220 Israeli and Palestinian Educators Are Preparing a Revolution in the Education System

Leah Green of the Compassionate Listening Project forwarded this July 23 message to her Reconciliation List, and I thought I'd share it with you folks. The message begins...

In a demonstration of strength in the belief that ?“there is someone on the other side to talk to?” more than 220 teachers and educators from Israel and from Palestine met this past week for an encounter and teacher training seminar. These teachers are taking part in the Peace Education Program of IPCRI - the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information - which is being run in more than 50 high schools in Israel and more than 30 in the West Bank....

In its eighth year, the organizers of the program decided to double the number of participants and schools taking part. During the course of this summer, IPCRI is conducting ?“uni-national?” and ?“bi-national?” teacher training seminars to train the teachers to teach the peace education curricula developed by IPCRI in their schools. IPCRI has issued new updated curricula that will be taught to more than 5,000 Israeli and Palestinian high school students in the next school year. The program is taught in the 10th grade. IPCRI has also developed continuation programs for the 11th and 12th grades as well.

IPCRI believes that despite the great difficulties in teaching peace at the time when there is acute and bitter conflict, it is now more important than ever to strengthen those who believe that there are partners for peace on both sides and that it is possible to break the impasse and to return to the political peace process. Mr. Eli Bar-el an Israeli teacher in the Rodman High School in Kiryat Yam said: ?“I think that every teacher in Israel should go through this program in order improve his or her ability to build a healthier society and in order to learn how to accept ?“the other?” ?– those amongst us in our society and those amongst our neighbors. This is the order of the day ?– we must stand up and do something and stop just talking about it.?”

In both educational systems, in Israel and in Palestine, peace education is not accepted as a given. The very harsh reality of the intifada with all of its violence and suffering over the past four years has created strong feelings of despair and lost hope. ?“In principle I don?’t believe in the idea of meeting the Israelis and talking with them, but I very much want this meeting to prove to that I am not correct. I want my children to live in peace, and if I can help in that, then I will feel that I have done what I must do. As a teacher I want my students to learn the skills to resolve conflicts. I want them to know how to deal with ?“the others?” and I will do my utmost to ensure the success of this meeting?”, said Ms. Rogis Qumsieh, a Palestinian teacher from Beit Sahour.

IPCRI recently conducted systematic evaluations of Israeli and Palestinian text books regarding how they teach the values of peace and found significant problems on both sides. IPCRI is also preparing teaching materials and lesson plans in peace education that will be offered to both school systems. IPCRI recently submitted a set of recommendations to the Palestinian Ministry of Education aimed at improving the Palestinian text books.

The main efforts of the Peace Education department of IPCRI are in training teachers in peace education. ?“The teachers and educators are for us the great hope for change from the bottom-up. The young generation must not be brought up on despair. Our programs enable the teachers and the students to examine their difficult reality soberly, to learn from the past and to look ahead to the future knowing that they can help to shape it in a better way?”, says Dr. Gershon Baskin, the Israeli Co-Director of IPCRI. ?“Educators can influence in a real way the world view of their students. Our programs do not indoctrinate towards any particular political view, it forces the students to clarify their values and positions regarding their own society as it is and the society that they would like to live in?”, says Baskin.

?“I believe that Palestinian teachers need to know what Israelis think about the conflict and on the ways to resolve it. It is important to us that the Israeli public should know and understand our reality in the occupied territories. This is also a good opportunity for our teachers to learn methods and skills for conflict resolutions. These are the skills that are required within our society for our own internal needs as well as for us to use with the Israelis?”, said Mr. Issa Rabadi, the Palestinian Co-Director of IPCRI?’s Peace Education Department (together with Ms. Ghaida Rinawi-Zouabi and Ms. Ayelet Roth).

The Palestinian teachers traveled more than 18 hours to arrive at the place of the meeting in Antalya, Turkey because of the refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow the Palestinian teachers to travel via Ben Gurion Airport where they would have flown 1 hour to arrive together with the Israeli teachers in Turkey. This weekend some 60 Israeli and Palestinian high school principals are also convening for an encounter and training in peace education, following the teachers. All of these meetings take place outside of Israel/Palestine in order to ensure a calm and neutral environment, far away from the conflict. In Turkey, with co-facilitation (an Israeli and a Palestinian facilitator working together with each group), they go through an intensive, difficult and emotional process where they are exposed to difficult existential questions. The teachers didn?’t travel to Turkey for holiday. The talks between them begin early in the morning and continue into the late hours of the night. They awake tired but filled with energy and motivation to continue through the next day. Five straight days filled with programmed activities, passed by so quickly that parting was difficult. ?“Despite the high level of emotional and intellectual energy invested here by all, we think that this is our most important mission today as educators. We are committed to succeed and our success will be shared by all of us in rebuilding the trust and confidence between us and in the rehabilitation of the belief in peace?”, agreed a group of Israeli and Palestinian teachers during a coffee break.

IPCRI?’s Peace Education department is funded by the Governments of the United States, the European Union, the Government of Finland and the Government of Japan.

For more information contact: Dr. Gershon Baskin () telephone: +972-2-676-9460, +972-52-338-1715

Gershon Baskin, Ph.D. and Zakaria al Qaq, Ph.D.
Co-Directors, IPCRI

P.O. Box 9321, Jerusalem 91092
Tel: 972-2-676-9460 Fax: 972-2-676-8011
Mobile: 052-381-715


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Added August 04, 2004