A UNIQUE partnership for peace was signed last month by representatives from a village working for peace in Israel, the Oasis of Peace UK, and the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum.
Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam was founded in 1970 mid-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The name derives from the Biblical Book of Isaiah and means Oasis of Peace in both Hebrew and Arabic.
It is the only community in the region where Jewish and Palestinian families, both Muslim and Christian, have chosen to live together and to work towards peace and equality through education.
Representatives met with the Oasis of Peace UK and the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum at the ground-breaking ceremony at the Oldham Council’s council chamber.
The event was hosted by Mayor of Oldham, Cllr Shadab Qumer, accompanied by the Mayoress.
The audience was addressed by Benita Hide, Executive Director of Oasis of Peace UK; Dr Nava Sonnenschein, Director of the School of Peace in Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam; Cllr Derek Heffernan, Chair of the Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum; and Richard Outram, Secretary of the Forum, then the agreement was signed by the three parties.
In another first for Oldham, Dr Nava Sonnenschein then signed the Pledge to Peace – becoming the 50th organisation to do so in Oldham, before gifts were presented to the guests.
The Mayor of Oldham presented Dr Sonnenschein with a letter of friendship to take back to the village council and a plaque bearing the coat-of-arms of the borough for display in the village hall.
Maria Ellis, Vice Chair of the Forum and founder of Peace Talks Oldham, presented copies of two books about the life and talks of the Ambassador of the Pledge to Peace, Mr Prem Rawat, for the collection at the Peace Library in Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam.
Richard Outram, event organiser, said: “Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam may be a small village in the Holy Land, but it represents a huge example for peace in the world.
“As the only community where Jewish and Palestinian families have made a conscious decision to live and work together for peace, it is a beacon of hope in a region fractured by war, hate, social unrest and gross injustice.
“I believe this is the first agreement of its kind between the village and any international partner so we are truly honoured that Oldham has been given this opportunity to work across continents for peace with such a unique and inspiring community as Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam.”
The agreement that has been signed includes proposals to develop links between twenty-five Oldham schools and colleges that have signed the Pledge to Peace and schools in the village.
They will apply the lessons learned through the work of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam to help promote community cohesion and understanding in Oldham.
The Forum will also look to help support the work of Oasis of Peace UK by establishing a sub-group of friends for this purpose, the first in the UK north of Oxford.
Richard added: “The Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum is extremely grateful to the Mayor and Mayoress of Oldham for their support and to Nava and Benita for taking the time to come to sign this agreement.
“We very much look forward to working with them and the people of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam in the future.
“Three things that were particularly exciting were the prospect of establishing an Oldham sub-group to support the work of Oasis of Peace UK; using the teachers’ resource pack developed by Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam; and organising a study tour for people from Oldham to the village next year. The Mayor has already booked his place!”