|Statewide Seminar for Student Activists, Pk'iin, April 5-6 2009|
The Partnership for Social Change's statewide seminar took place this year in village of P'kiin in the Galilee. The seminar brought together student activists and students interested in activism for social change, in a space which encouraged shared discussion and action for change.
For a short film from the seminar,press here.
The seminar was held in P'kiin, and directly addressed the 2007 clashes between residents and police instigated by the installation of a cellular antenna. Students met with local representatives who spoked of the village's history, the 2007 events, and their consequences.
The seminar was attended by approximately 200 students from twenty institutions of higher education across Israel. Students could choose between fifty six workshops and two tours that took place in eight time slots. In each timeslot, the offerings included 8-10 activities, with at least one taking place in Arabic.
The workshops addressed a range of issues, including society, education, environment, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, professional workshops on tools for social change, experiential workshops, films about social issues and more. The first tour focused on the village of P'kiin while the second tour went to the village of Suhmata that was demolished in 1948. A special emphasis was given to the war in Gaza, and workshops related to the war were held throughout the seminar. In addition, workshops were held about Druze society, life in the nort of Israel, and inter-faith relations in P'kiin, in order to encourage the study of social issues in the periphery and strengthen the connection to the place where the seminar was being held.
In the evening, students participated in social activities that they organized throughout the seminar, and could choose between an improvisatory theater performance, a Jewish-Arab children's circus from the Galilee, or a play by a student from the Horfesh theater. During the second day an open market was held where students could exchange items without cost.
Among the speakers at the seminar were students, representatives of social change organizations, and university faculty. The workhops provided a forum for joint study, brainstorming, and formation of personal connections to social issues.
The seminar advances the Partnership for Social Change's goal to create a bridges between the three elements that form the core of the organization: the academy, the students, and the community. In addition, the seminar provides a unique space for Jewish-Arab partnership. The seminar included Palestinian organizations and granted a central and respectable place to the Arabic language, both in the advertisements issued prior to the seminar, the written material that was distributed during the seminar, and the workshops themselves.
"I leave with a lot of hope. It was important for me to meet people beyond the workshops. The small encounters…excited me and allowed me to check facts. I really enjoyed the improvisational theater, as well as the workshops that dealt with equality and the conflict."
At the end of the seminar, as a lesson from previous seminars, we held qualitative feedback sessions. The students separated into groups based on their areas of residence and home universities in order to summarize the seminar and to suggest topics for future discussion and activity based on their own interests.
An announcement board was set up at the entrance lobby to allow students to advertise their own projects, learn about various activities in which other students were involved, and find partners for future action.
In addition, many students noted the special atmosphere in the seminar, and the opportunity to meet students "like them," as well as the opportunity to create a network of student activists. Many spoke of the event as a place that allowed them to renew and refresh their energies for social activism. Following are some quotes from students who participated:
"This is an amazing collection of activists: people who want to produce something, partnership, power. I will carry the workshops from the seminar with me for a long time."
"The meeting between different people and different cultures enlightened me, and I hope that this meeting will engender future cooperation. Maybe next year I can convince some more friends to come. It was an unusual and refreshing experience."
At the end of the seminar, students received a list of phone numbers and email addresses of the participants. The meeting enabled the creation of a social network of social activists who update each other on a variety of topics and activities. Students in Jerusalem established a critical study group about social issues. Students at Tel-Hai College created an activist student organization, and a variety of intiatives were able to attract new partners. A short film was made of the seminar, which was published on the Israeli news website Walla.