The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians is rooted in religious, political, cultural and ethnic issues; but integral to it is the conflict around resources – such as land. Land in the urban development context impacts almost every sphere of life – economy, health, social life, culture, environment, education and community development. The current situation both inside Israel between Jewish and Arab citizens and between Israelis and Palestinians is characterized by the unjust division of resources which increases conflict in either place. Within this context, Israel's planning mechanisms are highly bureaucratic and town planning needs and policies either in Israel or in areas bordering Palestine have not taken into consideration the Arab population, and rarely, if ever is this population included in the decision making process of planning and sharing urban resources. This intensifies conflict, increasing tensions which often result in violence. A fruitful professional cooperation on this issue will help mitigating the political conflict and eventually create a win-win situation for all parties involved.
To tackle this problem ACAP, in partnership with the School for Peace (SFP), is currently carrying out a project that yearly organises a course for Arab and Jewish Urban Planners, Civil Engineers and Architects. The project has launched three courses so far, and a fourth one is going to begin in September 2018. Participants in the project are from all over Israel and take part in different workshops at SFP, at ACAP in Eilabun and in organised tours. The workshops are distributed throughout the year and deal with several issues. The courses have always had great results.
The participants of the first and second course established the Arab Jewish Planners Forum after the demolition of thirteen houses in Qalaswa and of several parts of Um-Alhiran. The Forum helds meetings every three months, it deals with planning and land issues and develops projects with the general objective of improving the planning rights situation, and achieving an equal status for all citizens of Israel.
Participants of the third course also joined the Planners Forum. This third course consisted in several workshops that started in 2017 and concluded in March 2018. The first session was a 3-day workshop at SFP and focused on intensive dialogue around the Arab-Jewish conflict, using the SFP working method. A second session took place at ACAP and was about the planning issues faced by Arab Palestinian society in Israel. One of the most important workshops was a two days session in July in which the group addressed particular subjects that included:
promoting renewal and urban planning in Arab towns and villages.
promoting more housing for young couples on private land in Arab localities.
advancing the implementation of Government Decision 922 in Arab localities.
strengthening the Arab Jewish Forum for Planners.
Other sessions of great importance were an organized tour of East Jerusalem for a close-up view of what the reality of discrimination and occupation in East Jerusalem means and a tour of Peki’in in the northern Galilee.
The courses have always had a large success. Participants to the last course noted that the integration of planning content and the background of relevant political history was very important. They also noted the importance of involving decision-makers in the process and of the study tours as well.
M., a Jewish woman, said: “The course provides a rare opportunity for two sides to meet who almost never otherwise do. It opened a way for me to be able to cope with the situation in this country, instead of remaining in denial. I find myself addressing history, and the narratives. I discovered that I was more tolerant of difference than I’d realized My work with Bedouin communities now is coming from a place of not being afraid to address this subject”.