Fuad Giacaman, from Bethlehem: Developing the AEI
Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 25.10.2013:
Interview by: Maria Schmuck
Edited by: Natsumi Morita
Q: How do you as a co-founder think about the work you are doing in here? Why did you decide to establish the institute and what was the purpose of the institute?
I: We have had exposed to different challenges by the Israeli soldiers such as closing up the schools. The boys were involved in the Intifada activities mainly in the non-violent types of activities. So the closure of the schools also was one of my driving forces to establish this institute to help the students with their Tawjihi exams and other things as well.
Q: How did you decide to establish the youth groups as well as women’s groups?
I: Some years ago we had a meeting at the youth media with the university youth members and we were discussing various topics. There were two Dutch volunteers who came to the meeting and I welcomed them. And as usual our students started to communicate and talk about our Palestinian situation such as being victimized, tortured and infringed of our rights. The Dutch youth were just listening without saying any word and at the end they asked us a question. They asked us “What do you know about Gaza? Do you know what’s going on there?” Our boys and girls answered, “Sorry we don’t know. But maybe the same situation like us.” And they told us that they knew more than us because they had been to Gaza several times. They continued and commented about our way of telling stories and said “You Palestinians have the true stories but sorry you don’t know how to communicate with people. Although the Israelis claim or pretend to know half of the truth, they are excellent in communicating with their true realities.” So I was shocked as well as my youth because they told us something about our incompetence and our problem. So I gathered with my colleagues in the administration and we decided to work harder on ourselves with adults as well as youths. I started giving more and more courses for improving communication skills for the youth as well as the women’s group.
Especially in the women’s group we have been successful with improving their writing skills through the wall museum project at the Rachels Tomb wall area. This wall museum presents not only the dimension of their victimacized lives, but also the dreams of their better and brighter lives. Compared to the days when the Dutch volunteers came and said to us that we were not good at communicating with people, I think that the Sumud Story House is the great success and improvement of our communication skills.
Q: In the interviews with the women all of them said that they do not feel hatred toward Israeli people. How do you think it is possible for them not to feel objection or hatred toward them after experiencing tough times through the Israeli occupation?
I: My colleagues and I think that the members of the AEI have been less and less involved in violent actions toward the Israeli army and occupation with the help of the AEI activities such as weekly group discussion and reading various books. Not because of the change in the situation but because of the awareness, enlightenment, training and methods we have been using at the AEI, it helped those people to change to a great extend from the mentality of violence actions to that of non-violence. One of the successful methods that we have been using and I am proud of saying that it is me who has developed it through my history is The Read, Reflect, Communicate and Act and we call it R-R-C-A method. When we developed this R-R-C-A method into the four stages we realized that we can find this type of method in which we read something from the Bible. The verses which promote tolerance, love, respect to others created a kinf of tranquility or calmness and some kind of inner peace has build up for those who have been joining these activities such as weekly groups discussion. So it is becoming less that you see people saying that I hate him, her, Jew or Israeli soldier. We can differentiate between Jewish people and Israeli, and the Israeli occupier.
I: The consequences of Arab Spring created more conflicts, violence and violations of human rights throughout the Arab nations. In this context we are better than any other society in the Arab world. Despite that the fact that we are under the occupation and the week Palestinian authority we thank god because we behave well even toward those who are occupying our land. But this is not because we are fed up, desperate and hopeless with the situation but because we have had more education, empowerment and sumud. This will lead us whether we like it or not, whether the others will like it or not to better future. This is our hope and that’s why we are working hard on educational activities.