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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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Ibrahim Issa

In 2001, Ibrahim Issa returned from living in the Netherlands to become Acting Director of the Hope Flowers School after his father, the school's founder, passed away. Hope Flowers School in El Khader near Bethlehem, teaches democracy, peace and coexistence. It was the first school in the West Bank to teach Hebrew. Prior to the second Intifada, Hope Flowers participated in many exchanges with Israeli students and teachers, but these have been put on hold due to travel restrictions. Hope Flowers School is currently engaged in a legal battle with the Israeli Army over a demolition order regarding its school cafeteria. Ibrahim lives in Bethlehem with his wife and children.

  • Please tell me a little about yourself and how you became involved in peace work?

    I was born in Dheisheh Refugee Camp and spent 8 years in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp with my family until I went to Bethlehem. My family bought a house there and we lived in Bethlehem. Then I lived in the Netherlands; I studied mechanical engineering there. I have my Masters of Science degree in mechanical engineering. In the year 2000, my father, the founder of Hope Flowers School, died. There was a vacuum, especially in the school, after the beginning of the intifada. So it was a matter of priorities whether to continue living my comfortable life in the Netherlands or to follow my commitment to peace education here. So in the year 2000, I decided to return from the Netherlands to engage in the work that I'm doing now. Maybe my commitment to peace education and to following in my father's footsteps, which I find very important, is the reason I'm doing this work.

  • Where was your family from, before Dheisheh?

    Well, my father was born in Ramle, in the north part of Palestine, which later on became Israel. His family's properties were all confiscated in the war in 1948 and they were forced to live as refugees in Deheishe Refugee Camp. My grandfather died in 1949 because he was heartbroken. He lost everything and had nothing left. He couldn't imagine life as a refugee. So he died in 1949, and my father faced huge emotional and psychological problems at that time. He tried living in the refugee camp with his mother and three sisters. His mother was an illiterate woman and as a child he worked to support his family. He started his education when he was nine-years-old. This background was the driving force for Hussein [Ibrahim Issa's father] to found the Hope Flowers School.1 Everyone's mood at that time was to resist the occupation. Hussein believed in freedom but he saw that violence brings only violence. What we need is to create a new generation of Palestinians and Israelis who believe in peace, coexistence and respecting each other's rights. This was the way he saw to bring about change and to gain freedom as Palestinians. The non-violent model was his main vision. Before founding the Hope Flowers School in 1984, Hussein was a non-violent activist since the 70's. His vision led him to establish the Hope Flowers School, which began as a simple kindergarten.

    • 1. For more on Ihabrim Issa's father Hussein Ibrahim Issa, see http://www.hope-flowers.org/founder.html.

  • What did your father do as a non-violent activist?

    He was very much involved in raising awareness about non-violence, and what non-violence means. This was one thing. And the other thing I forgot to mention is that Hussein later studied to be a psychologist. He worked with refugees at the United Nations Relief Work Agency for the Palestinians, and during his work with the UNRWA he recognized the suffering of Palestinian children and their need for a safe environment, and also the need to protect these children from being involved in violence which would lead to more suffering. So being a non-violent activist for him was also about dealing with these children, teaching people to educate their children to live their lives in peaceful ways. This is what I mean by "non-violence activist". So sometime during Hussein's work with UNRWA he recognized his own suffering as a child and as a refugee and then he formulated his vision of nurturing this generation of Palestinians and Israelis. The idea of the school is a pretty simple one. Hussein thought if he could bring Palestinian and Israeli children together, give them a chance and educate them to move beyond fear and stereotypes, then we'd create a generation of children who could grow up together in friendship.

  • How did your father go about trying to fulfill the goal of educating Israeli and Palestinian children to co-exist?

    Well, first he started with the al-Amal elementary care system, which was the kindergarten. Al-Amal means hope, because the school vision was hope. No one in 1984 ever thought about peace and coexistence. Everyone's mood was against the occupation, and Hussein was also against the occupation. But he sought to transform from occupation to freedom in non-violent ways. So he started to organize workshops just to bring these children together, from Israeli and Palestinian kindergartens.

  • Did the parents come with the kids during visits by Israeli students?

    Yes. There were events: sometimes for a day, or a project that spanned the entire year. Later on there were student and teacher exchanges. All of them were joint activities.

  • He brought Israeli children from kindergartens to the school in El Khader?

    Yes. 1984 was the beginning of this.

  • How did he get Israeli parents to agree to bring their children here?

    There was a lot of criticism of that, a lot of critics among the parents and critics from the community and the society here. It wasn't an easy task. But there was always a minority that was willing to do it, and Hussein encouraged this minority.

  • Did he choose a particular Israeli city to do school exchanges with?

    No. We see all Israelis, except settlers, as possible partners, if they have the will to work with Palestinians. And we work with Israelis who are willing to see change here and support the peace process.

  • How old were you when the school first started?

    When the school started as a kindergarten I was finishing my primary education. I was 12 years old.

  • Were you around? Were you involved in the school when you were younger?

    I was around but I wasn't involved as a student but as an observer.

  • What did you think of what they were doing when they first opened the school, when you were 12?

    It was very exciting as a child. But you know, it was horrible sometimes because there were some attacks by radicals on my family and on my father. As a child I couldn't really comprehend what was going on. For example there were several times when Palestinian radical groups threw Molotov cocktails at our home, burned the school bus, burned my father's private car, and tried to attack my father. So as a child, that peace vision was also combined with horrible experiences, and it's not only from the Palestinians. Later it was from Palestinians and Israelis. In both societies there are radical groups and people who don't like to see any kind of settlements-- peace settlements.

  • When you were younger and were seeing all these things, like radicals throwing Molotov cocktails at your house, did you ever wonder why your dad has to do these things?

    Well, the most painful thing for me as a child at that time was that I couldn't recognize the difference between a peace activist and a collaborator; it took me years until I did. And this is something that Palestinian radical groups also couldn't recognize, the difference between collaborators and peace activists. I was a child at that time but when I grew up I started to recognize the difference. Let me say, some of the things we're doing now are much easier than when my father started.

  • What had changed when you came back to Bethlehem during the intifada?

    A lot of things. First, you have fear, you have daily fear. I mean there are shootings, there is violence here. This is one thing. The other thing is you come up with a plan for your future... there [in the Netherlands] I could easily plan, "I want to do this, I want to achieve this, tomorrow I am going to do this." I had an agenda there, for example, but I don't keep one here, because an agenda here is a luxury we don't have. Everything is a mess here. So to find some order in this country is very difficult. And it is also difficult to live without any hope. You don't know where you're going, you are just moving with the stream: moving in the stream of violence, you are just moving with the bad economic situation, you move in the stream of culture, sometimes the tight culture, I mean the very conservative culture. We have a lot of ideals. For me personally I wish to see a school for Palestinians and Israelis, but this, for example, is not realistic at this time. You know, there are limitations. Many things changed.

  • You say "some things are easier at this time." Why is it easier now?

    Because of the awareness now. People can differentiate between collaborator and peace activist. There are many NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in Bethlehem who practice non-violence in the world. And people can easily recognize now what non-violence is, while in 1984 no one recognized what non-violence was. Even if people saw it as threatening; for example in 1984-1985 when the Israelis deported Dr. Mubarak Awad, who was the leader of non-violence here—that showed that Israelis could recognize the effect of non-violence as well.

  • And when you decided to come back how did that feel?

    Well... For me, the personal connection, my private life and everything around me was Dutch, my friends here call me "Dutch," the Dutch accent, the "Dutch" frame of mind, you get very much connected to the country, to the people. You know, my whole life was there and it isn't easy to return from something you had in your hands, and then come here. I mean, it was the intifada. Why go into the mess?!

  • Can you tell me more about Mubarak Awad [Palestinian non-violent leader in the 80s] and what he did?

    Actually I don't know a lot about him. But he created the Palestinian non-violence center, and I think that was the first non-violence center here in Jerusalem. And one or two years after, the Israelis deported him to the USA. He was also a Palestinian-American. He was a close friend of Hussein[my father]. I also think this is one of the reasons why Hussein got so involved with non-violence. He also worked with these people. But the man was deported. I don't know many other details about him. But non-violence is also a very effective way of resisting the occupation here.

  • How long did you live in the Netherlands?

    Nine years.

  • When did the exchanges with the Israeli students stop happening?

    After the intifada, the second intifada. Essentially September 2000 was the end of joint activities, and we started to organize joint activities in a third country. Because doing that here is impossible and threatening—it's dangerous, but also because of logistical problems, the regular closures here, and the transportation [issues]. The Israeli army at the checkpoints prevents any Israelis from coming to Palestinian areas and prevents Palestinians from going to Israeli areas. I have written to Israeli officials, many times, urging them to give permission for such initiatives. And they refused. Why? Because of "security reasons." I think that in times of conflict like this, we need to intensify our contact and come together instead of splitting from each other.

  • What are some of the largest obstacles you face from within the community itself right now?

    Well, there are several obstacles. I'll speak first about the road closures. We have lost 300 students because they come from villages in the neighborhood here, and after the intifada all roads and all Palestinian cities and villages became isolated from one other. They have become like islands, there is no connection. So we have lost 300 students. And the economic situation: sometimes the school is unable to pay the salaries because people can't pay the tuition fees. Since 2000 we have had to depend on donations. Another one of the main obstacles here is security. We are now located in "Area C" [under complete Israeli military control] and our school received a demolition warning from the Israeli army two months ago for the school cafeteria. So there are several obstacles.

  • Can you tell me more about that demolition order on the Hope Flowers School cafeteria? Why did they give that order and what are you doing to fight it?

    Well, this is not the first demolition warning. In 1999 we received the same warning and after a long process in the Israeli military court in Beit El, the demolition was cancelled, and we applied for a building permit. So far as I know, it was approved. The problem was then the financial problem; we couldn't afford the Israeli fees for the building permit. It was so hard and we were waiting for the area to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, to be transformed from "Area C" [under Israeli control] to "Area A" [under the control of the Palestinian Authority] and the building permit fee there is much lower. That was a very optimistic idea in 1999 because in 2000 the intifada started and Area C became Area C plus.1 It's very complicated. And in November 2003, we received another warning saying the building was built without a permit. But when we looked through the plans we saw that the Israelis are planning to build the separation fence - or the separation wall - here nearby. So the maps are not clear. Whether they are going to build it on this side to isolate the school from the Palestinian students, or to build it down the hill and demolish the cafeteria building, is not clear for us. So we think that the demolition now has to do somehow with the separation fence that the Israelis plan to build here. Especially because Efrat is expanding; we face the settlement of Efrat, which is some 300 meters from here. We have started a legal process and we are asking all our friends to protest to the Israeli government against this decision.

    • 1. Area C of the West Bank is under Israeli Military Control. Issa's comment about Area C plus was made in jest.

  • Who do you think would have the biggest influence on the Israeli government to reverse the demolition order on the cafeteria?

    Well, I think US officials. And we wrote many letters to Israeli peace activists and you know, we shouldn't neglect the role of ourselves as peace activists, not only in Palestine but also all over. Everyone is participating and everyone is very important. I say to everyone, let your voice be heard here.

  • Can you say more about what you teach in this school?

    We have peace and democracy education here. And peace and democracy education is not given in theoretical terms, it's integrated within the school's curriculum and extracurricular activities. For example, we are teaching Hebrew to minimize fear and prevent stereotyping. We see Hebrew as a way to create contact between Palestinians and Israelis, to encourage the contact. By the way, we're the first Palestinian school that started to teach Hebrew in 1990. And in 1990 a local Palestinian group burned the school bus because they found us teaching the language of the occupier. That was the motivation for burning the bus. In other words, we're marketing the language of our occupiers.The other program is that we teach inter-faith. Normally in public schools in the area they split the Muslim and Christian students up from each other, each follows his own religion. Here we keep the students in the same class and we teach the effects of the religion, we teach them how to use religion to bring people together instead of splitting people apart from each other. We have a program of promoting inter-cultural understanding, we have volunteers and we have a volunteer tradition. We have an Israeli volunteers program, and you have to imagine that in the volunteers' program we have Israeli volunteers teaching Hebrew and Israeli Jewish Rabbis teaching interfaith, and Christian ministers and Muslims also. Now we do not have Israelis anymore, but we make use of our international friends, like Jewish Americans and European Jews.

  • How would you respond to the assertion that "teaching Hebrew is marketing the language of your occupiers"?

    It's not that we answered, rather the community answered. Now most of the schools in the Bethlehem area teach the Hebrew language. Most of the bible schools teach the Hebrew language. And you know, we also have a very popular thing here [in our area], which is translation from the Israeli newspapers, which is actually a method of communication, and people really appreciate it. We also teach French and English in the school but people's response to Hebrew is that it is like a necessity here.

  • The Jewish Americans and Europeans teach Judaism?

    Yes, and the tradition. Inter-faith is very important. There are also extracurricular activities. For example, we teach farming and we are building a mini-farm here for education and income. In 1999 we had a project called The Traditional Farming Project with an Israeli school where we asked the children to create a mini farm, to build a farm together and plant vegetables and wheat and share the yield. That was a very interesting project. That lasted for 2 years and was a huge success here. There are also other levels. We teach 3 levels of peace education here: first, for the teachers, then for the parents, then the students. And so far I have only spoken about the students.

  • Tell me more about what you do with the parents and teachers.

    That's a lot of information! Look, most important is to prepare the environment here. Peace education is about creating a safe space for the children, and it's not only for the students but everyone involved: parents, teachers, students, family, all people who are involved. So we start with the teachers here. All our teachers are loyal to the school philosophy because you can't face peace in conflict. They are, in other words, peace activists. They really support the school's philosophy. We provide training for our teachers also, on the empowerment theme, compassionate listening and special training on how to deal with the students during times of fear and distress. We involve our teachers in joint projects with international schools. We have many partnerships in Europe, in the US, and in Israel itself. For example, in August 2004, this August, we are planning to start a program with the Israeli Institute for Democratic Education1 to create a network of democratic educators for peace. This is the title of the project where we bring 15 Palestinian and Israeli educators to England for 2 weeks for training on how to establish schools for democracy and how to run democratic schools, but also to encourage peace and understanding peace in the students in their classes. So this is one form on the teachers' level. The second level is the parents, because we try to prepare the whole environment in the home as well as in the school, and here I have to mention we don't prepare the whole environment because the society outside is different. But we're trying to make that connection between school and family. So we provide the parents with training, and we have, for two years now, psychological support for the children and for the families. We believe here that every act of violence is the result of an unhealed wound. And in order to prevent violence we have to get deeper to the wounds. And this is also a psychological process.

    • 1. http://www.democratic-edu.org/International/AboutUs/Activities.aspx.

  • About the teachers, what happens if there are things they don't like, things they don't want to participate in?

    Well, we don't hire a teacher just for education here. There are other schools for that. It's really clear from the beginning what we're hiring them for. But what if they're already employed and then you come up with this subject and they say, I don't want to participate. Well, we have to know the reason. I mean, maybe it's for practical reasons, but if it's from ideological reasons they don't want to participate because it's not the work they are willing to do and they are opposing the philosophy then I think that Hope Flowers isn't the place for them. This is also very clear in our contract.

  • What if there is something the parents don't like that the school is doing?

    Well, we speak to the parents, and we encourage them. If a parent says, no I don't want to, then we talk to him. And here in many cases we don't have a problem with the parents.

  • Do you ever have any doubts about confusing the kids with the reality you have inside the school--- what you teach them ---and the reality they see outside?

    We should be very idealistic here; the children are a special part of the outside environment. What we're doing here is giving them space to feel psychologically and physically safe. And this is the basis of peace education. So you know, a problem they face is the impact of the environment on the children. For example, the reason for founding the psychological support program is that a lot of the students started to come with fear, hyper-activity, aggressiveness, lack of sleep, nightmares, all these symptoms. And there's psychological stress and you have to deal with that.

  • Are people in the community still accusing you of "normalization"? You said it's easier now.

    Normalization is a different story; it's not peace education. And I think many people don't really know what peace education is, and what normalization is. You know, before getting to normalization you have to have peace. And we don't have peace, so how can we normalize?

  • What do you think people are afraid of, when they think about what you're doing and react badly to it or they have doubts about it?

    We shouldn't think about  "Hope Flowers" as something mysterious; most of our peace education programs are devoted to the human himself. Because the essence of peace education is that peace starts inside yourself. So if you link the "Hope Flowers" school to Palestinian and Israeli peace making, that's only one part of it. I see it as a result. Peace starts with yourself, and this is how we are participating in creating happy human beings. For example, we have a summer school and we're going to create "Peace Trees Bethlehem," and this is devoted to peace education within the Palestinian society. And this is also very important. What about the Muslim-Christian relationships in this country as well? Peace education is also needed in this country for the Palestinians themselves, not only for the Palestinians and Israelis. So peace starts with yourself, and this is the main idea. In the summer school we're creating awareness about the problems in the society and we're looking for solutions, introducing new solutions and alternatives. One of the problems we are addressing is that people don't have enough awareness of the importance of a clean environment, for example. Our students and international students are going to plant trees, clean the streets, plant trees and flowers in the streets. This is combined with an awareness campaign in the village. If we make this 1.5 km we're speaking about a unique example for a clean and peaceable city, and this is something that doesn't have anything to do with normalization, doesn't have anything to do with peace--it's just being devoted to our community.

  • Do you see successes in your students? Can you describe what you see?

    Sure. What was very beautiful to see last year was a group of students who learned about and were speaking about compassionate listening and they were starting to ask whether there was other advanced training. That group studied here, they had their university degrees, but came back asking for programs and training, so we started empowerment training, and now there's a follow-up for that training. This is all very beautiful to see. But also the role of the students, the leadership they are taking is also very remarkable. Leadership is a very important factor here in the school.

  • What do you mean by leadership? How do you create a leader?

    Well, in my opinion, it starts with the child's empowerment here in school. Also getting to your inner self, knowing exactly what you need and what bothers you, and what you want and what you don't want. But also to feel your inner fever that you are free to choose and free to take responsibility, and taking responsibility is the most important thing in empowerment. You have to find what you want and what keeps you from achieving your goal and what kind of beliefs you have for that. And then to go ahead, you decide you want this change and you go ahead with it.

  • So you have former students who have graduated from university. What do you see some of them doing right now?

    Last year a group of all the graduates went to Germany. I think they were mixed - management and business administration, lawyers, and not all of them have university degrees. One of them I think has a business; he is a carpenter, I think. But this is important. What is important is the leadership. As I say not all of the people are doctors and engineers and lawyers, but it's also important to be a self-leader, that your power comes from yourself not from your position. If the power comes from your position, as soon as that position changes you have a problem. But when it comes from yourself there is something behind it.

  • What would be the ideal thing that you would hope that a graduate would go and accomplish?

    For me it's leadership again. Believe me, this is like a belief for me, our problems, not only Israel-Palestine but worldwide, we have leadership problems. And if we can create leadership we will solve many, many conflicts.

  • If you could generalize, is there something that keeps people from achieving what they want to achieve?

    The general situation here, I think is bad. I think a lot of people are living their lives without hope, in despair. I recognize that in the young people here this is very dangerous because a person living life without hope and, despair can easily make a wrong decision. So I think the general situation is the main limitation for exploration by these young people.

  • How has working here changed the way you live your life?

    Well, I have very little free time... I have large quantities of work here, and you know you have to deal with expected and unexpected problems. Like two months ago, since November, we have dealt with the demolition order and its very serious effects! And it's not because it's a building, but because how can they do that to the only school in the West Bank and Gaza for peace and democracy education? How can we tell our people and speak of success if even the Israeli government is going to destroy that building? So here it's a matter of survival, so you want to do whatever you can to protect the building but also nonviolently. Because that's very important.

  • Do the kids in the school know what's going on with the Israeli army's order to demolish the cafeteria?

    We inform them as part of the democratic education here where the student council and the students have to discuss their problems and find solutions for them. This is part of the empowerment course we are using, integrating empowerment into education. We told them, but some problems the students can't do anything about it. This is adults' work and we have to do it. How do you help them to deal with anger about it? Our teachers are experienced and trained to deal with these situations, and they normally encourage, we encourage them to speak to the angry student, that students should express their feelings. In times of real crisis we give 20 minutes of the class, of the lesson time, for this issue, but also we have extracurricular activities and physical training is really an important thing here. Being physically active is also a way to get rid of this stress.

  • How do you deal with news here or with daily events? For example, you're very close to Deheishe, and if there's somebody who's injured, or if a bomber comes from Deheishe, how do you deal with that in school?

    I deal with it in two ways. It's the person here who committed the suicide bombing but also the Israelis shooting, causing distortion of the safe environment that is the essence of peace education. Again, there's distortion. We speak to the students about their feelings, what they feel. You know, the idea is not for us to tell the students, "don't hate the Israelis." This is not the way peace education works. Because that will create resistance and there are many things. But also with adults it's not that you teach, "love this one and hate that one," that doesn't work. It's important in our work, also with adults, to let people have knowledge, not to make people change; this is collaborative. Because as soon as you force people to change that will create resistance and things will become more complicated. But if you speak to people to foster knowledge, people will change. And this is the essence of compassionate listening, because compassionate listening also means encouraging people to listen--helping people to listen and to specify the underlying needs of a conflict. This is also to collaborate with people. This is also something we do with the students. We had a visitor here [at the school] who asked a four-year-old child if he likes the Israelis. He said, "No, I hate them." The visitor said, "How could the child say that in this school!?" I said, "It's fine, the child has been here just a few months. His father is unemployed and was shot by the Israelis and his neighbor's home was demolished just a few days ago. What do you expect from this child? To jump and say, give me a hug?" That's not the way we teach here.

  • It must be hard these days because you can't actually have a dialogue because you can't physically get the other side here.

    We're working on that. We are creating computer labs with Internet connection so that the students can communicate with each other through the Internet.

  • Which school are you working with to set up the Internet communication project for students?

    There are several potential schools; our traditional partner schools, that we always work with. But because this project is still new, we're trying to work with the Democratic School of Hadera,

  • How about the rest of your family, how do they feel about this work?

    Well, some people respect, some are conservatives, you can't generalize.

  • Do you have other family members who work in the school?

    Yes, yes. There is my mother, she is co-founder of the school, and there's my sister, she's now on maternity leave. She's also the English teacher here in the school. But we're still three family members among the 16 staff members here.

  • What are the most significant ways this conflict has affected your life, personally?

    Well, my home was partially demolished, I was in prison, I was shot... Could you tell me more about all those things? Probably the worst was last year, when I was jailed and my home was demolished. I rented an apartment, a basement apartment in my home, to a Palestinian and he seemed to be wanted. After the Israelis arrested him they arrested me, accusing me of harboring a wanted person, and started to demolish my home. After 5 days I was released and the Israeli army admitted that they made a mistake. They made a mistake in arresting the wanted man? No, in jailing me and demolishing my home.

  • You were shot. What happened?

    Well, that was in 1989. It was the first intifada and it was at a demonstration and I was shot.

  • Were you at the demonstration?

    Yes. That was during the first intifada. I was a child and it was what a child can do, throwing a stone.

  • Do you participate in demonstrations now?

    No. I'm a non-violent activist. Well, I participate in demonstrations but not in violent demonstrations. I participate mainly in demonstrations urging peace and understanding to create contact.

  • How did your father feel about you participating in a demonstration, throwing rocks?

    Well, he was very much concerned about what happened to me because I was arrested immediately after I was shot.

  • Did you get any treatment after you were shot?

    Yes, I was shot at like 5 o'clock in the morning and at 4 o'clock in the afternoon I saw a doctor from the Israeli army and he refused to keep me in prison and at 12 o'clock at night I was released.

  • Where were you shot?

    My back.

  • What do you feel you gained from all this?

    Well, I'm more confident. I'm happy, I'm satisfied with everything I'm doing now. I'm doing it with a huge measure of love and patience. I really enjoy that.

  • You say children don't understand what the conflict is about, but when you were 16 you must have known enough about the conflict to be demonstrating...

    Yes, exactly. But you don't know for example that you could have a useless leg. You deal with that, and if the doctor says the future will be good then you take this as in the future I'll walk again! If your father says, it will be ok, then you think, the whole time that things would be ok. But I was a lucky person because I walked again and other people really couldn't do that.

  • So you followed your father's footsteps and you continued working in the school, so what led to this change, was it to honor your father's memory? Any personal reasons?

    Yes, you grow up; you have another perspective on life, and the whole thing. You're not thinking any more of the little things as a child of 15-16 years old. Now I'm an adult, and I have my own experiences and I can judge what's right and what's wrong. And you know when I was here, honestly, I didn't really appreciate what my father did because I couldn't understand it. When I was in the Netherlands I could have my own experiences also, and I started also to seek conflict resolution training there and I did that for 9 years. I was active in that. And I went to Serbia, in the war in Yugoslavia, I was in Germany several times, and in Europe, just for these trainings, and I began to develop my personality. Also, to learn more about leadership, and to learn more how to connect with myself, which was very important. So after all this I was planning to continue my PhD and then came the very difficult decision to go ahead and work for the PhD and be a doctor of mechanical engineering, which was a dream for me. I had to follow my feelings, and for me both were very close to my heart, but I had to make a decision, and that decision wasn't the decision of one day. It took me almost a year to decide.

  • Were you injured badly?

    Yes. For the first four months, my right leg was identified as dead. It took me four-five months before there was any sign that I could use it again.

  • How old were you?

    I was almost 16. You know, at that age --if that happened now I would be scared to death, but at that time, as a teenager-- I mean the fear and concern and what will happen in the future--I don't know that I knew these terms at the time. What really bothers me with this conflict is there are many young people, children, killed. And these children don't really know the difference between Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jew, Christian. And there are innocent people from both sides. They don't even know anything about the conflict. It's an adult's game; it's adults who understand that.

  • What's the most important thing for you to achieve for yourself and for your pupils?

    Well, again, it's our mission here. We summarize our work here in three words: peace, freedom, education. And our aim here is to create a generation here who lives entirely in democratic freedom with our neighbors. And this is what we want, to be free like all the other people in the world. To participate in creating this generation.