A story of learning and developing, not losing hope
We wanted to do more than protest against occupation* and demonstrate for peace** Windows was established in 1990-91 by a group of educators and artists from Tel Aviv-Jaffa aiming to produce a bi-lingual Hebrew-Arabic magazine written by and for youth. We wished to enable our children to grow up knowing and communicating with each other while becoming aware of the realities of our region. From the beginning, our work has been based on a shared set of values and the determination to keep working together no matter the difficulties. This determination enabled us to continue to work through the second Intifada, several wars and mounting pressure and antagonism in our communities.
A triangle organization - part of our uniqueness Following the distribution of the first issue of the Arabic-Hebrew magazine in January 1995, children from Gaza asked to join the editorial board. This in turn resulted in family members and activists becoming members of Windows. In the mid 90's we cooperated with Palestinian NGOs, developing programs and jointly fundraising for them. By the year 2000, we realized that there are enough Palestinian members in Windows to become a formally joint Jewish/Palestinian organization. Since then, Windows has functioned as a "Triangle" organization made up of Palestinians from both sides of the Green Line and Israeli Jews. Windows is unique in its emphasis on including these three societies in all levels of the organization - from the board of directors, to our staff to the youth themselves. We believe that each of these groups face a distinct set of issues and we work to ensure the representation of all voices.
Developing according to the changing needs The flexibility of being a volunteer-based organization (a spirit we maintained as the number of paid staff has been changing along the years according to available funding), has helped us remain original and creative and to come up with new solutions to the many challenges we have been facing. In this spirit we developed our programs: We began with training of young journalists to publish the Hebrew-Arabic magazine. To reach wider audiences, we developed school workshops and children drawing exhibitions that were displayed on both sides of the Green Line and around the world; To enable the young journalists to continue with us as they grow up, we offered them video and young leadership programs, and recently the Open Space.
The second Intifada did not surprise us Our willingness and ability to deal with the core issues of the conflict, as hard as it may be, as well as traveling all over and meeting variety of communities, enabled us to develop deep understanding of our
societies. Thus, the outbreak of the second Intifada did not surprise us and found us ready with experience. The mutual trust we were able to build and maintain, allowed us not only to continue working together at a time when many organizations and projects ceased but also to expand our activities.
Immediate responding to the challenges During this period Windows became a safe space for many Israeli peace activists who had 'lost' their organizations and felt intimidated by the negative and oppressive street atmosphere. By the end of the first month of the Intifada (October 2000), we had begun a program of lectures, testimonies, debates, films, tours etc., offering the general public in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area information alternative to mainstream media sources. This was a development of the programs for the general public we began to offer since 1999, in order to create a supportive environment for the youth.
Showing solidarity with our communities At about the same time, answering the needs from the ground, we began a Humanitarian Aid project through which Windows volunteers and members collected aid packages, primarily clothing and household items, but also trucks of food when needed. This project continued until 2011, delivering to the OPT and to needy communities inside Israel on an almost weekly basis. The reputation we gained by our ability to continue working in spite of the impact of the growing tensions and violence on both societies, helped facilitating the growth of Windows.
A symbol of hope and determination For over 20 years, Windows serves as a home and a safe space for many who take their first steps discovering the reality beyond the school text books and main stream media. For others, Windows is a place that never closes its doors even when the violence and despair are growing. For many, Windows is a symbol of hope and determination: if we work hard enough, a just peace is possible.
* Occupation: a common argument today is that one cannot be an occupier in one’s own land. While ownership of this land is a bone of contention, no one argues that the military occupation of Palestinian people does exist and has not been lifted for 48 years by now.
** Peace: Everyone wants peace, apparently, but peace has different meanings for different people. In view of this, for us such declarations as 'we want peace' or 'we work for peace' are sometimes hollow and meaningless. We do use the term peace, as it is part and parcel of public discourse, but we do recognize the erosion of its meaning.