Monday, September 15, 2014

Gazans aren't Quakers...yet

I was intrigued by what Rob Eshman, editor of the Jewish Journal, wrote in “Young Americans and Israel” (Sept. 5):
 “The people in charge of Gaza aren’t exactly Quakers.”
When I read this, I thought: "Gazans aren't Quakers, yet. But what if they had the opportunity to study in a Quaker school? What if nonviolence were taught at all the schools in this region?" I responded to this comment with the following letter he published:
"This is true, but readers may be surprised to learn that many Palestinian leaders have been trained in a Quaker school in Ramallah that dates back to the 19th century, and they often espouse (and practice) Quaker values. Quakers have been working for nonviolent solutions to the problems in Israel/Palestine since receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1947, working with refugees, teaching nonviolence, and encouraging dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, including Gazans. We call for many of the changes that young people (including Jewish Voice for Peace) advocate — an end to the siege and occupation, a two-state solution, full and equal rights for Palestinians, and meaningful security guarantees for Israeli (such as an embargo on arms and military-use items). My hope is similar to that of many young people in America and around the world: that Israelis and Palestinians will both come to see the futility of violence and learn to live together with justice and dignity for all."

If you'd like to learn more about Ramallah Friends School, I recommend reading "Enduring Hope," a book I reviewed for Friends Journal. You can read the review on my blog. Here's an excerpt: 

The most common image of Palestinians depicted in the US media is that of terrorist or victim. In her book Enduring Hope Patricia Edwards-Konic, a Quaker minister and journalist, helps to dispel these stereotypes by showing Palestinians deeply concerned about educating their children and making a positive impact on the world. Palestinian voices seldom heard in our media—the voices of teachers, parents, and students—speak movingly about their values, their formative educational experiences, and their hopes and dreams for the future.

Enduring Hope describes a remarkable Quaker educational experiment that began in 1889 in the Arab village of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem. Deeply committed to gender equality, Quakers opened a school for Palestinian girls in order to provide them with the same education that was being given to boys. The school was so successful that a Quaker school for boys was opened in 1901. Since then, Ramallah Friends School (RFS) has grown to over 1,000 students, K-12, and has become co-educational (highly unusual in the Middle East, where segregation by sexes is the norm). It is also the only school in Palestine to mainstream students with special needs. Furthermore, the school is one-third Christian, and two-thirds Muslim; and everyone gets along, thanks to a carefully developed, values-based curriculum that stresses religious pluralism and toleration.


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