TalkMatters supports the four educational institutions at Wahat al-Salam-Neve Shalom. The School for Peace (SFP) is one of them.

The SFP trains Israeli Palestinian and Jewish professional groups to work together to advance peace and equality. In fact, since the SFP first opened its doors in 1979, many of its 70,000 graduates now work as leaders in the major Israeli human rights organisations and throughout the country’s civic bodies and government.

Today, the SFP is making an even greater impact with its “change-agents’ course” for professionals whose work has direct consequences at community level on both Jewish and Palestinian populations inside Israel and across borders.

Examples are courses for environmentalists, for mental health workers, for human rights lawyers, literature teachers, architects and urban planners.

On Friday, December 10 2021, SFP environmental justice course participants traveled to northern Israel. In all, seventeen participants came along (10 Jewish and 7 Palestinian Israeli citizens).

Our first stop was ta meeting with Mr. Liti Ghnaim, an engineer and environmental consultant for the Al-Batuf area. He took us to an overlook on the Beit Netofa Valley, where he was able to provide show us the complexities of the territorial division between the state and local Arab residents.

He pointed out the national waterline that crosses through the valley and spoke of the difficulty of the Arab farmers who deal with flooding during the winter months while being deprived of water to irrigate during the summer months. He described the considerable obstacles thrown up by the state for Arab residents who try to promote initiatives and cooperation necessary for living in an equal and just society. He evoked the hopelessness felt by the area’s residents who see no future for themselves.

In the discussion with Mr. Ghnaim we could not help but feel frustration. He showed us how the industrious efforts of good people are stymied by official policy. The political forces at work do not permit any leeway for a significant positive change in the difficult reality that the State of Israel creates for its non-Jewish citizens.

From there we traveled a half hour to the Sde Ilan wastewater treatment plant of the Lower Galilee Corporation. There, we met the whole management team, who came during their day off to host us at the plant. Mr. Salah Nassar – the corporation’s director, and its chief engineer Shadi Khuri were present. They told us how Mr. Salah Nassar managed to rescue the plant from the state of financial disarray and bankruptcy left by his predecessor, and how he was able to raise the facility’s water treatment to its current high standards of quality and oversight. The facility provides solutions for any area settlement, factory or local council that needs its services to ensure the health and well-being of workers and residents. He also described the challenges and difficulties presented by the state; including unchecked pollution from military bases that transfer wastewater to the facility and the financial losses the company absorbs in order to maintain the quality of the process, without any ability to sanction polluters.

We were very impressed by Mr. Nassar’s knack of presenting matters in a positive light, and his ability find solutions to all the wrongs and difficulties placed in his path. We emerged from our visit reassured that there is still the possibility to cooperate and do positive and important work, in spite of all the setbacks and difficulties engineered by the state.

Mr. Nassar’s important message is that we all need to work together in order that we can live together. That there is no other way.

We concluded the day’s activities with lunch at a restaurant of the Greg Café chain, near the village of Kanna. The management team from the wastewater treatment plant joined us there too. We were received royally there and enjoyed a wonderful meal.

We all came back with new reflections and insights, and were especially grateful for the rare exposure to stories and sides of reality that we do not normally encounter.

In about a month we will meet again in WASNS for the final weekend summary session of the Course.

Thanks to Mr. Harb Amara for coordinating this enriching tour,

On behalf of the course directors,

Harb Amara and Dr. Noa Barkai-Kara,

The course directors.

Articles on the tour in Arab news media:

Alarab.com: افد من مدرسة السلام يلتقي مياهكم | كل العرب

PANET: وفد من مدرسة السلامع لفروق سياسات التخطيط مندارة مياهكم