Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Turning to nature to build peace in Israel

Nature has no borders.

Israel is a land of borders.

Dr. Gonen Sagy works on putting nature back into humanity via education. He works with the Arava Institute in Israel, a programme/initiative that brings together arabs and jewish schools around environmental studies. Jewish and Arab teachers go into the high-schools and teach teenagers about sustainability. For the students to just walk into the room and see Jewish and Arabic teachers working together is, itself, a shock.

The first element of the programme is compassion.

Research shows that the first encounter bringing people who have a predisposition not to like one another  often does not go very well. Their peace education work attempts to build positive encounters. They do it slowly. People walk in not wanting to work with one another.  People play games. Gradually they come to recognise that they are working with and dealing with people.

There is a level of thoroughness to what they are developing that is remarkable. They made profiles of each student and planned to the smallest detail to make it work for those people. They plan to follow the people they are working with, including the teachers. They paid attention to, is this the right thing for this group at this time, more than anything else. Having ongoing mentors to work with the students were essential.  After a while, the headmasters became friendly to the programme, and they did inter-visitations between the schools.  Their multiple schools are spreading, and they hope in the next few years to reach 5% of the population.  Looking at the map of Israel, the task seems tremendously large. But then again, why not?

He says that after spending a year at the institute, we understand the news differently. We need to work towards following the vision more paying attention to what is going on around you.  As we build trust, we build it within ourselves and between ourselves. And in this way the porous boundaries within nature come to enter our social selves and we come to gain greater security. 

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