In late 2003 IWPS initiated Mikarov, a ten-day intensive workshop for Israelis in the West Bank. “Mikarov” (in English “Neighbor to Neighbor”) was a collaborative project of IWPS, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Machsom Watch, and the Alternative Information Center, in consultation with the Palestinian NGO Holy Land Trust. The goal of the project was to recruit and train solidarity activists to reach out to their friends and family who are not persuaded that the occupation needs to end.
The word “Mikarov” in Hebrew means both “close” and “related”. The name was chosen by Israeli organizers to convey a complex set of relationships. Funds for this workshop were provided by the Shefa Foundation and Quaker Service-Jerusalem.
The workshop included tours of the Wall, the matrix of control in greater Jerusalem, a day of checkpoint watch, both planned and unplanned, and an overnight in Yanoun, a tiny village in the remote Nablus area, which is besieged by settlements. The 9 participants spent six nights in the West Bank, and for most it was their first experience traveling in Palestinian cars and sleeping in Palestinian villages. Discussion and feedback on each activity was facilitated by a team of trainers: Mohammed Jode from Azzun, Qalqilya; Shelly Nativ from Tel Aviv; and Alisa Klein from Northampton, Massachusetts. The final weekend was devoted to panels focusing on ways to change Israeli attitudes. Political artists Ronen Eidelman and Tal Adler inspired the group with consciousness changing art projects they have been involved with.
Participants were asked to commit to specific projects they would pursue when they returned home. Some have followed through and some have not. Unfortunately, both of the IWPS team members who were most involved in creating the project were required to leave the country before the workshop ended, and were denied re-entry, and the ICAHD staff member who helped to develop the curriculum left the organization soon after. This has meant that the follow up was not as thorough as we intended, but we have remained in contact with the group members. One follow-up meeting was held in May at Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salam. Two group members shared short videos they had produced including footage acquired during the workshop. The group decided to organize a tour of the Matrix of Control in Greater Jerusalem for their families, which was attended by 18 people, including three active female soldiers.
IWPS team members are currently meeting with Mohammed Jode and Shelly Nativ to develop plans for future activities aimed at deepening relationships between Israelis and Palestinians and promoting a culture of resistance to occupation within Israeli society. Mohammed is particularly interested in creating experiences which bring small groups of Israelis and Palestinians together for several days, which will give the Palestinians an opportunity to relax and tell the truth. Several members of the original Mikarov group have also expressed an interest in helping to organize future workshops.