The International School of peace for refugee children in the Isle of Lesvos is a collaboration between the Hashomer Hatzair Life Movement and Ajyal movement.
We are educators and teachers, Jews and Arabs. We were all raised in Israeli youth movements where we learned that each and every one of us has a responsibility to the society we live in and the world we are part of.
Ajyal movement is an Israeli Arab youth movement whose work is based on the belief in human equality. Ajyal movement sees education as a major tool for ensuring social mobility and a central way to promote and develop the Arab society in Israel. It is a sister movement of Hashomer Hatzair
Hashomer Hatzair Life Movement is a network of young entrepreneurs, educators and social activists, residing in mission-oriented communities in the social- geographic periphery of Israel. Hashomer Hatzair Life Movemen't main goal is to promote a shared society, equality, and democracy in Israel. We operate different frameworks in the fields of education and social activism and reach tens of thousands of participants.
The members of the movement live in educators’ Kibbutzim and strive to lead collaborative lifestyles.
Our actions as Israeli citizens with refugees from Arab countries creates endless encounters and conversation with our students, teachers, parents and the school community. We had been told stories about each other since we were born but rarely, if ever, we met face to face - and the school presents the opportunity to do so under different circumstances. Israel is a symbol of the enemy in states like Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. In Israel, the sentiment of the constant external threat creates alienation between people. But what happens when people actually meet? When Israeli eyes meet Syrian or Iranian eyes?
As the result of the civil war in Syria we have decided to go on a mission together, Jews and Arabs from Israel, and to do something. What started as a fundraising campaign designed to ensure three months of activity, became the one of the largest schools for refugees on the island of Lesvos. Over 3,000 students have passed through its gates in the past two years, and we keep growing daily.
After months of challenging building, both physically and educationally, this adventure had gained a life of its own and took us on the adventure that many of us never anticipated. We found ourselves, a group of people who asked to do the human thing, the right thing, on one of the world's frontlines where humanity stands day after day against some of its hardest challenges.
Already in its early days, when the school was only two small red containers that were converted into classrooms, the cross-cultural partnership began to take form. A
partnership that was based on the belief that we must work with the people and not for the people. Even before the school had one teacher and long before it had students, it was Yasin from Tunisia, Yasin from Morocco, Abu-Samir and Mohammed from Syria, and Jaffar from Egypt that created the physical foundations on which the school stands today, as a symbol of brotherhood of nations. since then the schools had passed like a torch between thousands of souls that built, taught, and learned in it. The school belongs to all of those who choose, as refugees, while fleeing persecution and oppression, to be part of a place where human beings create different relationships between nations and groups, and shape the world to be a better, more interconnected place.
Pain and frustration can quickly become hatred. The empty and infinite wait that is the daily routine of refugees, combined with the harsh reality of life in camps, creates the conditions for the growth of racism and violence. Instead of finding a safe place to recover, tens of thousands of people, who fled their distressed homelands in order to survive, find themselves in another form of a survival struggle. The stories and the experience that the school students and its teachers shared about the gruesome reality of the camps were the reason we together chose to build The International School of Peace.
This is what Salem, one of the first teachers in the School, said in one of the first teachers' meetings: "Forget all about mathematics and history. They are important, but there will always be someone who can teach it to the students throughout their lives. The most important thing in school is that we will be teachers of peace. Teachers of peace are rare in our days. Jews, Muslims, Christians, working together. Syrians, Israelis, Iranians, Afghanis, Congolese educate together. People from different backgrounds, putting aside their differences and looking for the common. Our role in this world is to teach these children peace."