An oasis where Jews and Palestinian Arabs learn to live in peace

A parable about co-existence in Nevé Shalom, in Hebrew,  Wahat al-Salam, in Arabic, the village founded by Father Bruno Hussar on a hill overlooking the Ayalon valley.

“When a young man wants to be an officer in the army of his country, he chooses one of the many academies or schools of war and devotes some years of his life learning the art of defence and killing. This is war. If anyone wants to devote themselves to working for peace, there are no schools or academies for that purpose since it is thought that peace is something we all have in our blood, something automatic. But this is not the case: peace is an art that cannot be improvised but must be learned”.

I heard these words from Father Bruno Hussar, the founder of Nevé Shalom / Wahat al-Salam, the village that today has about sixty families – located half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – composed of Jews and Palestinian Arabs  (Moslem and Christian), all citizens of Israel. A parable on co-existence, it has lasted for more than forty years. The name of the village comes from Isaiah, 32,18: “My people will live in an oasis of peace (Nevé Shalom in Hebrew, Wahat al-Salam in Arabic). It is a real village that has a “Peace School”: a place where young Jews and Arabs learn to understand the complexities of the ongoing conflict and embark on a journey of mutual understanding.

To date, more than  25,000 young people whose ages range from 15 to eighteen, have taken part in courses at the  “Peace School”. Little by little, by the end of the course they feel so close that it is not unusual to see Jewish and Arab girls crying as they go away. They are able to make that peace that was beyond the reach of their parents.

Father Bruno died on 8 February 1996, aged 85 and is buried on the hill overlooking  Ayalon Valley where, according to the Bible, Joshua halted the sun during a battle, and was, in 1948, the scene of violent clashes between Arabs and Jews. It is now the site of the Museum of the Israeli Armed Forces. Right in front of it lies the body of a visionary, the prophet of a different future for Jews and Palestinians.

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