Gandhi said: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”.
Nowhere have I seen that blindness more clearly than in the Gaza Strip. Violence by constant oppression from the outside (by the Israeli occupation) and violent conflicts within the country (through Hamas), which the civilian population have to suffer.
Unemployment of fathers, cramped living conditions, poverty, insufficient drinking water and a chronic shortage of food are also contributing factors.
Electricity shortages make living in dignity impossible, the result of which is that violence erupts all over the country, daily and hourly.
This is violence which comes from the macro-political system into education and also finds its way into the family system,
the smallest political entity.
Teachers in public schools are not motivated to break the spiralling violence because they are not well paid, and because they too are traumatised by poverty and violence.
There are however some private schools in Gaza which are supported by European countries, whose better-paid teachers want their schools to give children a feeling of safety. The words on their school banner: This is a nonviolent place!
20 percent of all children in Gaza are taught at such schools, a figure of about 80,000 children.
For two years we have been working with school leaders and teachers of these schools. We provide training for the teachers and parents of these students; they learn nonviolent communication and find ways of coming out of their helplessness, show a self-controlled attitude, make reparation and relational/reconciliation gestures; finally, they strive to jointly form a nonviolent connection to the children.
Our next step will be to train teachers in Gaza as “practitioners”, who will start spreading the idea of nonviolence from schools to families.
By taking culturally specific norms, values and attitudes into account in adapting the approach, participants of our training in Gaza will be able to help fathers accompany their children in making reparation for incidents of problematic behaviour, instead of beating them at home or in front of the class.
For people in Gaza, ‘disembarking from violence’ means getting a piece of their pride and dignity back.
Late Dr. Tawahina, our project partner till February 2018:
"Disembarking from violence means for the people here getting a piece of their dignity back, in a country where violence has been passed on for generations, violence especially against women and children has increased the suffering. The successes of our joint work is already apparent in a small (but remarkable) number of single families and in a few schools .
If we use this method to reduce the spiral of violence in our communities through the school and the family, this would be an incredible gift to this region of the Middle East.
Daily care and enough food, work, money for school attendance and the education and safety of the children here in this small part of the world - in reality the largest open-air jail on the planet - and it will not get any better if we do not act.
“I do not know if and when I will die”, “it could be the next attack”, “like my neighbours”.
“But I am changing, by adopting the approach of nonviolent resistance and by keeping our home (at least from the inside), a safe place”.