Education
 Israel
Project #3325

Binational School for Jewish and Palestinian kids

by American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam
Vetted

The students of the Primary School at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam are trying to get your attention! They have been learning about democracy, and how organizing protests and generating awareness can lead to change in their community. Taking this lesson to heart, they surprised the school administration with a petition to expand the school to include middle school and high school. In the petition, they expressed their strong desire to continue their education, learning in peace and cooperation with their Jewish and Palestinian friends. The students know that once they graduate from the Primary School, they will not be learning in an integrated, binational setting until college because it simply does not exist.

 

The Primary School at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is a school that defies categorization. It is the only school in Israel where Palestinians and Jews learn together, in each other’s language, about each other and celebrate holidays together, in peace and cooperation. It’s literally one of a kind. Unfortunately, its uniqueness is a hindrance when it comes to government funding. In Israel, there is no ideal category for a mixed status of Jewish - Palestinian school in Israel. Schools must be either "Arab" or "Jewish". In order to keep the costs of tuition fees low enough to attract diverse socio-economic groups, The Primary School has been working with the Ministry of Education to gain recognition and to carve a path to guarantee that a cooperative, binational, education will continue to be possible and accessible to students and families who seek peace and cooperation between the two peoples.

 

One of our current projects has been to produce a fully documented syllabus for teaching in a bilingual, binational school environment. This is a work in progress (and something that we have been working on for many years). Our goal is to introduce a semi-formal teaching framework for the various cultures, languages and national identities of the people in the region. Eventually, this will help us to spread our curricula to other schools. This year, the school staff is focusing on building a model for language education and looking at the best ways to integrate bilingual educational goals into a school’s every day life.

 

We are dedicated to the continuing education of Jewish and Palestinian children as equals and their dreams of a future as friends, neighbors and citizens who want to live in peace and cooperation. With your support, we can make that dream a reality.

The Primary School celebrated the culmination of another year, and said a bittersweet good bye to the 6th graders as they graduated and moved on to different middle schools. Before the school year concluded, the students of the Primary School were paid a heartfelt tribute of appreciation by the Italian Association for Jewish and Christian Friendship to commemorate the 20th year of Bruno Hassar’s passing. They received over 200 messages of peace from Italian students in a show of support for their dedication to the art of peace. The Primary School students reciprocated with their own messages of peace, bridging the gap between countries and cultures.

            The dedication to the art of peace in the face of hate was embodied by one of our very own teachers, Nadwa Jabar, who was the victim of a racist attack in May. Nadwa, along with Principal Carmella Ferber and four other Primary School teachers were invited to the Knesset to attend a special meeting on hate crimes and a discussion on the promotion of bilingual education.  Nadwa was invited to speak and appealed to the leaders of the country to address the violence and hate. The public recognition that Nadwa and the 3 children in her car were victims of terror is significant step toward equality. “We must be ambassadors of peace. We can live together and do a lot to change this reality.”-Nadwa Jabar      

The 2016-2017 school year will commence with the opening of a new and updated school library. With donations from our American, British and Swedish Friends, the library has been remodeled to better serve the needs of the students and accommodate technological upgrades. The Hagar School in Be’er Sheva and the Primary School will continue collaborating in the fall. Using new bilingual, binational literature, the teachers from both schools are cooperating to develop techniques and materials to advance bilingual education.

The Primary School students organized a peaceful protest and demonstration, asking for new computers in the library to replace the old ones that are too slow.

Inspired by his 4th graders, who were studying democracy, teacher Rani decided to create and experience for them to understand how to work for change in society. 

By playing a football game in which he had divided the pupils into two uneven teams, one stronger and one weaker, the pupils became engaged in a vigorous discussion on how we act when we win or lose and what we can do when we think something is wrong, such as an imbalance of power.

The process was very serious.  Should they write a letter to the principal or should they demonstrate?

They requested a permit from the principal and began to organize, talking with the other classes, drawing up a petition and making signs, slogans and songs, with everything--discussions, signs, songs--in both Hebrew and Arabic! Marching to the teachers’ room, they began their protest with speeches and slogans.

There was also a small group of “counter protesters.” The principal addressed the group, promising to provide the computers by the beginning of the next school year.

"Somehow- despite the dismal state of what people call ’the political situation’-the Primary School at Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom remains an oasis of honest and caring encounter, exciting learning, and all-round joy for our students, staff, parent, and friends. Everyone involved contributes to this miracle with a shared outlook and hope for the future."

At the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam Primary School, there is something that happens that is unique in Israel. Look at the recent three months  - home to the holidays (and holydays) of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What abundance these children have to share!

          Can you imagine the learning that comes out of weeks of preparations for three such holidays? Children write their updated versions of the stories or they recreate the historic narrative. They write, they perform, they prepare foods and works of art and they share it all with the whole school, families and friends.

Beginning at the end of December with Milad a-Nabi, Hannukah and Christmas, the school’s traditions continue through Purim, Easter and Passover.  Isra’ and Miraj will have their turn in May.  When the students create a modern interpretation of a traditional story, research and explanation are part of the shared process. In the Purim recreation, Facebook and Twitter were used for some sections. For all holidays there is music, art, story and food with all children are engaged in each part whether preparing a modest meal for Passover, involving grilling potatoes on a fire and baking matzot on a griddle or putting on a red hat and beard and carrying a sack of handmade gifts for sharing. Always, for every holiday, there is the singing of traditional music.

         

What is so great about students celebrating holidays together? How about having everything in both languages, flowing easily, by all the children and the teachers?

How about having all of the children learning about each other’s traditions with depth and empathy, sharing their own family traditions and narratives, and coming to understand very different ones?

         

How about finding the values and themes that are common among these traditions and finding those universal values where we all can join in?

…and finally, how about strengthening the children’s individual identities while strengthening their  shared identity for their shared future? That’s a pretty terrific outcome for just celebrating holidays together.

Not just slogans!

Equality, respect and acceptance of the ‘other’ are guiding principles for the first binational, bilingual and multi-cultural school in Israel, run jointly and equally by Jews and Arabs.

In a region where everything, even the olive harvest, is politicized, Palestinian and Jewish Primary School classmates picked olives together, surrounded by teachers, parents and community members. These students worked together to harvest the fruits of the dozens of olive trees planted 40 years ago and more on their school land. Hebrew and Arabic songs and conversations floated across the warm air, everyone’s olives were mixed together for the pressing. At a time when hearing others speaking Hebrew or Arabic can foster a sense of fear or of belonging, connections across language, village and history were made by these children’s parents.

The children will lead: The 6th grade class has a dream for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, so they prepared a program for parents, students and friends, held in the Eisenberg Auditorium, where they spoke about the meaning of democracy and narrated key events of Yitzak Rabin’s life and tragic death. Students took turns, in Hebrew and Arabic, to voice messages of hope and peace.

We the students of Wahat al- Salam-Neve Shalom School call on everyone to strive for human unity, advance tolerance and understanding, and put an end to wars and violence.”

            “Now is the time to strengthen our determination and remind the world that a different way, based on equal coexistence, mutual respect and sharing of responsibility is possible.”

Courage can be contagious

Classroom

Instead of being dismayed by Israeli-Arab conflict outside the village, the Primary School decided to grow by 12% this fall as it welcomed a second first-grade class, with equal numbers of Israeli Palestinian and Jewish children. Plans are now in place to admit two first-grade classes each year for the next five years, effectively doubling the student body. The place where today 200 Jewish and Palestinian Israeli children live, learn and play together in Arabic and Hebrew, will grow into a community of 400 children

 

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Organization Information

American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

Location: Glendale, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.oasisofpeace.org
Project Leader:
Abir Elzowidi
Operations Manager
Glendale, CA United States

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