Two years ago we taught at the American International School in Gaza (AISG) and saw first-hand the effects of the Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians.  Since then conditions for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have only worsened.  On November 4, 2008, nearly five months into a six months’ cease-fire with Hamas, Israeli military entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas began shooting rockets into Israel, and Israel responded by shelling Gaza. In the beginning of January 2009, Israeli ground forces invaded the coastal strip. The scale of the destruction increased exponentially, more than 1,300 people died, and our school no longer stands.  Israel claims it was being used as a launching site for Hamas rockets. (See school photos). You cannot teach 200 children in rubble, but who can say that from this rubble Hamas will not shoot rockets into Israel again?  

Before the recent escalation of violence, we wondered if there was anything we could do to help.  How can international educators contribute to peace in the Middle East?  We presented a paper at a conference in Ramallah that was sponsored by the World Health Organization, and organized by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. In our paper we argue that empathy is crucial to peaceful co-existence of Israelis and Palestinians. We admire the views and peace efforts of pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, and believe that just as an orchestral performance requires that each musician internalizes the parts of all other members of the orchestra, a student’s true understanding of the affairs of the Middle East requires that he or she listen to the facts of all parties involved in this conflict. We are interested in your reaction to our paper. You can also read a synopsis of the paper.

Many people who respond to our website want to know more about Palestine, and ask for reading suggestions.  Literature on the topic is vast, and we have read only a fraction of it. However, we can share with you a selection of some books, films, and websites we found informative, balanced and interesting.

We condemn the use of violence, whether it is by Israel or Hamas.  Yet, it is clear to us that the root of the problem lies in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and the Israeli stranglehold of the people in Gaza.  How can Israelis expect to live in peace if their government does not give the people of Gaza a decent chance to build a life and a future?  We ask that people all over the world join us in petitioning the governments of Israel and the United States to halt the occupation of Palestine and end the siege of Gaza.  Both the occupation and the siege obstruct the Palestinians in their right to provide their children with an education.

The AISG community of parents, teachers, and board members is determined to rebuild our former school, and we want to help them in this endeavor.  In its short history, the school has successfully prepared students for colleges in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Back in 2005 – 06, when we worked at the school, our teaching efforts emphasized the use of logic, reason, and imagination, the value of scientific inquiry, and the practice of tolerance. These teaching ideals continued until AISG was bombed.  We believe it is important that Gaza’s children be given this educational opportunity again.  We invite you to offer your support in the rebuilding of AISG so that Gaza's future enlightened leadership has a chance to be home-grown and rooted in the local soil.

Hendrik Taatgen
Marga Kapka