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Arab Educational Institute
Narrative Report 2000/1

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AEI Narrative Reprt 2000/1

ARAB EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE
BETHLEHEM, PALESTINE
 

Brief Description of the Organization:

            The AEI is a Palestinian organization for community education operative in the Bethlehem area of Palestine. After the Institutes foundation in 1986 its locality in the Center of Bethlehem was used for giving classes on  a broad variety of subjects, including computer programs, business administration and languages. While being forced to intermittently close and open during the first Intifada, AEI provided complementary and remedial coaching programs for pupils while schools were closed.

In 1997 the AEI has started cooperation with the DUTCH EURO-ARAB DIALOGUE FROM BELOW (EAD/IKV) initiative and CORDAID a Catholic Dutch development organization, in this context, sensitizes local Palestinian partners for exchanges with European institutions in the field of youth participation and community (especially Moslem-Christian) education. AEIs main local outreach is a network of some ten schools in the Bethlehem and the Hebron regions. Some of these schools participate in various ongoing projects:

-         A Dutch-Palestinian story-telling project, in coordination with Euro-Arab dialogue from Below and the Katholiek Pedagogisch Centrum in De Bosch

-         An AEI-scheme of school fieldtrips in the Bethlehem and Hebron

-         An exchange between Palestinian and Belgium schools in conjunction with Broederlijk Delen, Belgium.

-         AEI is also a coordinator of a wish-making campaign in which foreigners are invited to write a wish on a card or website to be pronounced by a Moslem or Christian school student at a local holy site.

-         Youth and school students are asked to write diaries, stories and personal experiences about the events in Bethlehem and Palestine generally.

AEI is affiliated to Pax Christi International which allows it to initiate non-violent and peace education programs and interreligious programs benefitting from Pax Christis, experience in peace-building activities. AEI initiated the Justice and Peace march with local NGOs on 31 December 2001 including WIAM Palestinian conflict Resolution center, PINGO, ARAB ORTHODOX SOCIETY, RAPPROCHEMENT Centre, SCOUTS Movement.

AEI has assumed co-responsibility for the educational program Living in the Holy Land Respecting Differences jointly with the Center for Educational Technology in Tel Aviv. The program aims at getting  Palestinian and Israeli students acquainted with each others religious heritage, concentrating on certain common themes. It is being piloted in a growing number of Palestinian and Israeli schools and is developed by a team of Palestinian and Israeli educational experts (including the Director of AEI, Mr. Fuad Giacaman), convened by the Dutch theologian Dr. Jacobus Schoneveld.

AEI has been also participating in a lot of seminars, conferences, workshops and training in fields of peace education, youth rights, human rights and non-violence. The AEI has published a series of  books and materials related to its activities and projects under the title Culture and Palestine..

AEI wants to develop and transform itself into a Palestinian Communication school which practices and improves the communication of the Palestinian environment heritage, reality and experience towards local and foreign public. In a period of three years AEI wishes to realize other aims mainly the establishment and development of a project called Open Window: Youth House in cooperation with an alliance which includes three other Palestinian organizations: Pyllara, Panorama and Canaan in West Bank and Gaza strip.

AEI is managed by a management team, including the general director and financial director, a consultative board, with personalities from the community and Bethlehem University project teams.

 

AEI Full Time Staff

Director

Mr. Fuad Abdallah Giacaman

Treasurer

Mr. Elias MusaAbu Akleh

Secretary

Miss Shireen Murad Muradian

 

Projects General Coordinator

Dr. Toine Van Teeffelen

Audit

Mr. Jiries El- yateem.

Youth Group

Mr. Ala Oweineh

Worker

Mr. Jamal Bader

 

 

Advisory Board and Academic Committee Members

Dr. Jeanne Kattan

Dr. Adnan Mussallam

Dr. Norma Masriah Hazboun

Dr. Sawsan El-Hadweh

Mrs. Hana Al-zbeidi

Mrs. Minerva Kassis

Mrs. Suzanne Abu Tair

Mrs. Ilham Hamad

Mr. Antone Jaraysah

Mr. Muhammed Al Horani

Mr. Teddy Giacaman

Miss SanaAbu Ghosh

Miss Suzan Atallah

Honorary member

Dr. Father Peter Madros.

 

 

Projects Team

Coordinators, Trainers and Contact Teachers

(Bethlehem and Hebron Governorates)

 

 Mr. Ismael Muqbil Al-Jawabri / School Principal

UNRWA Hebron

 

Mr. Musa Sanad

Ortas Palestinian Heritage Center

 

Miss Sana Abu Ghosh / Principal
UNRWA/ Battir School

 

Mr. Ribal Wahbeh

Ortas Government School

 

Mrs Buthaina Riziq / Principal

Government School

 

Miss Nisreen Alayan

Beit Fajjar Government School

 

Mrs Ilham Hamad / Principal

Bethlehem Government School For Girls

 

Mr. Muhammad El-Horani

Ministry Of Tourism Bethlehem

 

Miss Gizelle Salman

Freres School Bethlehem

 

Miss Suzy Atallah

St. Joseph Terra Sancta School For Girls Bethlehem

 

Mr. Khalid Qawasmeh

Mr. Hussam Abdeen

Nadi Al-Tifil _Hebron

 

Dr. Adnan Mussallam

Bethlehem University

 

Dr. Jacobs Schenoveld

Tantur Ecumenical Studies Center/ Jerusalem

Dutch Theologian

Dr. Salem Aweiss

Birzeit University

Mr. George Sadeh

The Orthodox Shepherds School/ Beit Sahour

Assistant Principal Computer Teacher

Dr Sawsan Hathweh

Talitha Qumi Lutheran School / Beit Jala

Translator

Miss Karishma Budhdev

Volunteer Kenya

Web site Teacher

 

 

The Arab Educational Institute Center highly appreciates the support offered by the following donors to make our programs and activities a success.
EAD/ Euro- Arab Dialogue From Below

An IKV Project

Cordaid

Broederlijk Delen / Belgian Flemish Schools

European Commission

Wild Ganzen

KSE Dutch School

Frederich Naumann Foundation

FAFO People To People/ Through our School Network Freres School

 

 

DIRECTORS WORD

Dear friends and colleagues,

The Palestinian people live through an incredibly difficult period where nothing is sure. Traveling beyond the place where one lives requires stamina, improvisation and a willingness to take risks. People, including many youth, die on a daily base as a result of the clashes. 

As for AEI, we would like to open windows for our youth and involve them in efforts directed at communicating their experiences to a public abroad. Computer exchanges and visits are major means for doing so, as well as narratives and diaries of youth. We are proud to announce two new publications in our Culture and Palestine Series composed by, largely, young people. Among the youth we attempt to instill values of justice, peace and good ambassadorship. What is especially important is the awareness of the need to pay more attention to non-violent strategies in order to help the Palestinian cause going foreword. 

During the next academic year AEI therefore wishes to continue its focus upon communicational projects in which Palestinian youths are involved in international exchanges. By doing so they learn invaluable skills of Information and Communication Technology, English language skills, and, especially, intercultural skills. 

At the same time, we need to further develop our community so as to be able to face the fragmentation and restrictions that characterize our life. A major new initiative of AEI is the exploration of the establishment of a Youth House in the heart of Bethlehem, a youth house that would become a platform of Palestinian youths from all walks of life to meet and mingle, and establish communications with youth abroad.

We hope to open it at the beginning of next year. The activities at the House would be set up with the help of a new Palestinian alliance that focuses its efforts on the field of youth and communication.

In this newsletter, you may read about a selection of our activities and publications. Please dont hesitate to contact us if you would wish to learn more.

 

Sincerely,

Fuad Giacaman

Director Arab Educational Institute

 

 

Narrative Report 2001

AEI Narrative Report 2001

ARAB EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE

BETHLEHEM, PALESTINE

 

Narrative Report 2001

 

Introduction

The Arab Educational Institute (AEI), located in downtown Bethlehem, is in a process of dynamic growth. From an institute providing basic courses in language, secretarial and computer skills, we are moving towards the establishment of a full-fledged community education center. In this report we will describe the educational approach of AEI in some detail, using examples from the previous year (2000).

AEI is a community education institute primarily active in the Bethlehem-Hebron area of Palestine. Its local target groups include school students (teenagers) and older youth up into their twenties as well as adults involved in education, such as teachers, administrators and parents. AEI is not affiliated to a particular Palestinian political streaming or faction, and is accessible for a general public.

 

What does AEIs central aim, community education, mean?

Education, in our understanding, means the active exploration of everything that is interesting, informative and new; that opens up broader horizons of meaning-making, and that makes people, in a general sense, aware, alert and alive, ready to use all their senses. AEI gives special consideration to the employment of active methods of learning (learning-by-doing), exploring ones own environment in outdoors and extracurricular projects, and communicating with others by various means, such as discussions, visits, and computer use.

Community education has more than one meaning to us: not only learning about the Palestinian community and environment itself, but also the building of real learning communities when (young) people from different background come together to follow a common goal, and reach out for meaningful communication with other communities of learners. In fact, we have developed an approach in our projects whereby students and educators are stimulated

(a)   Explore and learn about the cultural and natural environment of their community;

(b)  Choose which elements of that environment are especially useful for personal empowerment and building community, and

(c) See how such elements can be communicated and discussed with other communities, including foreign ones.

This approach is particularly relevant to Palestine and the Bethlehem/Hebron area. After all, Palestine prides an extremely rich and pluralistic cultural and religious heritage, with many elements suitable for community building. At the same time the country is continuously at the center of international attention due to the grave political situation and the presence of major tourist sites. This all even more applies to the Bethlehem-Hebron area, with its mixed Moslem/Christian Palestinian population, important religious sites, and its connectedness to and artificial separation from Jerusalem.

Organizationally, AEI features an administrative committee, which weekly holds policy and financial meetings; an advisory board which reviews projects and plans on a bimonthly base; project teams, and an annual gathering open to all those actively involved in its project activities and meetings.

 

AEI maintains the following alliances:

Since its re-establishment in 1996, AEI works together with the Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below (EAd) project, which belongs to the IKV peace movement in The Hague (Netherlands). EAd actively initiates and facilitates networking with, primarily, educational organizations in the Netherlands. It is expected that the EAd-network will broaden in the coming two years to include cooperation with organizations in Arab countries. AEI also participates in international EAd-meetings.

Recently, AEI has become an affiliated member of Pax Christi International, based in Brussels. Pax Christi is a Catholic peace movement with branches in some dozens of countries. Presently, Pax Christi International is headed by the Patriarch Michel Sabbah (Jerusalem). Pax Christi has an active interest in the Middle East and is developing its local network in preparation of a regional Middle East meeting in 2002.

AEI, through its schools network has been in close partnership with Cordaid the Dutch Catholic movement in strengthening  Christian and Moslem, (Living together Programs), in Palestine.

 - AEI entertains a structural cooperation with a Dutch School in Etten-Leur; educationally in exchange projects and financially by receiving support for the development of AEIs computer lab.

In the following, we elaborate upon the three major components of AEIs community education work, and show how AEIs projects relate to them. The projects themselves will be separately described.

 

Exploring the community and environment

The previous, in part still operative educational systems in the West Bank and Gaza initially British, later on Jordanian and Egyptian have left their mark on the present-day curriculum in Palestine. (We use curriculum here in the sense of officially acknowledged educational approaches, textbooks and practices at schools and in classrooms). Despite attempts in the newly developed Palestinian curriculum to link up to modern approaches and methods, Palestinian education is still infected by the traditional diseases of rote learning, and classroom- and textbook centered learning. The traditional approach has left Palestinian students largely divorced from the community and environment in which they live. The problem has been compounded by political factors: Jordanian and Egyptian curricula say little about Palestinian society, and traditionally school students are discouraged to go into the community due to traveling hindrances and safety risks. For many school kids and young people, Palestine is often more of a symbol than a concrete reality, which one knows and lives. A politician from Bethlehem once said that he found young people willing to die for their land while at the same time they dont know much about it.

For AEI, it is imperative that students as well as educators acquire a deep knowledge about and appreciation of their social and natural environment. It is sometimes said that without history there is no future. Similarly, one may say that without a sense and appreciation of place - a feeling of centeredness and having roots - there is limited possibility to expand ones awareness and open oneself up towards broader horizons of meaning. (Conversely, when there is little opportunity to explore the broader environment, as is the case nowadays, the students sense of place may be damaged, too). It is only a detailed exploration of the environment, which sensitizes Palestinian students to the gift of rich diversity, which characterizes Palestinian culture. Such knowledge of diversity encourages students to respect others in the country who are of a different religious, social and cultural background

During the last year, AEI has promoted the exploration of the environment primarily through the following means:

The fieldtrip program Discovering Palestine in which educators, students and visitors participated in biweekly journeys to cultural and religious sites in the Bethlehem-Hebron area (supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation/German Fund for Palestinian NGOs)

-         The publication series Culture and Palestine which details local stories, histories, proverbs, games, customs, community experiences and practices, many of them on human rights subjects. Both an English and Arabic version of the Bethlehem Community Book were published (donor wishes to stay anonymous), as well as a teacher resource book and video film on Discovering Palestine (supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation).

-         - Especially during the last few months of 2000 (that is, during the Al-Aqsa Intifada), the collection of community human rights stories through interviewing, diary making and other forms of collecting and registering stories (Sharing Stories project, Communicating the Story of Palestine youth project) (supported by the Dutch government through the Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below project).

Educationally, the exploration of the natural and cultural environment promotes the following elements:

Skills: language (Arabic and English), synthesizing, note taking, interviewing, collecting, analyzing and writing of stories, making pictures, informational technology and computer use.

Knowledge areas: religious and cultural heritage of Palestine, human rights in Palestine, information about various sites in the Bethlehem-Hebron area, community history.

Values: Respect for different cultures and religions, appreciating beauty, appreciation as well as constructive criticism of ones heritage and culture.

The present situation of siege obviously makes it difficult to continue with the fields trips. However, AEI does not wish to succumb to the dictates of the politically motivated confinement imposed upon Palestinian society. Exactly because this confinement, with its various closures and traveling obstacles, closes up the students horizons and preoccupies them with survival, we feel that there is more than ever a need to keep open the students windows to the world surrounding them. We will therefore look for creative ways of continuing the fieldtrip program.

At the same time, the highly disturbing and dramatic situation elicits many stories from the community that are important to collect and register for reasons of bringing out the truth about the occupation to the world; documentation, and addressing the socio-psychologal needs of youth (writing and reading as a way to cope with anxiety and uncertainty).

Finally, at a time that various Palestinian families are leaving, including Christians (but also Moslems) from the larger Bethlehem area, it is pertinent to promote an appreciation and love for the land and its culture among new generations.

Community building

In all its projects, AEI cherishes elements of community building. The contemporary political situation, as noted by many, fosters the risk of fragmentation of the Palestinian community along geographical lines (West Bank/Gaza, northern West Bank/Jerusalem/southern West Bank, Bethlehem/Hebron) and social lines (refugees abroad/Palestinians inside). AEI facilitates community building by allowing for a natural, grassroots form of mingling and cooperation in which traditional elements of communality are celebrated. To take one example, many of AEIs activities are combined with sharing food in a natural environment, a practice that can be traced back to the traditional custom of working together in open nature during the harvest season. Some of the activities previously mentioned, like fieldtrips and the collection of heritage stories, include hospitality in an atmosphere of communal joy. In the same tradition, our youth groups are now building a relaxed Oriental sitting and meeting room at AEIs premises.

In building community, it is AEIs explicit aim to involve different societal groups. In designing our projects we pay special attention to the involvement of students and educators from different religious background (Christian and Moslem), gender (boys and girls), regional background (Bethlehem and Hebron areas), and social background (including students from town, countryside, and refugee camps). To avoid artificiality, this mixing is not conducted in an overt or imposing way. The underlying assumption is that bringing together youth from different background develops their capacity to appreciate diversity and deal with differences constructively and peacefully.

However, community building is not just bringing students and educators together, but also encouraging them to act upon their environment. That is, our projects have a definite purpose of empowerment. We wish to have students looking at the environment in both an appreciative and critical way, and have them thinking about possible activities to initiate changes, which promote community cohesion and development. In doing so, we opt for methods that are:

Imaginative and creative;

-         - Non-violent;

-         - Not gender-biased;

-         - Developed by the participants themselves;

-         - Dealing with problem or conflict resolution;

-         - Having a strong learning and discussion component.

The following educational principles are involved:

Skills: discussion, cooperative skills, plans and project design.

Knowledge areas: cooperative community traditions in Palestine.

Values: appreciation of diversity, respect for difference, human rights, and commitment.

The following AEI projects are especially directed towards community empowerment and development:

Peace Education project: the development of a book, teacher manual and card game which uses the Palestinian story heritage in dealing with moral dilemmas and value- and human rights-based community conflicts in ordinary life (supported by Broederlijk Delen and Haella Foundation).

Communicating the Story of Palestine: the involvement of two youth groups at AEI in various activities, including the collection and communication of human rights stories relating to the present-day Intifadah (supported by Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below).

EAd youth workshops on participation in public life: discussion meetings of Palestinian youth together with visiting youth from various countries (supported by Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below).

In the present-day political period, the purpose of community building has become even more important because of the increasing emigration of Palestinians from the Bethlehem environment due to the recent developments. Moreover, many youngsters, especially girls, look at meaningful ways of how they can become involved in public life at a time that national participation is urgently asked for.

 

International communication

Traditionally, Palestinian society in the occupied territories has been isolated from the world outside due to the political situation, and traveling and residency problems. At the same time, communication with the outside world is very important for Palestinians who want to witness and communicate their hardships and dilemmas, as well as their rich cultural and religious heritage, to a broader audience, especially those who are not knowledgeable about the reality of Palestine.

As we have arrived in the computer and information technology age, there are a great many opportunities to directly relate to other audiences worldwide by way of email and Internet. AEI has been fortunate enough to become involved in projects, which allowed it to expand its computer facilities, especially in the Sharing Stories project. Moreover, in one case, students from the Bethlehem environment had a chance to visit the Netherlands on an exchange project.

The communication of Palestine is an enterprise fraught with dilemmas, due to the media war on Palestine, which generates conflicting images. At the same time, it is a great educational challenge and opportunity. We apply the following principles in our projects that are primarily related to communication:

Encouraging students to shape communicative efforts according to the background knowledge and interests of their audience;

-         Sensitizing students to deal with political and ideological differences among their audiences;

-         - Encouraging students not only to show themselves as victims but also as bearers of an empowering community heritage.

-         - Encouraging students, in communicating their situation, to use different human rights narratives on Palestinian reality, including political, cultural, social and religious ones (that is, not limiting themselves to only political discourse)..

The following educational areas were addressed:

Skills: computer use, English language, writing narratives, and intercultural communicative skills.

Knowledge areas: daily life and culture in Palestine, daily life in western cultures, social violence.

Values: human rights, respecting cultural differences.

 

Projects and activities:

.  Sharing Stories: a project in which five school communities are involved (three on the Palestinian side, and two on the Dutch side), in which students write value-oriented narratives on issues of social violence in their societies, and react upon each others writings. The stories will be published in the course of 2001 in the Netherlands. Supported by the Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below and KSE/Wild Geese.

Tourist visits: Occasionally, AEI or individual schools in Bethlehem are visited by tourist groups who wish to learn about Palestinian education and society by mingling with students and teachers.

AEI website: Recently, AEI developed its own website. It has received attention from among others the Pax Christi and EAd networks. [http://aeicenter.tripod.com/aeicenter]

WorkPPPP: a youth exchange project in which seven Palestinian youth have visited the Netherlands (Dordrecht region) for a period of three months in 2000. Supported by the European Union.

Communicating the Story of Palestine: This project brings together two youth groups at AEIs premises in Bethlehem. Among other things, they collect human rights stories and put them on AEIs website. Supported by the Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below project.

 Wish making campaign: the pronunciation by Palestinian youth of wishes and solidarity prayers received from persons abroad. On the occasion of Christmas, Pax Christi International and AEI, in cooperation with the Freres School, have been involved in the collection, reception and pronunciation of prayers coming from Pax Christi members all over the world.

Diary project: Staff and associates of AEI, and students of St Joseph School, wrote personal diaries in English to be published on AEIs website in January 2001. From the onset of the Al-Aqsa Intifadah, AEI associate Toine van Teeffelen has kept a weekly Bethlehem diary available on various websites (AEI, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, IKV, AFSC).

 Eye to eye project: a newly started project in which four Palestinian and four Belgian schools participate in a computer exchange and subsequent visit to Palestine. Supported by Broederlijk Delen.

Culture and Palestine series: Most of the publications in this series are in English in order to make them accessible for an international public.

Note on Israeli-Palestinian contacts

During two meetings of the advisory board in the beginning of 2000, the value and problematic of Palestinian-Israeli educational peace exchanges were discussed extensively. AEI recognizes the high potential value of Palestinian-Israeli educational exchanges in light of the fact that the Palestinian and Israeli nations are destined to live together, and because such exchanges may help to develop a culture of peace urgently needed. However, due to the present-day political situation many such exchange projects run into severe practical and also educational problems, and are in some cases even educationally counterproductive. AEI therefore adopts the following guidelines:

There should be a reasonably broad national consensus in Palestine about the value of such exchanges.

-         - There should be symmetry in application, including mutual visits, and equality in partnership, coordination, and budgeting.

-         - The projects should fit the general educational policies of AEI.

-         - Such projects should remain subsidiary to AEIs other international activities.

 SOME OF THE AEI-ACTIVITIES

RECEIVING DELEGATIONS

  • October: 2001: At YMCA/Beit Sahour Fuad gave a brief presentation about the political situation.
  • December 2001: A delegation of United Civilians for Peace (UCP) organizations visited our area. Fuad and Toine met them and were invited by the Palestinian ambassador to the Netherlanders, Mr.Youssef Habbab.
  • On 9th January 2002 a delegation of four peace activists from the Flemish region of Belgium who were on a tour to Palestine/Israel visited AEI and were received by Fuad and Toine. The delegation was briefed about the situation and the present activities and projects of the AEI. There was discussion about future forms of cooperation. We discussed the delegations project of sending Belgian observers to the area. We offered any possible AEI coordination and services to their project.

 

MEETINGS FOR COOPERATION

 

    • 13th September 2001: A meeting for the evaluation of the Eye to Eye Project. Students, teachers and principals attended the meeting in preparation of Fuads visit to Belgium for meeting the students and teachers of the Flemish schools participating in this computer school exchange.
    • Meeting the Greek Orthodox Society in Bethlehem to prepare terms of understanding and cooperation about the future Youth House location in their premises.
    • Meetings for setting up a national alliance on Youth, Participation and Communication. Elias, Toine and Fuad attended several meetings with members of the alliance, including Pyalara, Panorama and Canan, to develop forms of cooperation, especially on the Youth House project.
    • Meetings at Tantur, the Ecumenical Theological Studies Center - Jerusalem.
    • Since 15th. November 2001 meetings were held between AEI (Fuad and Elias) with Dr.Jacobus Schoneveld, a Dutch Theologian at Tantur, together with three Israelis from CET (Center for Educational Technology) to explore possibilities of cooperation between AEI and CET as responsible learning institutions to assess, develop and manage the Christian-Moslem and Jewish materials of the Project entitled Living in the Holy Land: Respecting Differences.
    • This is a project that has been prepared and planned by a team of Christian, Moslem and Jewish educators and religions. Fuad was a member of this team. The results of the meetings and discussions were finalized by the readiness of the 2 institutions to be responsible for the project from the beginning of January 2002 on. The project aims at getting students and educators to know more about the image of the other through the school systems and educational activities.

 

 

VISITS AND PARTICIPATION IN SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES

 

VISITS

    • Fuad and Toine visited on 10th September 2001 the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Mgr. Michel Sabbah and informed him about our initiative of to develop new forms of resistance.

We got his personal support and blessing for a series of workshops and as President of Pax Christi International.

        On 22nd September 2001 Fuad, Toine, Susan and Ismail visited the Netherlands-EAD/IKV for an evaluation of the Sharing Stories project, its follow-up and a seminar on Education as a Tool For Peace.

        30th October 2001 Fuad and Nadia, a new young woman from the Youth Group of AEI, paid a visit to Mainz-Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Fuads visit for Mainz-Germany was through an invitation by Pax Christi International to attend the General Council of Pax Christi as an affiliated organization. Nadia was invited to the annual Youth Forum of Pax Christi International.

The visits to the Netherlands and Belgium were arranged and implemented through a project funded by the EU Youth Exchange Program entitled Visits Building Partnerships Across the Mediterranean: Connecting Peace Movements in Europe and the Middle East.

This project will feature study visits that will be carried out by 2 young people from each of the following countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The first study visit would allow the partners to come together in the Netherlands, exchange and analyze ideas and prepare forms of cooperation within the field of youth.

The visit contained exposure programs, activities and visits to several youth houses, youth movements and organizations.

The second visit will be aimed more at concretizing the proposal made and working towards further networking and follow up.

        Miss.Nisreen Sandouka, a young student from Bethlehem University and member of AEIs Youth Group, attended a seminar entitled: Youth and the Clash of Cultures in Cairo/Egypt through the invitation of our Dutch partner EAD/IKV.

 

EVENTS

        On the 21st of December 2001 Palestinian students, teachers of the Eye to Eye computer school exchange project between the Flemish-Belgian and Palestinian schools, met at AEI and prepared some X-mas wish cards and X-mas letter greetings and thanks which were e-mailed to their partners.

        The same group with more than 120 people participated in a X-mas mass at the Shepherds Fields in Beit Sahour which was held by His Beatitude Mgr.Michel Sabbah /Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. During the mass students and teachers pronounced wishes and prayers and hung them on a X-mas tree in front of the altar as a sign of thanks for the solidarity campaign initiated by the Flemish/Belgian schools. Our Broederlijk Delen funder was mentioned during our prayers and also our friends in Belgium were thanked for their support and solidarity.

        Dinner: After mass a dinner was served for more than 120 people to exchange - as Christians and Moslems - greetings for the Eid-AlFitr feast at the end of Ramadan month and for Christmas. It was also an occasion to present and explain the Justice and Peace March for the 31st of December 2001 to the whole AEI family and institutions and representatives, in the presence of the Patriarch and the PNA Governor of Bethlehem area and other dignitaries.  

        On the 25th of December 2001 some of our AEI group participated in the Candle Procession/March initiated by the Rapprochement Center/Beit-Sahour.

        The Justice and Peace March on the 31st. of December 2001. The following is a narrative report of the march. 

The march begins as a relaxed gathering in front of Nissans restaurant in Bethlehem. It, in fact, never lost its strangely joyful, optimistic, colorful character. Many marchers wear caps in green, yellow and black on which are written the demonstrations main demands Open Jerusalem and End occupation.  Hundreds of olive branches, large and small, point into the air. Some 1000 balloons, in different colors, float over the marchers heads. Over 400 wishes are attached to them, sent to Bethlehem by Pax Christi International and other organizations. There are banners, with more phrases: Free Palestine, Peace is the Fruit of Justice, and Now and NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM, the traditional Jewish cry of longing that has gained such a sense of urgency for present-day Palestinians.

When people start to walk the number swells to over 3000. (As 1500 caps are distributed, it is possible to make a reality-based estimate). A group of community leaders and authorities walks in the heart of the march, including the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, president of Pax Christi International, several bishops from different denominations, the Mufti from Bethlehem, the governor and mayor of Bethlehem (who upon being offered a green cap with End occupation jokingly says but this is the color of Hamas!), two members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the Minister within the Palestinian Authority for Christian Affairs. Also, some members of political factions. There are of course many Palestinians, primarily from Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some villagers too, but it is very difficult, if at all possible, to travel nowadays between the villages around Bethlehem and the town. Among the internationals is Nobel Peace Price winner Maureed Maquire from Ireland, and Luisa Morgantini, the indomesticable Italian Europarlamantarian who since many years stands at the front of solidarity activities in support of a peaceful co-existence of Palestine and Israel. Around them, many hundreds from Italy, France, Belgium and other countries, nuns, priests, a Buddhist. When ribbons are distributed with the phrase international observer, a few foreigners decline the offer saying that they wish not to be observers but participants. Bethlehem scouts are present, not in their uniform but with their yellow tie around the neck. Young and old are present, and, somewhat remarkable for present-day demonstrations in Palestine, many women. Women do often not participate in present-day demonstrations due to a feeling that their safety would not be certain in case of a confrontation with soldiers. The presence of the internationals they joined several other demonstrations and activities in the month of December as well as the religious leaders apparently constitutes a form of protection for many. Later on, when the march reaches barriers of soldiers, the internationals go ahead of the march and, joining hands, form a large circle around the Palestinians. We notice the absence of people who apparently do not anymore believe in demonstrations. Or they are desparate, which is a quite common and understandable feeling among people here. After so many years not being able to enter Jerusalem, what difference could one march make?

An appeal to the march was sent out by Christian leaders, including the heads of churches, Islamic leaders, the national and municipal authorities, and the leaders of refugee communities in the Bethlehem area. The local organization was conducted by Arab Educational Institute, the Center for Rapprochement between Peoples, GIPP (an umbrella organization of over 90 Palestinian NGOs, including religious institutions), Conflict Resolution Center Wiam, the Bethlehem Scouts Movement, and the Arab Orthodox Society.

Special thanks go in the first place to the many international groups who came over from various European countries to join in a series of December activities; to CORDAID, the Dutch development organization which promptly and geneoursly offered support to cover the costs of the marchs logistics and materials, to Pax Christi International for collecting wishes from all around the world, to the many individual wish makers, and to IKV (Interchurch Peace Council) for raising international publicity to the march.

(Report written by Toine and distributed through the Olive Branch Newsletter, first week of January 2002).

 

 

COURSES AND WORKSHOPS:

COURSES

    1. Computer: Micro-Soft Word.

Dr.Sawsan Hadweh held a two-month course for young women.

    1. Toine gave a five-session course entitled Project Design and Development. Eight participants attended, from AEI and Wiam-Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem. The aim of the course was to help attendants to equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to write and design projects and proposal writing.

 

WORKSHOPS:

    1. A series of workshops entitled FORMS OF RESISTANCE was held at AEI in which the following institutions participated: GIPP-Ramallah, WIAM-Bethlehem, ORTHODOX SOCIETY-Bethlehem, SCOUTS TROOPS LEADERS-Bethlehem District, RAPPROCHEMENT-Beit-Sahour, LATIN PATRIARCHATE-Jerusalem.

Skills and knowledge about non-violence techniques and education were discussed. The 2-3-hour sessions were held once a week and participants came with the initiative to hold the Justice and Peace March at 31st December 2001.

The main lecturer was Fr.Raed  Abousahlieh Secretary of the Latin Patriarchate-Jerusalem.

    1. Fuad and Shireen attended a three-day workshop for Tamkeen on how to apply for Tamkeen grants and write proposals.

 

Long-term aims

In a period of three years, AEI wishes to realize two aims:

Development of a Palestinian Center for Communication and

educational Development

- Establishment and development of an Open House

Palestinian Center for Communication and Educational Development

AEI wants to develop and transform itself into a Palestinian

communication Center, which practices and improves the communication of the Palestinian environment, reality and experience towards a local and foreign public. The center will take shape through the streamlining

and development of existing projects and priorities into clear-cut

programmes:

a)     Educational tourism

b)     - Elementary course on the Palestinian cultural and social

environment.

c)      - School fieldtrip projects in the Bethlehem-Hebron-Jerusalem area, with a possible expansion towards other Palestinian areas.

d)     - Projects on meeting foreigners, including ways of

presenting/discussing the Palestinian reality, and presenting/guiding sites.

e)     Design and communication

-         Designing alternative Christmas packages.

-         - Using traditional crafts for presenting and beautifying the Palestinian environment.

-         - Training in painting.

-         - Training in Palestinian embroidery designs.

f)        Presenting Palestine and human rights in long distance communication

-         Elementary computer training course (using Internet).

-         - Elementary courses and projects on narrative, human rights and Palestine (writing narratives).

-         - School computer exchange projects.

-         - On line course on Communicating Palestine.

-         - Updating AEIs website.

g)     Academic program and documentation center

-         Assistance to visiting (under-)graduate students who study aspects of the Palestinian culture, human rights situation and environment.

-         - Supportive researches into Palestinian culture, and academic conferences/workshops in cooperation with academic institutions in the area.

-         - Development of Culture and Palestine series.

-         - Library and documentation corner.

During 2001 and 2002 international contacts will be developed for establishing new exchange projects, organizational development and structural financing.

During 2003 the center will be opened.

Open House 

Since some time, AEI is involved in discussions about establishing an open house in Bethlehem, especially in relation to the development of EAd-activities in the region. There is at present a shortage of youth centers in Bethlehem, accessible to boys and girls. The house would have the following characteristics:

involvement of several Palestinian organizations concerned with youth, in order to set up and coordinate youth activities

-         An orientation towards community building, including

Leisure/entertainment activities for and by youth from different religious and social backgrounds, especially including girls

-         - Hosting and promoting youth exchanges with the Netherlands and Belgium. 

The House would be developed in two years:

2001: finding location, fund-raising, alliances with organizations

2002: designing and opening.  

Obstacles in present-day functioning AEI

Traveling. Due to the political situation, many youth especially girls and teachers have difficulty reaching AEIs premises even though AEI is conveniently located. Traveling problems occur especially during the afternoons and on the Friday, which is the free day for students but also demonstration day.

Computer facilities. While AEIs computer lab now contains 21

computers with Internet-access, it very often happens that such access is impossible due to problems with the server. This seriously frustrates meetings and courses. AEI will soon have a second Internet telephone line connected to another local server.