Current Weather
The Spy FM

Arab-Jewish Tensions Creep Into ‘Peace Village’

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
June 26, 2012

The Israeli village of Neve Shalom was founded decades ago as a place where Arabs and Jews could coexist in the volatile Middle East. The area has weathered regional wars and uprisings, but earlier this month, vandals targeted it and spray-painted anti-Arab epithets on the school’s walls.

“We discovered first of all that a number of tires had been punctured, and then we noticed the damage at the school, slogans painted on the walls saying ‘Death to the Arabs,’ ” says Howard Shippin, a longtime resident of Neve Shalom village. “Of course it’s very disturbing.”

The village is shaded by fruit trees and flowering bushes, and underneath a painted rainbow, Palestinian and Jewish children play in the yard of Neve Shalom’s school.

Families started moving to this idyllic spot at the foot of the Jerusalem hills in the mid-1970s. The school is the seedbed of the philosophy: The students learn both Arabic and Hebrew, and Neve Shalom itself is made up equally of Jewish and Palestinian families. Everyone here lives the coexistence ethos.

Shippin says that the Israel that surrounds Neve Shalom has been changing.

School principal Anwar Daoud says the Israeli government gives it no support. For example, a recent request to help transport Arab students coming in from outlying disadvantaged neighborhoods was turned down by the Ministry of Education.

“We believe in full equality between the Israeli citizens, and the Israeli government does not believe in that,” Daoud says. “The situation is that there is a very big gap between the Israel citizens that are from Palestinian roots and the Israeli citizens who are coming from Jewish roots.”

Few Shared Schools And Communities

Hezzi Shouster is a teacher at the school. Despite the fact that Israel’s population is 20 percent Arab, he says, there are only a handful of schools like the one in Neve Shalom.

“There are five schools [that are] binational, bilingual, so it’s not a lot,” he says.

Shouster says people these days seem less interested in coexistence. The government is partly to blame, he says, but Israelis and Palestinians are more and more entrenched in their positions.

Many people have lost hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“Public opinion changed. It’s very frustrating, and I’m trying to be an optimist and do my work,” Shouster says. “It’s funny that we are teaching coexistence and understanding and compromise, and the other side is teaching something else.”

So in some ways, Neve Shalom has become an oasis. While its message may not resonate in the rest of the country, like-minded people still want to live here. The village is actually about to expand, bringing in dozens of new families in the next few years.

Shippin says he’s still hopeful that Neve Shalom can be an example for Israel.

“What we are doing is very futuristic. It doesn’t seem to correspond to anything we see around us right now. But I think the idea will come into its own eventually,” he says.

But teacher Hezzi Shouster says he feels the battle for coexistence has been lost on the rest of the country.

“It’s like a drop in the sea,” he says of the community and its work. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center