in 2004, USAID West Bank and Gaza Mission and U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv have supported 55 Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) grants for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.  Below is a list of the current CMM awards that are being implemented by U.S., Israeli and Palestinian organizations. 

Goals

  • Promote peaceful coexistence among Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Improve mutual understanding and dialogue on issues of common concern.

Programs managed by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

  1. The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI) (9/2009-9/2013; $1,061,550):  The Abraham Fund Initiatives is an Israeli organization that has been working since 1989 to promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.  The “Arab Society – Police Relations “ grant covers three major areas:  Policy Change – working with senior-level police, together with local officials and national government ministers, to encourage  community policing by Israel’s national police.  Police Training and Practice – introducing democracy, human rights and knowledge of the Arab community into police training.   The concept of policing within the community will be integrated into police policy.  This will involve learning from models around the world about best practices that integrate policing and community involvement.  Community Empowerment and Reconciliation – facilitated seminars with Arab community leadership, local representatives and police station staff, building local capacity to work with the police to solve community problems.
  2. The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI) (9/2010-9/2013; $999,715):  The Abraham Fund Initiatives is an Israeli organization that has been working since 1989 to promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.  The “Language as a Cultural Bridge” program organizes encounters between Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish fifth-and-sixth graders who participate in language and cultural classes.   The Israeli-Arab students participate in Jewish cultural seminars and Hebrew language classes, and the Israeli-Jewish students participate in Arab cultural seminars and courses in spoken and literary Arabic.   Both groups come together in ongoing encounters for the students, parents and teachers throughout their two-year participation.   The Israeli Ministry of Education is a major partner in this program, having approved all course materials, and is accrediting enrichment hours to participating teachers.  The Jewish Agency is also a sponsor of this initiative.  Approximately 1,600 students participate in the activities funded under this grant.
  3. Center for Educational Technology (CET) (9/2010-9/2013; $559,000):   CET is an Israeli NGO dedicated to the advancement of education.  The “Shared Life: Learning Together for Mutual Understanding” program develops a bilingual website to build bridges among Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish high school students.  The activity-rich website includes an eight-episode television series and classroom activities to reinforce the coexistence theme.   Approximately 150 teachers throughout Israel receive training in using the website to teach civics education to approximately 2,000 Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish students.  These students interact with each other and with their teachers through the website and participate in two face-to-face meetings during their participation in the program.  The website is expected to reach a further 18,000 students through a robust advertising campaign.  The Ministry of Education is a partner in this program and is providing enrichment hours for the participating teachers.
  4. Merchavim (9/2010-9/2013; $750,000):  Merchavim is an Israeli organization that works to equip young Israelis of all backgrounds to build a shared future by learning about their fellow citizens and appreciating the diversity of Israeli society.  The “Shared Citizenship on Sesame Street” program develops teacher training materials featuring characters on the Israeli version of Sesame Street (“Rechov Sumsum”) to teach the concept of shared citizenship.  Approximately 1,200 Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish kindergarten teachers receive training in using these course materials, and 36,000 of their kindergarten students participate directly in related classroom activities.  Video content relating to the program will also be showcased nationally on the leading Israeli children’s television channel (“Hop!”), which carries Rechov Sumsum.   Sesame Street’s global content directors in New York vet all content developed for this program.  The Israeli Ministry of Education is a major partner in this program, approved all course materials, and is accrediting enrichment hours to participating teachers.
  5. <a-c_3rvb0mh2shqozhw><a-c_3rvb0mh2shqozhw><a-c_3rvb0mh2shqozhw><a-c_3rvb0mh2shqozhw>Arab-Jewish Community Center (2/2012–7/2013, $100,000):  The Center, located in the heart of multi-cultural Jaffa, acts as a unique gathering point in Israel for Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  The ”Class Exchange” Program brings separate Jaffa youth communities together during the school year for artistic meetings and dialogue.  Over 1,200 11-13 year olds are participating in the program led by experienced facilitators (ten class pairings of 60 Israeli-Jewish youth and 60 Israeli-Arab youth).  There will be 14 professionally facilitated meetings during the first school year, and 45 during the second year; half the meetings will be at the Arab-Jewish Community Center and half held at the schools themselves.
  6. Arava Institute for Environmental Studies  ( 9/2010-6/2013; $243,333):  The Arava Institute is an Israeli organization that generates capacity for conciliation and cooperation in the Middle East, transcending political boundaries in order to achieve environmental change.  The “Youth Environmental Education Peace Initiative” project uses environmental education as a vehicle for bringing together Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish students.  During the first year of this project, 20 Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish graduates of the Arava Institute participate in a “train-the-trainers” course to learn how to facilitate cross-cultural encounters, which will take place during the second phase.  In the second year of the program, these trained leaders implement an environmental education program in partnered Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish high schools, bringing together approximately 300 high school students to learn about their shared responsibility to protect the environment.  

Programs managed by USAID West Bank/Gaza

  1. American Friends of Neve Shalom Wahat Al Salam (AFNSWAS) (06/2010‐06/2013; $1,000,000):  Sub-awards: School for Peace $557,818 and Tawasol $362,182:  AFNSWAS is a U.S. NGO that supports a genuine and durable peace between Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish citizens, and between Palestinians and Israelis, through dialogue, cooperation and education.  AFNSWAS’s project “Creating Change Agents:  Palestinian and Israeli Professionals in Dialogue and Action” provides participants with the knowledge and tools to create institutional change through a series of dialogues around issues such as equality, security and identity.
  1. Keshev (05/2010‐05/2013; $1,000,000):  Sub-awards:  International Peace Cooperation Center (IPCC), $297,300:  The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel (Keshev) was established by a group of academics, lawyers and civil society actors to protect and advance democratic values in Israel.  Keshev’s project “Press for Peace:  Improving the Israeli and Palestinian Media and Public Discourse” seeks to raise awareness among Israeli and Palestinian journalism professionals and students of how media coverage and editing practices affect peace and conflict.
  2. Peace Players International (PPI) (07/2011‐06/2013; $877,493):  Since 2001 PPI, a U.S.-based organization, has used the game of basketball to bridge divides, change perceptions and develop young leaders.  PPI’s project Support for Peace Players International – Middle East: Cross‐Border Activities” engages nearly 1,000 Palestinian and Israeli children per year to participate in Twinned Basketball Clubs.
  3. Windows (05/2010‐05/2013; $750,000):  Windows is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization that strives for a future based on human rights, liberty, dignity, equality and democracy.  The “Youth Media Program” uses media as a tool for Israeli and Palestinian participants to learn about each other and to communicate with each other about the conflict.
  4. Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) (09/2010-09/2013; $1,200,000):  Sub-awards:  Water and Environmental Development Organization, $921,721:  FoEME is an Israeli organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists. FoEME’s main objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage.  The “Good Water Neighbors” and “Promoting Water Conservation and Environmental Education in Jerusalem” projects build on inter-dependence between Palestinians and Israelis resulting from their shared water resources with a focus on cross-border community relations.  The goal is to advance community reconciliation within eleven Palestinian and nine Israeli communities by supporting community dialogue on water and environmental issues.
  5. Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) (02/2012-01/2014; $1,000,000):  IPCRI is a leading Israeli organization in the field of peace education working with educators and youth.   The project “Jewish and Arab Israeli Youth Defining Shared Citizenship Through Collaborative Community Programs” targets youth living together in mixed cities in Israel, and aims to redefine the nature and quality of their citizenship, promoting shared citizenship and responsibilities.
  6. Hand in Hand (03/2012-02/2015; $1,080,000):  Hand in Hand, Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, is an Israeli organization building peace, coexistence and equality through a network of integrated, bilingual schools for Israeli-Jewish and Israeli-Arab children.  The project “Shared Community/School Integration” seeks to establish eight Israeli-Jewish and Israeli-Arab shared communities; five of these will be built around existing integrated schools, and an additional three in regions without existing schools.
  7. Citizens’ Accord Forum (09/2011-09/2014; $612,414):  The Citizens’ Accord Forum between Jews and Arabs in Israel (CAF) is an Israeli organization established with the vision of building a just and equal relationship of accord and stability among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.  The project “Youth Parliaments of the Mixed Towns of Israel” aims to create youth parliaments in Israeli cities with large Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish populations to encourage moderated discussions, dialogue and outreach.
  8. Givat Haviva (9/2011-9/2013; $874,144): Sub-award: Keshev- $403,873:  The Givat Haviva Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding, cooperation and equality between divided groups in Israel as the foundation for building a shared future and shared society.  The project “Communicating Peace” aims to improve critical media consumption skills of professionals, educators and youth.  The program approach focuses on media monitoring, curriculum development, training on critical media and in-depth dialogue between Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish youth.
  9. Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF) (1/2012 – 1/2014; $1,000,000):  ECF is an Israeli organization that aims to maintain and support Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli cooperation in the political, economic and civil society spheres.  The “Promoting Neighborly Relations” program aims to promote economic cooperation and policy changes in tourism, trade and infrastructure planning in the northern Palestinian and Israeli regions of Jenin, Gilboa and Haifa.  The program will benefit the thousands of citizens living in this northern region by widening economic opportunities for tourism entrepreneurs, farmers and small industrialists. 
  10. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) (09/2011-12/2013; $1,000,000):  Sub-awards:  Reut Sadaka-$600,876:   The “Gemini” project implemented by CRS in partnership with Sadaka Reut, a youth partnership organization, focuses on bringing together Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish youth aged 18 to 25 for an extended period of dialogue, skill-building, mentoring and activism.  
  11. The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace (9/2011- 9/2014; $1,193,002):  Sub-award:  Center for Democracy and Community Development – $407,148:  The Adam Institute, an Israeli NGO, works with civil society organizations to enhance their commitment to non-violence and build their capacities to better serve their constituencies.  The “Return to the Public Sphere” project conducts a series of workshops for a total of 200 young Israeli and Palestinian civil society leaders aged 21 to 35 to build capacity for effective, democratic and peace-oriented leadership on both sides.
  12. Ben-Gurion University (9/2011-9/2014; $760,160):  Sub-award: Center for Applied Research in Education – $120,750:  Ben-Gurion University has a program that works with educators in Israel and the West Bank dealing with victims of political violence.  The “Human Service Professionals and Educators in Israel and Palestine: Building Knowledge and Peace” project aims to identify, implement and evaluate the most promising, culturally appropriate models of intervention to be used with children, families and communities coping with trauma and bereavement associated with the ongoing conflict.  The project will form and train a cadre of 15 Israeli-Jewish, 5 Israeli-Arab, and 20 Palestinian human service providers, primarily mental health practitioners and educators who specialize in conflict mitigation.  The 40 participants will lead four workshops for 200 Israeli and Palestinian professionals.
  13. Near East Foundation (NEF) (9/2011-9/2014; $1,209,502):  NEF is a U.S. organization based in Nablus working to build relationships and cooperation amongst Israeli and Palestinian olive producers in six clusters of villages in Israel and the West Bank.  The “Olive Oil without Borders” project will provide economic and social impact through increased income profitability and cross-border trade, higher levels of trust, and increased cooperation to stimulate cross-border economic cooperation.
  14. Sikkuy:  The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality (9/2011-12/2014; $1,061,275):   Sikkuy is an Israeli NGO engaging Israeli-Jewish and Israeli-Arab local officials and civil society leaders to produce joint frameworks for increased economic opportunity.  The “Equality Zones: Jewish-Arab Regional Forums for Cooperation” project promotes inclusion of Arab municipalities in statutory government frameworks, develops small business opportunities, and increases employment for Arab women.
  15. Mercy Corps: (9/2011-3/2013; $1,190,000):  Sub-award: Peres Center for Peace – $40,000:   Mercy Corps is a U.S organization that has implemented more than 95 peace-building programs in over 30 countries.  This project brings Palestinian and Israeli youth and companies together around a shared interest in information and communication technology (ICT).  The “Impact through Technology” project aims to promote peace activism through the enhanced use of social media and economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in the ICT sector.  Palestinian youth will be trained in digital literacy, critical thinking, problem solving and collaborative work methods through Intel Learn training courses. 
  16. The State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz Disaster Institute for Disaster Mental Health:   (1/2012-1/2013; $96,917):  The Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz facilitates partnerships between groups active in disaster preparedness, response and recovery by organizing and hosting trainings, conferences and multi-agency meetings.  The “Families First:  A Palestinian-Israeli People to People Approach to Assist Children and Caregivers as a Means of Conflict Mitigation And Reconciliation” program engages Palestinian and Israeli health and social service professionals to prevent long-term conflict by addressing short-term mental health needs of children and families.  Fifteen mental health and social providers from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel as well as six trauma experts from the United States will work to develop psycho-educational materials to educate parents about the common impact of trauma and how they can assist their children in coping with exposure to conflict in a manner that minimizes psychological harm.
  17. The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies – AIES (05/2012-04/2015; $561,438):  Sub-awards: House of Water and Environment – $159,525:   The Arava Institute is an Israeli organization that generates capacity for conciliation and cooperation in the Middle East, transcending political boundaries in order to achieve environmental change.  The project “Mitigating Trans-boundary Waste-Water Conflicts” aims to help reduce and prevent further wastewater conflicts and disputes between Israel and the West Bank.  AIES works with Palestinian and Israeli master level students, 30 Palestinian and Israeli high-school students, technicians and decision makers including mayors, city council members, local authorities and other government officials from both sides to engage Palestinians and Israelis on the shared interest of environmental protection through wastewater treatment.
  18. Parents Circle Family Forum (PCFF) (09/2011-09/2013; $800,000):  PCFF is an organization made up of approximately 600 families who engage in peace-building efforts following the loss of their loved ones due to the conflict.  The “’Where Parallel Lines Meet” project aims at mitigating conflict among more than 1,000 youth and hundreds of adults through the use of the personal narrative experience methodology.  The program targets women in particular to strengthen their role in conflict mitigation processes.
  19. Education and Society Enterprises Ltd/Mifalot (02/2012-06/2015; $900,000):  Mifalot is an Israeli organization that uses sports to bring together Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish children and at-risk youth.  “United Soccer for Peace” uses soccer to teach marginalized youth values, leadership and conflict mitigation skills.
  20. H.L. Education for Peace (05/2010‐12/2012; $553,594):  H.L. Education for Peace is an Israeli organization that works to educate decision makers and key segments of the Israeli public on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  The “Advancing Public Support for a Negotiated Agreement” program aims to mitigate identified causes of conflict by highlighting pragmatic voices to the Israeli public at large through media and encounters between Palestinians and Israelis that improve mutual understanding and foster more favorable attitudes towards reconciliation.
  21. Kids Creating Peace (06/2012-05/2013; $92,998):  Kids Creating Peace is an Israeli organization that aims to educate diverse children and youth in Israel and the West Bank, providing them with tools and knowledge on how to resolve conflicts and become responsible members of their community.  The “Youth Creating Peace” program aims at mitigating conflict among 25 Israeli youth and 25 Palestinian youth through people-to-people activities that will expose them to each other’s experience and narratives.  The youth will participate in a joint 4-day camp, 12 separate and joint activities and will implement civic involvement projects reaching at least 200 additional family members.
  22. Peres Center for Peace (09/2011-09/2013; $1,094,708); Sub-awards:  Organization for the Advancement of Women Sports in Kiryat Gat- $83,459:  The Peres Center for Peace is an Israeli organization that seeks to build relationships of trust and co-existence between Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, and Palestinians through sports, health and education initiatives. The Peres Center is implementing a project entitled “Twinned Peace Sport Schools.”  The project seeks to enable Israeli and Palestinian girls aged 6 to 14 to transcend the barriers of hostility and internalize the concepts of teamwork, fair play and mutual respect through healthy and enjoyable activities and cross-border encounters.  The project seeks to maximize impact and sustain results by engaging participants’ families and communities, ensuring participation of women and girls, cultivating young leaders on both sides, and promoting long-term, cooperative relationships.  The project aims to provide 320 children and youth from four underprivileged communities from the West Bank and southern Israel, with athletic training, peace and inter-language education, and joint sports and social events.  Training will also be provided to Israeli and Palestinian adult coaches and peace education facilitators.
  23. Seeds of Peace (8/2012-2/2015; $1,150,966):  Seeds of Peace is a U.S. organization that aims to empower young people from regions of conflict with the leadership skills and interpersonal networks necessary to advance reconciliation and coexistence.  The “On Common Ground” project is designed to provide Palestinian and Israeli youth between the ages of 14 and 32, as well as local educators, with experiences, opportunities, skill sets and resources needed to find common ground on the core issues within and between their societies that are perpetuating conflict and preventing peace.  “On Common Ground” has three primary components: A) Community and Cross Border Dialogues; B) Building Capacities for Peace; C) Needed Leaders.  Activities focus on the unique role women play in peace-building, capacity building workshops for educators, summer camps for youth in the West Bank and Gaza, and a set of resources for teachers.