Since October 1998, Mend has become the leading Palestinian nonviolence organization. Working now with an active nonviolence network in nine cities and a further eleven libraries/rural community centres, with teams of trained youth “Menders”, in addition to the hundreds of adult volunteers, and a nationwide radio soap opera, Mend began with two groundbreaking educational projects, outreach educational materials for Shara’ Simsim (Sesame Street), and a series of experimental workshops with twelve schools, “Strengthening Nonviolence in Jerusalem”.
Mend’s approach from the outset has been participatory and innovative, from its very first day of work, with
a multi-sector workshop to explore the problems of violence in schools and potential creative solutions,
and during the first year working with an entire class of forty-four children in Qalandia boys’ primary school
writing and producing a play, that was subsequently performed in the Palestine National Theatre and in
summer camps around the West Bank. Mend’s work with schools has been consistently holistic and
reinforcing, involving trainings for the entire staff, including the principal, as well as working with the most
difficult class in each school.
Before Mend was one year old, it was already starting on a major project with a staff of eleven United
Nations volunteers, working with seven schools in the rural West Bank. “Choose a Future”. This project
involved developing a curriculum and training fourteen teachers and 150 girls in fields from reproductive
health and realizing dreams, to conflict resolution and participatory video. This rapidly consolidated Mend
as a leading Palestinian NGO working closely both with the Ministry of Education and the UNRWA.
During the summer of 1999, still within its first year, Mend organized a small but pioneering summer camp,
“Youth Living with Conflict”, in the West Bank village of Jifna, for Palestinians from the West Bank and black
South Africans, where they were all trained together in nonviolence, in internet communications, and in film
making, while they shared their experiences of conflict via drama and art. Mend went on to hold two more
summer camps after this in a similar model, but larger, and including children from the North of Ireland and
from Kenya. The validation of sharing their experiences of conflict had a major transformative effect on the
children. Though the camps could not be continued as even Jerusalem became too dangerous, many of
the children stayed in touch with each other, and the last year of the summer camp developed into a
group pf youth volunteers for nonviolence, “Menders”, with their own quarterly newsletter, “Impact”. The
final day of the last camp in Jerusalem was celebrated by a release of balloons all over the world at the
same time as in Jerusalem (in South Africa, Ireland etc. and in refuge camps in Lebanon)
Later that year, on the eve of the millennium, Mend organized a week long residential international group
relations conference in Jericho in conjunction with the leading French NGO in this field; the International
Forum for Social Innovation.
With the sudden return to violent conflict in September 2000, Mend turned the nonviolence work with
schools to urgently needed counselling and crisis management, training teachers and children, preparing a
booklet of guidelines for adolescents, and establishing libraries as an after-school/summer project to keep
children as safe as possible. Some of the girls from the “Choose a Future” project set up an emergency
clinic in their village (Silwad) and arranged for donations of medicines and doctors’ time. MEND was one of
very few NGOs at the time that refused to be daunted and continued to work everywhere despite the
dangerous conditions at the time.
Mend also refused to be part of the tendency to polarization and dehumanization, and therefore distributed
the controversial Shara Simsim (Sesame Street) educational materials (that amongst other things
promoted mutual respect between Palestinian and Israeli children) all over the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip. MEND continued working with the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University in co-facilitation training,
and in promoting cooperation among women towards active nonviolence.
MEND continued work with children and schools, expanding the schools programme around Ramallah and
Bethlehem, and organized a prototype workshop and art project, “Stones for the Future of Palestine” in
refugee camps and schools. MEND also started organizing volunteer activities for youth in the Ramallah
area and set up a safe play area there.
From early 2000, MEND developed its work with participatory video with two films, one in Yatta and one
with Halhul, both in conjunction with the local micro-regional planning committees, and then carried it
further via “Empowering Women via Nonviolence Traning and Participatory Video” (a project through the
UNIFEM Trust Fund) a project that started to consolidate MEND’s method of empowering women, and
whose films have been shown all over the world.
As the conflict escalated, Mend intervened more actively, by creating a series of “Bumper Stickers for
Rationality” with slogans in Arabic and English and Hebrew and English, designed to remind people on both
sides of the conflict of their common humanity (e.g. “What about our children?” Mend also intervened with
publications to help in the emergency situation in the aftermath of the Israeli incursions in the spring of
2002; one page bullet-pointed guidelines on e. g.: how to help children cope with the trauma of the
violence; basic first aid; etc.
Up to this point Mend had been working with the youth and the women, not with the mainstream Palestinian
population. However with the deteriorating situation, an increasing need was developing among
Palestinians for a new approach, and MEND received requests from key mainstream activists to give them
trainings in active nonviolence. MEND therefore moved into full gear, consolidating and expanding, and
has started over the past three years to work to build up a strong active nonviolence network, via a series
of trainings in each location, voluntary work, support and affinity groups, and now youth groups of Menders
As MEND’s work has grown, so have the sectors of the community that it reaches and that now reinforce
each other. The original work with schools has developed into a project with the Ministry of Education,
training school counselors in nonviolence and conflict resolution, which will ultimately reach throughout the
school system. The younger generation is reached by a new set of Sesame materials, “Sesame Stories”,
which includes this time Public Service Announcements and teachers’ training in the use of the materials.
The series was given a successful high-profile launch in early November 2005. The radio soap opera, “Home
is our Home”, reaches the youth and now has a curriculum for use by teachers and by Mend’s ANV centres.
MEND has started to reach out regionally via an international consultation for women from the Middle East
on nonviolence, held in Cyprus in September 2004, with women from as far afield as Afghanistan and
Morocco. MEND also in 2004 took thirty Palestinian youth to Cyprus to learn about another people in
conflict and in 2005 took another, smaller group to Berlin for a summer camp focusing on peer mediation.