Waging peace in the Holy Land: a qualitative study of Seeds of Peace, 1993-2004
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This study focuses on Seeds of Peace, a peace education program whose purpose is to bring together teenagers from conflict regions, train them to be future leaders, and promote conflict resolution, reconciliation, and coexistence. The experiences of the Palestinian, Israeli-Jewish, and Israeli-Palestinian participants at the summer camp, during re-entry, and in subsequent years, particularly during the second intifada, are portrayed using qualitative methods. The study also describes and analyzes the Seeds of Peace program from 1993–2004, highlighting the implementation of the follow-up program in the home region. Theories from the field of social psychology, including social identity theory and the contact hypothesis, and literature on peace education interventions conducted in the context of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, are employed to explain sources of intergroup conflict and models of how they can best be addressed and overcome. Data collection consisted of interviews of participants and staff members, observations of the camp and follow-up program, and written documentation produced by the participants. The participants' journeys were fraught with difficulties, particularly during re-entry and periods of violent conflict. Following the onset of the second intifada, external asymmetric power relations had a greater impact on the functioning of the program and tendencies to revert to previously-held negative attitudes became more pronounced as each group faced increasingly negative messages from their communities regarding the other side. Furthermore, participants grappled with what they referred to as the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) dilemma' as Israeli-Jews approached the age of mandatory military service. However, despite these challenges, according to many of the participants interviewed for this study, contact with the ‘enemy’ group promoted greater understanding of the conflict and its various narratives, humanization of the other side, increased self-concept, and enhanced communication and leadership skills. The use of a mixed model with multiple categorization strategies and a follow-up program enhanced positive outcomes. The findings of this study, presented through a narrative format, should provide many insights into designing and implementing peace education programs between teenagers from groups involved in intractable conflict, particularly during a period characterized by acute violence and a lack of top-down peacemaking initiatives.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University
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