Lives in: Bethlehem Was born in: Sureef, Hebron district Year of birth: 1954 Identity: Muslim, Palestinian, West Bank/Gaza/E. Jerusalem Type of work: Education Website: PRIME Works at PRIME (Peace Research Institute in the Middle East) Interviewer Joline Makhlouf Date of Interview 2005

Through his work with PRIME, Sami Adwan is pioneering an educational model that enables both Palestinian and Israeli educators to create school history curricula that includes both historical narratives in a single textbook. Sami was born in a village north of Hebron and finished his PhD. in the United States. He has published widely on the role of education in peacebuilding. His encounter with Israeli soldiers while in prison for being a member of Fatah during the first intifada made him realize that denial and avoidance would not help to improve the situtation, but rather discovering the other.

Professor Sami Adwan
Co-Director of PRIME and professor at Bethlehem University
"Through our analysis of Palestinian and Israeli curricula, we have found that both sides tell one-sided stories. I am not saying that the Palestinians wrote their narrative, however, as this was the narrative presented in the school curriculum written by the Jordanians and Egyptians. There is not even a proposition to listen to the other's story or learn about how the other thinks. Another issue is that neither curricula pays attention to the eras of peace and co-existence that once existed between Palestinians and Jews. Rather, both curricula are limited to discussing wars, immigration, revolutions and attacks."
"Dialogue" is a big word that I try to avoid, especially in reference to inter-religious dialogue, because it leads to a dead-end. My aim in this project was, first, for both Christians and Muslims, to learn more about their own religions, and second, for each to learn as much as possible about the religion of the other and to develop a relationship based upon mutual respect and acceptance. Acceptance does not mean that a Muslim becomes Christian or vice versa. It means that each accepts the other the way that he or she is, without imposing any sort of pressure or constraint or denying him a thing.
[I was] kept inside a prison cell with two soldiers positioned outside the door. The door had a single hole, no more than five centimeters in diameter. The soldiers called out to me and told me that there was a paper that I had to sign. The paper was written in Hebrew and, as I don't know Hebrew, I said, "No, I am not signing a document that I cannot read." He said, "I'll translate it for you." I replied, "Why would I trust you enough to translate it for me? If it states my charge and I sign it, then I will be admitting to that charge." So I refused to sign it […] When I was having this conversation with the officer, however, there was another soldier with him. That soldier asked the officer, "How can we make him sign a paper when he doesn't know what it says?" I'm not sure that I understood exactly what he said, but this is what I assume they were talking about. At that point it was as if the conflict was not between the soldiers and me, but rather between the soldiers themselves. I began to realize that even soldiers wearing the same uniform could have different opinions and ways of thinking. This is what being in prison gave me the opportunity to learn; that I should not look at others and assume that they are all the same. This was an extremely important experience.
We don't want to create the illusion of a perfect reality that is out of touch with the actual reality in which Palestinian and Israeli children live. In theory, it is possible for us to arrive at a single, joint historical narrative. Psychologically, socially and politically, however, this is very difficult to do. Thus, the aim of our project was not to craft a shared history. Rather, what we simply tried to do was explore the possibility of writing a Palestinian narrative and an Israeli narrative and presenting them side-by-side as equals. This was our aim - bold but humble, some might call it naïve.
I believe that providing Palestinian and Israeli students with an opportunity to be exposed to the other's narrative - to come to know how the other side thinks and how they live their lives - has an essential role to play in changing Palestinians and Israelis' perceptions of each other. A Palestinian or Israeli who reads the story of the other is not the same person he or she was before doing so; facing the other's story increases one's understanding of one' own story and own reality, regardless of whether this understanding is positive or negative. At the same time, one comes to appreciate the multiple dimensions of the other's story.
Separation Barrier    
The situation will worsen in the years to come, and the Palestinian condition in particular will get much worse. I am not very optimistic these days. The fear that I have now is similar to the fear that existed in 1948. That is to say, I fear that I will become like a Native American Indian, or like one of the indigenous peoples of Australia or Canada. When I was in Canada, natives there said, "our places are disappearing." As a Palestinian, I also feel that my places are disappearing. Now, when I look out my office window, I see the wall. I cannot see beyond it. The wall is also very close to my house, no more than 100 meters away. So I feel like my land and the places that should belong to me have begun to disappear.
I am also of the opinion that the Palestinian state should not invest any money in armaments or the building of a military. Rather, it should invest in building schools and hospitals, in caring for the families that are suffering, in developing industry and manufacturing, and in improving health, education, roads, and services for its people. All the policies and plans that have been undertaken on a militarized basis have ended in failure. We do not want the conflict to continue on the path of war and the use of force.