Hope Flowers is a small private school in Al-Khader, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. It is unique in the Palestinian territories in that it has a special curriculum dedicated to peace, democracy and understanding. Founded almost 20 years ago by the late Hussein Issa, it is a beacon of hope for many who are losing faith in the possibility of peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The school's roll numbers between 2 and 3 hundred pupils, although this varies depending on the degree of curfew on pupils from neighbouring villages or further afield. The school's small size and financial limitations mean that much of the teaching is performed by volunteers, who are often Jewish Israelis. Visitors are also a regular feature of school life: these range from Orthodox Jews to secular Israelis to members of the US consulate to Dutch tourists! The school also visits its link schools in Israel - the Democratic School in Hedera, the Ha Rishonim high school in Herzelia and the American International School. These visits both ways allow students to swap experiences and learn about each other's lives, which helps to break down prejudice and stereotyping.

The school's peace philosophy is integrated into the curriculum from a young age. The way in which this is taught depends on the age of the children - the youngest learn about kindness to animals, whereas the oldest learn about stereotyping and prejudice reduction. The philosophy is however more blatently practised through the action the school takes. The school hosts meetings and programmes for local people and parents to discuss issues regarding their childrens' education as well as general discussions on democracy, health and other community concerns. The visits to Israeli schools (and other 'peace' foundations such as Neve Shalom/Wahat as Salaam) spread the ideas the school holds to a wider audience, providing inspiration and education for many more than who can attend the school.

The school has many problems due to its location and philosophy: it is not always easy for Hope Flowers to get the funding it so desparately needs, because so many people have an intense objection to its ideals. Even its buildings have been a problem as the top two floors were ordered to be demolished as they did not have a building permit (Side Note: the lack of building permit in the West Bank is an almost standard condition as such permits are rarely issued, particularly in areas such as Al Khader - a refugee area. At the same time that Hope Flowers recived a demolition order, so did 12 other buildings in the area). Despite these and many other troubles, the school prevails as a symbol of hope of what is possible for the region.

Source: http://www.mideastweb.org/education.htm http://www.jewishsightseeing.com/israel/palestine_auth/bethlehem/hope_flowers_school/19980828-hope_school.htm

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