A Hebrew-Arabic Magazine written by youth for youth – it was never done before
Windows – Channels for Communication was established in 1991, the days of the first Intifada, by Jewish and Palestinian peace activists from Israel, who wished to give their children a chance to grow up knowing one another on equal terms.
Inspired by the South African children Magazine Molo Shongololo (at that time an underground production), the goal was to produce a Children’s Magazine in both Hebrew and Arabic for ages 10-12 that would serve as a platform for exchange of information and sharing feelings, thoughts and ideas thus offering alternative, humanist and anti-racist representations of the 'other', a basic need in the journey towards equal shared life.
Waiting for the right moment gave the founding team time to "cook" our ideas. It became clear that the magazine would reflect the equality we believe should exist between us, and would bravely deal with any topic the editorial board and the readers would wish to raise. The first editorial board, 6th graders from Tel Aviv and Jaffa schools, began its weekly meetings in 1994. They were facilitated by Palestinian and Jewish co-editors and dealt with the challenge of creating a magazine that could be relevant and interesting to children from both communities.
The first issue, published in January 1995, reflected the euphoria at the time. Like any other children magazine, it included items about sports, music, art and nature. Some of the articles were written by the young journalists and some by adults. Special articles depicted the lives of Arab and Jewish children in Israel as they really are and the reader's letter section brought feelings and thoughts about the changing reality around them (original pages and translation below)
When the first magazine was published in 1995, Palestinian workers from Gaza and the West Bank bought copies at Israeli newsstands. Soon after, Windows received phone calls from children in Gaza asking to join the production of the magazine. In the spring of 1995 Windows opened its first editorial board in Gaza. Palestinians from Gaza needed permits to enter Israel and only Israelis with a press card could visit Gaza. Communication was achieved through emailed or faxed letters. As the young journalists exchanged letters sharing their life experiences, a new methodology was developed: the facilitated letter exchange.
In the early 90's very few people showed interest in this new idea. Most reactions ranged from "You are naive" and "who will want to read a magazine with Arabic/Hebrew in it?" to "it starts with reading the same magazine and it will end up in mixed marriages".
Not only the general public but also potential donors failed to see the importance of such a magazine. The Windows team continued to study and develop the idea while waiting for the right moment. This moment came when the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. The atmosphere began to change and the public, especially the school system, was looking for peace building programs.
As the young journalists learned how to write articles using the WH questions (What, where, when, why, etc.), they began to use the same questions to learn not only what was happening at the time but also what happened in the past and how it developed into today's situation.
From 1996 through 1998, the young journalists from Israel, West Bank and Gaza met every summer for a three to four day journalism seminar. It was a rare opportunity to imagine a different future and develop a motivation to work for it.
With every issue of the magazine we received more and more letters from all over Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These letters shared personal stories depicting the impact of violence on the lives of our readers - such as life under occupation or fear of suicide bombings - along with personal opinions they wanted to share with their own society but also with the other ones. The editorial meetings were dedicated not only to editorial decisions but mostly to discussing the reality that the young journalists experienced, both in their own lives, and through the readers' letters and the exchange of stories between our two editorial boards, in Tel Aviv –Jaffa and Gaza.
As the project progressed, the participants faced many challenges as a result of their different perceptions of reality. Some such specific challenges were learning how to reconcile what they had learned and knew about the conflict with what they learned in the program by interacting with the other, either through the letters or face to face. It became evident that there was need for addressing these issues on a deeper level.
This called for new methods and approaches for learning about the situation together, building trust and processing difficult emotions that might surface during the editorial meetings. In spite of the difficulties, more youth joined our programs and more editorial boards opened all over Israel from the Galilee to the Negev. While the Gaza board had to close down in 1999, new boards opened in Nablus, Tulkarem, Jenin and Bethlehem.
Working together to create the magazine helped the young journalists learn more about the situation as well as to process this information in a constructive way. Gradually, the magazine made a natural shift from being a mere product to be distributed to readers - to an important learning tool used by youth within our two-year process.
Over the years, over 300 young journalists have taken an active part in a long-term process of producing the Magazine that, in turn, has reached over 100,000 readers, on both sides of the conflict, who each read several issues of the Magazine over a period of 1-4 years. Tens of thousands more read one or two issues and many more were exposed to the Magazine and its message of the possibility of equal and open discussion. The experience gained over the past 20+ years is now being packed into a body of knowledge that can be shared with other educators and peace-building practitioners.
The beginning of the second Intifada, in October 2000, had a drastic impact on the content of the magazine. There were no more articles written by adults about neutral subjects, but rather conflict-related material written solely by the young journalists and the readers. Thousands of copies (up to 20,000) of each issue of the magazine were distributed, offering many of the readers the only opportunity they had to communicate with the other side.
Consequently, Windows’ educational programs were developed as elaborate conceptual frameworks around the production of the magazine. These programs provided participants with practical tools and skills, and most importantly, time to deal with the issues in their complexity.
As the hope for a just peace subsided on both sides and was replaced by anger and despair, the curiosity and willingness to listen to voices from the other side became scarce.
It was no longer possible to distribute the magazine in schools or elsewhere as reading material. The occasional workshops we held in schools to process the content of the magazine became a full program divided into four to eight workshops. In the first two workshops, Windows trained facilitators, preparing the students emotionally to be more open to new information that often contradicts what they had known before. The magazine was introduced in the third workshop and the facilitators helped the students deal with the emotions that came up while reading the magazine.
Gradually the magazine was more and more edited as a booklet for school workshops than as a magazine. It is still being used as a tool in the process the young journalists go through, but participants are now reaching out to their peers using the media of the time - the Windows youth blog "In front of the Mirror"
Today Windows is considered one of the leading organizations in the field of peace education. Our graduates are active in Windows and in other organizations spreading values of equality and human rights. Both our graduates and younger generations of Windows youth are living proof of our determination to continue the struggle for justice and peace.