Monday, November 13, 2006

Relevence of Palestinian-Israeli coexistence

For immediate release
November 13, 2006
Contact: Deanna Armbruster (818) 325-8884,

"The Relevance of Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence Work in the Middle East in the Wake of Recent Violence and Heightened Tensions"

Washington, D.C. - Recently, a distinguished group of regional and diplomatic experts assembled for a discussion: "Israel-Palestine: Long Term Prospects for Peaceful Coexistence." The roundtable event and luncheon was presented by the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in recognition of 35 years of coexistence at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace," the only community in Israel where Jewish and Palestinian citizens of the state live, work and raise their children together in a mutual commitment to peace and equality.Featured panelists and speakers included: Sara Ehrman, Senior Advisor for the Center for Middle East Peace and Cooperation and Policy Advisor for AIPAC; Khalil Jahshan, Lecturer in International Studies and Languages at Pepperdine University and former Vice President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Aaron David Miller, Public Policy Scholar the Woodrow Wilson Center and Department of State adviser to six Secretaries of State involving him in key peace negotiation processes; the Honorable Richard Murphy, who served as ambassador in numerous countries included Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, among others; Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute; General Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Presidents Geral Ford and George H.W. Bush; and Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. The Honorable Samuel Lewis, former Ambassador to Israel, moderated the event.Speakers were frank and candid as they discussed the many challenges facing the region and the grim prospects for peace at this difficult time. Many stressed the urgency of the situation, calling for renewed internationally engagement of leadership in the region. While the general sentiment was focused on recent events and the bleak reality at present for a renewed peace process, many of the speakers also expressed their appreciation for the continued work of Israelis and Palestinians who continue to engage in dialogue and other coexistence programs, including the residents of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the "Oasis of Peace" and its Jewish-Arab education, dialogue and interfaith institutions.Currently, 27 Palestinian and 27 Jewish families live in the community sharing a commitment to equality, mutual respect and peace. The community reaches beyond its borders through its bilingual, binational Primary School, which was the first bilingual school in Israel when it was founded over 20 years ago, the pioneering conflict management institute the School for Peace, which has reached nearly 40,000 Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian participants to date, and the Father Bruno Hussar Pluralistic Spiritual Center, which focuses its work on interfaith workshops and seminars. Residents continued to demonstrate the power of dialogue, education, mutual respect and cooperation even during the height of violence this summer through Jewish-Arab training programs, a camp for Palestinian children and other activities.Many of the panelists, aware of the community's perseverance and sustained commitment to peace and coexistence, highlighted the "Oasis of Peace" as a source of hope and possibility. "It [NSWAS] really is a little light of hope in this moving tide," said Sara Ehrman. "I've always thought that the solution was that one by one, individual by individual, people would learn to live with each other and this program, which is Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam exemplifies that better than any other group that I know of." Samuel Lewis referred to the "unique role" that the community plays in Israel as it brings Jewish and Palestinian children and adults together for a variety of programs.Khalil Jahshan noted the particular need for the programs of NSWAS given the current reality. ".In this context, definitely, definitely, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has a role to play," said Jahshan. "Things are dismal on the political and diplomatic levels, but things are brewing at the human level. Nobody in Israel or in Palestine is doing the type of work that the 50 families that live at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam are doing.We need more groups like this to put an end or shatter that type of ignorance and mutual denial that continues in that part of the world."General Brent Scowcroft addressed the question of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam's relevance at this time. "Neve Shalom is a long-term solution.The only way you can live long-term in the region is to come to reconciliation to the region and that's what this organization is preaching and doing," explained General Scowcroft. "You learn to live together.We're all people, but we're surrounded by these months and beliefs that put us at odds.It won't work, whatever peace you have, unless you have this sense of reconciliation."

##American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam12925 Riverside Drive, 3rd Floor Sherman Oaks, CA 91423Tel. 818-325-8884 Fax 856-325-8983