In a time of increased strife and violence throughout the world we must seek out source of peace and hope. TALI’s Dialogue and Identity program, in full partnership with the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue, brings together students and teachers from Israeli Jewish and Christian Arab schools. For most children, the program offers the first peek into the life of a religious community other than their own.
The program’s long-term goal is to nurture a tolerant Jewish identity, and educate children for citizenship in a democratic society. More immediately, the aim is to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and forge strong connections between school communities that want to instill in their children the values of respect and tolerance in Israel. Cooperation between principals of participating schools and teachers is at the core of program’s success. While educators, Arab and Jewish, develop close rapport and long-lasting professional relationships planning and implementing a variety of joint educational and social activities in which children develop communication skills and emotional intelligence by preparing and leading presentations of their own cultural and religious traditions. Roula, the head teacher of the participating class from the Terra Santa school in Ramla, said: “This is my 3rd year participating in the program. The students have come into it with so much love and have a lot of fun. Before each meeting they are very excited. They stay in touch between sessions via texting, emailing and talking on the phone. The students will become ambassadors for the coming generations, they’ll keep this tradition coming for the following years.”
In 2016-17, 66 educators (44 teachers and 22 principals) from 22 schools in northern and central Israel (11 Jewish and 11 Arab) have worked together to plan and facilitate the meetings for 660 5th and 7th graders. This has been the 10th year of the program, and it has become part of the school culture in many participating schools, with wide-ranging impact on the entire school community. Karen, a parent of a Jewish student in the program said: “I grew up in Jerusalem with Arabs. We were always mixed. Now everything is separate. Before the first meeting my son was scared. I asked him why… Now they see how the others live. It is important for them to meet one another. They see Christmas and Chanukah and learn from one another. There isn’t just one way of living. I came as a chaperone for the first meeting and I liked it so much I asked to come back for the next one. My son and I talk before and after each meeting. Now he isn’t afraid. This generation only know what’s is on the news about terror attacks, This is a different way.”
Father Abdel Masih Fahim, pastor of Ramleh St. Nicodemus Church, and adviser to the participating school, Terra Santa, believes deeply in the program: “We must learn together. If we don’t know one another we won’t have a good life together. If I know when something is bothering you I can help in the future. This is not peace education this is hope education.”
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