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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Adina Shapiro

Adina Shapiro grew up in a Jewish national religious community in Jerusalem. After national service, she taught Hebrew at Hope Flowers school in Bethlehem and went on to found MECA, Middle East Children's Association. At MECA Israeli and Palestinian educators meet in order to empower and learn and share skills and lesson learned, finding ways to educate, empower and reveal the narrative of the other and to better prepare children for the reality.

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in this kind of work.

    I began this work in 1996 when I finished my national service. That was right after Rabin was assassinated, which had an impact on me, as someone who grew up in the national religious community in Israel. And I began teaching Hebrew at a Palestinian school in Bethlehem, which was a new experience shall I say; a very different experience, a learning process for me. It exposed me more to something that I don't think is new, that the educational component of any peace process is a critical part that needs to be invested in. Whether it is the education I received and how it prepared me or didn't prepare me for a subsequent peace process, and the education that the Palestinian children I was coming into contact with, and how education can have a significant impact either way on how the population as a whole views the changes and is able to deal with them. So that was how I got started.

  • How did you end up teaching at Hope Flowers School?

    Hope of Flowers School published an ad in a newspaper. I came across it by chance, looking for Hebrew teacher in a Palestinian school. From my perspective it didn't even occur to me that this might be outside of Jerusalem. That never crossed my mind. I had taught Hebrew in Russia so I taught Hebrew as a foreign language when I didn't speak the local language. So I felt that this would be an interesting experience, especially in light of the political events that were taking place. I really didn't think that I was going to end up teaching in school in Bethlehem. When I called and tried to promote myself, because I was not qualified for this position, I was just starting university... I had some experience from national service... I tried to say that I had taught Hebrew as a foreign language, and I sold myself and the whole thing. Then I spoke to this American volunteer who was volunteering at the school at the time and he said, "Well the school's in Bethlehem, in El Khader,1 when would you like to come? And I said, "Oh." I didn't know that was part of this deal.

  • What did you think?

    It was so unexpected that I can't even... I don't know what I did think. It's not that I didn't think there were Palestinians in the West Bank. It just wasn't part of my conscientiousness. As an aside, I once had a discussion with the principal of the school where I went to school here in Chorev1 and he said to me, "You know, we don't teach hate. We don't teach our girls to hate." And I confronted him on that, and told him, you can tell that to someone else, but not to someone that was educated in your school system. But in retrospect, they really didn't teach me to hate, it was just that they [Palestinians] were non-existent. I just didn't think about that. That wasn't part of the options that were out there. And definitely not to go into Bethlehem, that wasn't something that I did, unless I was on the way to Gush Etzion with an armored car and whatever. It just wasn't something that we did. So I told him that I'd made a mistake. I don't know if I said exactly that to him, but that's definitely what I said to myself. I said that was that and I hung up. He called back a few more times and it was very hard for me to articulate to him why not. You know, I couldn't just say to someone from outside, "We don't do that," there had to be a better reason. And I also couldn't understand why the principal from the school was saying he wouldn't come to meet me in Jerusalem. Why did I have to go out into the danger zone, why couldn't he come see me?

    • 1is a Jewish national religious high school for girls in Jerusalem.

  • And why couldn't he come to meet you in Jerusalem?

    He couldn't come because mobility is restricted. That wasn't a time when there were so many checkpoints. There were regular checkpoints, but they weren't allowed into Israel without special permission from the army. That was something that I was totally oblivious to. That it might be somewhat cultural, that they didn't say this straight out, they just said "I can't come." So after a while I decided to go out to the school, just to see, my curiosity got the best of me. In general, as an aside, I think that one of the sad things that happened in our region to children in our education system is that the natural curiosity of children is just sort of cut out. So I say to myself, that I went through a school system that was a very high level of education and that they didn't include certain things is one thing. But that it didn't occur to any of us to ask where these other people were - in whatever narrative you want to give - or what was happening over there? The fact that this question didn't even come to us is scary. That curiosity was sort of shut down. But, I have a healthy sense of curiosity so eventually that got the better of me and I went out to the school, after asking probably every politically incorrect question in the book, like, are you going to kill me? If you don't kill me, will there be someone from Hamas who might kill me? I know would never say that now. But I went to the school to see and they welcomed me with the regular, warm Arab hospitality. It was walking into a classroom like any other classroom, which was something I like to do. But it was also an interesting experience for me, as an Israeli Jew, to walk into a classroom and be recognized as an Israeli Jew. And nothing happened. I was introduced as, "This is Adina, she's an Israeli Jew from Jerusalem, and she's coming to teach us Hebrew" (That was already taken for granted even though I was just coming to see). The fact that that was able to happen and no one came to stab me in the back was... it's that very quick shift in perspective that usually happens where you find out that the enemy is a human being. I think the process that has to take place is a little more complicated than that and is long-term, but that first initial euphoric feeling that everyone goes through when you see someone from the other side and you are shocked to find out they are human and why you didn't think of that before... well, I went through that too. And then I taught in the school for several years. As I was leaving, several more people began to come in. It sort of became a place for aliyah l'regel.1 I think being young and unaffiliated and unidentified with anything allowed me to be really a part... to get a feel for what was going on the ground. I spent a lot of time with teachers with kids and their families, people invited me to their homes. I went to meetings with the Ministry of Education, I went to different schools. I just... I was crazy back then, I don't know what to say.

    • 1Ms. Shapiro is making reference to the Jewish religious edict commanding Jews to travel to Jerusalem and visit the Jewish Temple during the three festival holidays of Sukkot, and Shavuot.

  • Why do you say you were crazy?

    I think of the kinds of things I did and it doesn't fit the political climate today, and even then, it wasn't the most common thing. And I think that today I am much more cautious, for good and for bad, and much more calculated. Definitely in the Palestinian/Israeli relationships I am very careful about every word that I say, and what I ask, and how I do it, and where I go, and how much I have a presence, and how dominant I am as an Israeli that is an occupier, a dominant presence in the first place.

  • What do you try to convey and how do you try to present yourself?

    It's not how I try to present myself. I think that I am clear about who I am. It's not that I try to hide or blur the picture. But I think asking certain questions, like asking the principal then if they will come kill me, or if they have cousins in Hamas, or if Hamas is going to come kill me, I think I'm tuned in more to the sensitivities and issues of dignity, and to the significance of someone inviting me to coffee and me coming and having that coffee even if I don't want it, because that is what they would do too. So I think I became more tuned in to the... these are obviously generalizations, but the culture tendency there leans much more towards establishing a warm atmosphere and speaking. And you can sit for three hours until you get to the point of what you want to talk about, and Israeli society is more Western in the sense that it is more tachlis (down to brass tacks), we speak about what we want-- I'll call you, I'll speak to you for five minutes, I'll tell you what I want. We don't have to meet for that. And those are cultural differences that I have become more aware of and I think therefore I am more cautious in the way that I conduct myself. And it's possible that certain things were also interpreted as cultural differences, but now that I have more understanding, I am more careful than I would normally be. That is also said with the backdrop of being the perceived oppressor or the perceived dominant person, and when I come in with fifteen different ideas for what has to be done, and in my mind they are all great ideas and maybe they'll be accepted by all the Palestinians I am working with, that still is too strong. Taking into consideration that the climate we live in is that the Israelis are dominating the Palestinians. So I am more careful about that, and slower in the process, giving more time for there to be buy-in.

  • Please tell me about what you have been doing recently.

    Since Hope Flowers what I have been working on for the past eight years has been MECA, Middle East Children's Association,1 a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization and I direct it together with Ghassan Abdullah from Ramallah. That was based on the experience from my perspective (and he can tell you his background) that teachers have to become an integral part of this process. We set out to engage the teachers and to work with them as professionals in their particular subject matters, history teachers, English teachers, math teachers. We see what joint topics and educational concerns they have, particularly with regard to the reality we are living in here. At times we would emphasize more towards peace, but I think it is within the dynamic situation, or in conflict. And so we work with several hundred teachers throughout Israel and the West Bank, from diverse geographic areas and different schools, to learn together with them what their biggest challenges are and how they can educate, promoting values and an understanding of the other while still maintaining and building their own identity and responding to the needs of the children. So in a nutshell, that's what MECA does.

    • 1MECA is an organization founded by Israeli and Palestinian educators that seeks to teach tolerance, difference, and respect by working with leaders, teachers, and students in both the Israeli and Palestinian educational systems.

  • What does MECA do concretely?

    Concretely, it is working groups of teachers. We do not write curriculum, it is not in our mandate. Teachers are not professional curriculum writers so we do not even have the know-how to do that. What we did try to do was to... for the teachers themselves, produce the outcomes of the concrete material that they work on. A lot of time the discussion is on what is done in the classroom, that's almost always the discussion. Therefore they have a lot of things they have done in the classroom. Over the past few years, we have been working on how they might document what they have been doing in the classroom in a reflective way. You know, what they did in the classroom, what were the unresolved issues, asking what did I set out to do? How does that tie into the conflict and bringing in the perspective of the other side? So the kinds of materials that we generate are more for reflection and for teachers to talk about these experiences. And it happens quite often that teachers take ideas from other teachers based on this, but it's not a curricular piece that is put on the shelf; it is more a method for sharing between teachers.

  • Are there in-person meetings?

    That is an integral part of the project. Before the intifada it was the only part of the project. Every two weeks teachers would meet together in these working groups. Before the intifada, we felt on the ground that things were unsettled. We felt the need to include uni-national meetings as well [as bi-national meetings] because there were issues that needed to be discussed, and the bi-national group was not comfortable forum for that. Then when the violence began and it became more difficult to meet, the uni-national meetings became a very structured element because that was maybe the most definite part that we could continue with. We also have the bi-national meetings, less than some people would like, but it is a critical component of the process. Meeting with the other side and discussing matters is essential to being able to cope and even actually model to students what they went through, even if they don't directly tell the students what they went through. [Teachers need to be] able to deal with the ambiguity, with the conflict, with hearing things that they don't agree with and that are difficult for them to hear and still be able to say that there is hope, [teach how to] be self-critical even when you don't accept all the criticism you receive. It is an important tool for the children to receive, but the teachers can only be critical teachers if they experience it for themselves, and it's hard.

  • What's the hardest thing you have had to face?

    There is a lot of difficulty. But probably one of the most difficult aspects is coping with the ambiguity. You are challenging everything that you believe in, but you also don't know exactly who you trust on the other side. It's not like you say "Oh I was wrong they were right", that is usually not the outcome. It's not the outcome I intend and I doubt very much that it's the outcome the Palestinians intend. So it's bringing yourself from a place where things may have been more clear, I'm not saying it was black and white, to a place where suddenly ideas are challenged and the truth becomes much more blurred. The values almost become much more blurred. Values of dignity, or life, or nation... all of these things that we view in very different ways. The way that we define some of these things is threatening to the other side. It is mutually threatening. I think that ambiguity is very difficult to deal with. Many times you hear questions like, "Will we meet?" Do they want to meet with us? Do they not want to meet with us? When can we meet? Is everyone saying what they really believe in? Are you not saying what you really believe in? Is it possible to ever reach something that we can trust and build on or not? I can't see myself out of the muddle that we are in. These things are relevant for the macro-process but it's also relevant in our micro-process. And I think that that's very, very hard for people to deal with. Maybe especially for teachers that are directing, the task of a teacher, they see themselves as someone who provides answers, not necessarily as someone who provides the atmosphere in which questions can be asked. And I think that that's just very hard. For me that's one of the hardest things. Sometimes I ask myself if I have become too much of a cynic almost; everything goes, I have to juggle everything, there is a little bit of truth in every perspective. So where do you end up? I think people search for an anchor that can say OK, this is what I am, these are my values, this is my heritage, this is where I come from, and we all have that and I hope that we do, and it is important to establish an identity, but the dealings with the other side, especially in times of conflict, I think rock that boat.

  • Are you speaking from personal experience in all this?

    Yes, for me also, but I see it in everyone that has been involved in the process. I think it is difficult for the children, even without meeting the other side,. But definitely I think that for me it has been challenging to be able to reconcile all the different things that have to take place at the same time - and to be able to be angry and not approve of certain things and at the same time, reach my hand out to continue a process. That's not easy.

  • Are there particular times when you felt like you did not want to continue to do it?

    There were times where it was very, very difficult. I don't know if there were times when I just didn't want to do it, but I think the outcome of the fact that I have continued until now is that I didn't give up.

  • Would it depend on what was going on a national level?

    There was a correlation, I don't know if it depended on it, but I think that if you looked back on the times that were difficult internally and the times that were difficult externally, that it was probably similar. There are a lot of connections between those two. At the same time, we were still a growing organization and I was a young director of a new organization that grew to be one of the largest organizations in this particular field. So that was also a personal process that I was going through at the same time. And I'm sure that had an impact as well. So there were a lot of things. There was never a time where I said "Oh because the political situation is bad this is why I am upset," but there were times when I thought "this is the same as what is happening outside."

  • Does this involvement come as a surprise for you? Looking back on your life are you surprised to find yourself at this point?

    Yes! Inside our organization we have a group of people who are called learning companions. They are like consultants, who advise us every few months, it is not a regular part of day-to-day. Ghassan and I meet with them, three Israelis and three Palestinians, who are senior psychologists and psychiatrists mainly in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. One of them said in a meeting, "It seems like your problem is that everyday you wake up and seem surprised that your organization exists." And when I thought about that, it occurred to me that what we do best is deal with the uncertainty. So we deal well with surprises, we deal well with crises, because that's what we are trained in, that's what we've been doing. And it could be that we steer away from calm, and things that are more organized because we are so good at dealing with the crises. So, that was an insight that I had. Right now we are going through a process of strategic planning and taking the time out to think about what we do, what we want to achieve. And I'll be able to look back in a few years and see what that did.

  • What do you think your goals are right now?

    I think we would like to empower the children through the education system, through the teachers, to be able to cope with the difficulties of the past and present and be able to assume responsibility to be more active and responsible citizens in our societies. Where we would emphasize both empowering the teachers and the role of the teachers as an integral part that has an impact in a peace process on the one hand, and on the other hand, trying to generate activities in the classroom that are linked to the subject matter, to the regular curriculum, not something that is imposed from the outside. But classroom activities that bring in the idea of seeing multiple perspectives and coping with them.

  • Where do the teachers come from and how do they get involved?

    They come from all over Israel and the West Bank. The first years we went and recruited people and invested a lot in the recruiting. As time went on, teachers brought more teachers. And we still do recruiting, but I think that we have a solid core. One of the questions we are asking now is if we need to make a more active effort to widen the circle. I think we have a relatively diverse group of people. But to go to those who don't hear about it from other teachers, who are more spread out. Because now we are resting on our laurels a little bit, in terms of teachers... then a lot of them hear about it from other teachers or are referred to it by other teachers that they know. Especially given the intifada, I find that more and more teachers come because they are perplexed. It is not because they necessarily are peace activists but because they have questions about how to teach values and be positive and hopeful when things are so difficult. That is a difficulty many teachers share and it crosses political affiliations. That is a common difficulty that our teachers share on both sides.

  • Can you tell me a little bit more about the need for this work on both sides?

    Well I can speak more with the Israeli side because I am more familiar with the Israeli side, although I think the Palestinians have more difficult problems with regard to the current reality. We're living in a period when the reality for a child growing up here is extremely strong, it is very present. You can't live in a secluded reality of a school that creates a different reality and ignore what is outside. So you have a very dominant presence of a challenging reality, it's not a good one, there is a lot of pain and loss and suffering and fear, and humiliation on the Palestinian side in addition. But it is present in their lives, and then you have teachers who belong to an institution, a school, which by definition is more old-fashioned, it hasn't caught up to modern technology, modern times. The social status of the teacher is sinking, the schools are run by the state so there is supervision and anything that smells somewhat subversive or questioning is a problem. During times when we are threatened we have to be more loyal to our own side. I think teachers find themselves in a position that the children are more exposed and need more, but have less tools, less freedom, and less skills. Even the legitimacy they have is decreasing - from the teachers, by the parents, by the society as a whole. So I think that is a challenge that teachers have. And it's on several levels... society doesn't recognize the impact teachers have. I don't know how many people really believe in education. You hear it all the time, "Schools don't teach anything. The kids are going to learn from the street, they're going to learn from television. You don't really learn anything from these schools, maybe a few pieces of information, maybe. But they are really just to babysit the children there." That's a message that a lot of children get, what impact can that have on the children? I think it's a message that has been internalized by a lot of teachers, unfortunately. So you have this process that feeds off of itself. The teachers don't believe in their capacity for impact, the students don't, the society doesn't, it's disempowering on every level. I think there are very good teachers and we work with very good groups of teachers. And I think by definition those teachers we work with are special, so it's not everyone. And the teachers that will come to us may be teachers that are searching for ways to deal with that problem.

  • To what extent is the question of loyalty that you talked about in contradiction to what your goals are for the teachers?

    We tried to define our goals, and I believe we are not bluffing, I believe it, that what we're doing is for the good of the children. I'm working for the Israeli children not the Palestinian children and the Palestinians are working for the Palestinian children, although we also have a goal that the children on each side will be in a better situation because in the long-term that will have an impact. Providing the children with the skills to cope with the difficult reality and assume responsibility, rather than blame and hopelessness and despair, is something that is in our interest, and being able to see a more complex reality is in the interest of each side. So the way that we see it, and we emphasize it a lot, is that this is a self-serving project. That said, the context of going to speak to the other side has subversive elements to it and I don't think that we can ignore that. I think that it has a lot of impact on what takes place, especially in a meeting of both sides when everyone feels the need to be loyal to their own group. Because, when we are in despair, why should I show my weakness to the other side? I think that part of the mission that we have to be able to work on is how to not see questioning and feedback as a breach in loyalty. That's a challenge, but I think that it's something we have to work on. It's a big challenge: even the fact that I am showing up, why is that not sending the message that I accept all of the terrible things you have done to me... just by showing up. If someone says something happened to them, why do I not have to jump in and defend what might have been the reasons and justifications for why the soldier did that or why the suicide bomber did that. Don't take that as a quote to link those two together, but why the perpetrator on the other side did this to me, and even if I might be self-critical, where do I stop to ask questions and defend because I have to come into the meeting as an ambassador of my country. So that's a question, and I think we deal with it by not de-legitimizing the issue of loyalty. It has to be there... we're open about it.... I want the Palestinians to be loyal to their cause because that's the only thing that allows me to be loyal to my cause. But it's difficult.

  • What about the existing curricula?

    We don't write the curriculum, that's not what we do. We work within the framework that exists, noting that the curricula have a lot of difficulties with them. And, the challenges for the Israeli curriculum are different from the challenges to the Palestinian curriculum, without necessarily judging what's better or worse. They are in different stages of development. The Israeli curriculum has been around for fifty years, the Palestinian curriculum is just being developed. You can't even put them on an equal basis for comparing, and definitely not work on them together as a joint curricular activity and say "let's all sit down and write curriculum together," I think that might also be seen as one side trying to impose curriculum on the others. So I think that our goal would be to work within the existing curriculum hoping that as the changes in the curricula take place, that the kinds of things that we're doing will impact those changes. And the teachers we're working with will be able to teach a changed curriculum because the problem many times is not the curriculum. The curriculum for the most part is reflective of what most people are saying, it's not creating something new. So even if the curricula are changed to be something very loving and accepting, you need someone who can teach that.

  • Do you have any specifics? Any examples of changes that you'd like to see?

    You have to be very specific for that, to take a specific curricular piece. I think that having the curricula be able to recognize several points of view, not just the Israeli and Palestinian, but to allow discourse around something, rather than one clear-cut thing, is one thing that is important for us. Also a curriculum that engages the students in being more inquisitive, asking more questions, challenging themselves is also something that is important. Another thing that I think is important for the curricula to include is issues of identity. Because as much as we speak of ourselves and how loyal we want to be to ourselves, I think that covers up for the lack of an ability to form... definitely in Israel today, what the identity of our state is. On the Palestinian side, as they are establishing their state it is very convenient for us to have an enemy because that creates a collective identity against that enemy. But the other goal in pulling out the enemy is for us to be able to see what are the positive aspects, how do I deal with the complex society that I am living within, and how do I develop my identity in a world of pluralism and a global world where everything is open, and in an area where tradition is very important also. That plays a significant role, for everyone in a different way. Also another thing that we work on less, but we do work on with teachers is the issue of languages... languages of the other side. But then, you have to go through the curriculum and see... and it has to be a good curriculum also, you know, if you want to teach math, you have to teach math well, first of all. But then to try and see how you can make it relevant for the students and that can always entail infusing certain values.

  • How come you have math teachers in MECA? What can they bring into the classrooms?

    The assumption is that every teacher is an educator and every teacher has the opportunity to teach values. They've also touched directly on certain issues through mathematical problems - there are many sensitive things that you can bring into the classroom. A math teacher needs to make math relevant, otherwise it's too boring for the kids. So basically, every teacher should be able to find a niche of how they can incorporate things. Also, in our day in age, when you don't know what could have happened outside the classroom, sometimes the math teacher is the teacher who's in the classroom after a child had a traumatizing experience at a checkpoint or after a bus exploded or after someone's house was demolished.

  • You mentioned at the beginning that you went back to speak with the principal of your school and that in retrospectively analyzing your own education it was a matter of omission rather than teaching to hate.

    Even that was a simplistic view of what happens. Having grown up in the religious education system, I have a very particular angle that's not even probably reflective of Israeli society as a whole. I think that where the educational systems deal with the political reality there is a very sensitive balance. Some of the educational institutions that I grew up in would provide busses to go to demonstrations and would send us to Gush Katif to volunteer to plant tomatoes or whatever. So, it's hard to say there was not a political bent to that. Ignoring other things with that background - it's not just omission. It's a little bit more, because the omission is very stark relative to what's there and who's there. I think it does contribute to hate and suspicion in the long run.

  • How does your community feel about your work?

    In the beginning there were a lot of questions, I can't say that there weren't - a lot of questions, a lot of difficulties. By now I've been involved in this for a long time and I have a supportive family and a supportive group of friends. As I look back and say what will be the price of me leaving my active role in MECA, I think that in a way the organization has a life of its own. It might be able to live without me and it probably will in its own way, but for me, the role I was able to play in my community as someone who was active every day with meeting Palestinians, and I still had a place and a voice and a legitimate seat at the table, that will be a bigger loss in the impact. Although, I think I'll probably embrace being normal for a while. But I think that my community was able to accept hearing this other perspective from within, it's probably the result of me not coming in a confrontational way. I have my criticism of my own community just like I have criticism of many things, but I wasn't coming from the outside, I wasn't coming to say this is all terrible. I received a lot, I have a lot of appreciation and respect for where I come from, I think that that is felt. There are some differences of opinion, and there are some people who say that they're happy that I did it because it gives legitimacy for them to have a different opinion within the community.

  • What do you mean?

    People have come to me after there were articles in the newspaper, there was something on television, there has been a degree of media exposure about my story. I would get calls, especially from young people who are just looking for something to hold on to within the religious community. They have felt that it was too stifling, that there weren't other options, and this provided them with an example where they could say, "We also have something like this." For them saying that was one of the more important things I did, even though I don't know who the people are most of the times and I can't measure that.

  • How do you describe your community?

    That's a good question. I assumed when you asked me that you were talking about the national religious community here. But I probably have several communities already as a result of doing this work. [The national religious community] is the community I call home even though there is the community of the peace camp that I have become a part of one way or another unintentionally maybe, but that's the outcome. And I have my criticisms there too.

  • Could you share some of those?

    It's actually the same criticism that I had of the religious community: sometimes it's too closed to be able to open up to questions and different perspectives and to people with different needs. Sometimes sitting within a group of the peace organizations and hearing the way that they speak about the settlers. Now, politically, I happen to disagree with the settlers, but I have an affinity with them. These are people I went to school with, people that taught me, I have family there... it's not something that's detached. I have respect for certain things that they do and disagree with other things. But sometimes the way I hear the way that they are referred to or demonized, is the same kind of demonization of other things I could be upset with. So no one is free from criticism, definitely not me. I think that home is where I want to spend Shabbat.

  • Can you talk about mistakes you may have made?

    Wow, I've made a lot of mistakes. It's sort of hard to measure, and I always have the excuse of saying the situation is so terrible so you don't know what would be if it wasn't like this, so mistakes are easy to cover up. But I question some of the things that I did or did not insist on. A lot of the examples would be professional. I don't have any regrets about not asking the Palestinians to accept my point of view, my Israeli point of view. We're going to disagree, I take that for granted. I don't even expect necessarily for there to be a mutual recognition of my historical right to be here, I'm going to settle for my right to be here now. I think that in terms of the professional standards, those are also standards that enable us to build trust and enable us to say, what will allow me as an Israeli to be able to continue in a program with the Palestinians. Another question, again, it's hard for me to call it a mistake... The nature of a joint organization has a lot of benefits, mutual buy-in, and a partnership and ownership from both sides, but it also has disadvantages, especially since our needs are so different and there really isn't symmetry outside of the organization. In an organization you can't model something that objectively does not exist. The attempt to try to do that against the reality, and against the reality that we want to create - because we want to create a reality of two states, not one joint one, at least I do - that's also a question in my mind. It's hard for me to call it a mistake, because I don't know if I would repair it. But it's a question. I've made many mistakes that I was able to learn from. You do something wrong one time, you bring a group of students together and the teachers don't know each other, and that's a mistake. So you bring the teachers together but the teachers don't have anyone to facilitate their meeting, and that's a mistake. You bring the facilitators together and they don't have proper guidance, that's a mistake. But that's the nature of the process. There's no recipe for this work. I think that a mistake in our field, and this is something that I would correct, is that there is not enough support between the different organizations. That is something that I think I rectified a little bit by reaching out to other organizations and having normal conversations, but I think there could have been more support. It's interesting that the peace world is so fragmented. I'm speaking more about the Israeli side, but on the Palestinian side it's not much better. It could be more helpful if people were willing to be more open with each other about what some of the difficulties are, which maybe is difficult for the peace camp in a time like this, when the peace camp itself is threatened.

  • I'd like to talk a bit about leadership, and how you see civic, or civilians use leadership in a time like this.

    Well my mantra is to invest in the educational leadership. Teachers have to be viewed as leaders. I think that they have the capacity to impact. I believe in grassroots work, I believe in people-to-people work. I think it has to happen from bottom to top like it has to happen from top to bottom, it has to happen simultaneously. But the teachers are the few that have access to and responsibility for so many people at a formative stage. I think that their leadership role is not recognized by themselves and by society. There is a lot of potential and a lot of impact that they have that is not being used properly. So I would like for teachers to be able to see themselves more as leaders.

  • What do you think it will take for that to happen?

    Well, it will take a change in the teachers' self-perceptions and in their skills, because I think that goes hand-in-hand. If we say that skills of leadership would include being able to see a broader reality than what is right in front of your eyes, that's one thing that a leader needs and that would be something that teachers need. Also, the ability to cope with changing times, the different perspectives, and the messages that have to come across, not the political messages. I don't mean that a teacher has to say we have to give up 63% of the land here in return for that, that's not what I'm talking about. Besides having the knowledge, you have to have the skills to do something with that knowledge and the communication skills to get that message across. I think that that is a very important task of a leader, and definitely of a teacher, and people who are working with young people today. We can see into the future, you can have a vision. There can be a time when things are different for us as people, for our region, for you as children, for us as Israelis, or as Palestinians. I think that you have to have the skills to try and get that message across and to maintain it when you are being threatened. So that's one thing that has to happen. But it also has to happen on a societal level. The decision-makers, the politicians have to recognize the role of the teachers. If everyone keeps coming up with their different political plans of what should be included in the peace process, and no one includes educators at that table, as to what do the educational institutes need to do, how do you need to train teachers, how do you need to train principals, how do you need to change the curriculum, not even define what that curriculum is, do you evaluate it, how often do you evaluate it, what do you need to include, those are things that have to be an integral part of the process. The politicians that sit down to draft those agreements have to start to put that in. I haven't seen that yet, in any agreement or any proposed agreement. I think it has to happen from both sides. Obviously maybe I can have more of an impact on teachers, but we've also drafted language for an annex at least to relate to some of the issues that have to be addressed on an educational basis. We're working on that also, but I think that is less our expertise.

  • What's your vision?

    I would like to see a reality where every school is a place that can encourage and raise responsible citizens that see themselves as people that can contribute to building society. [I would like] to see that play a significant role in a peaceful negotiation, eventually filtering down between the two peoples and allowing us not to live nonviolently side by side. For the next generation to be able to take on the challenges that are ahead of them in these changing times is something I think the educational institutions can provide some kind of guidance for. That is something I would like to see, and of course that is something I would like to see recognized on a governmental level also. End