Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Peace through Education: A Radical Proposition for Palestinians and Israelis

new school opened in September 2004. It is no ordinary school – it is a mixed school where Palestinians and Jews learn side-by-side. It is called Gesher al HaWadi -- Bridge over the Wadi.

There are two principals, one Arab, the other Israeli. Similarly, an Arab and an Israeli teacher jointly teach each class. Students learn Arabic and Hebrew. This is very different from the vast majority of schools in Israel, where education is segregated and the two communities have very different curricula. Arab and Israeli textbooks teach very different histories. Perhaps schools such as this one will create an environment where educators, parents and students can begin to develop more complex and nuanced narratives through active and honest reengagement with the texts.

Will this change the situation in the Middle East? It is too early to tell. But efforts such as this, when accumulated over time, can turn the tide towards peace. At risk of sounding simplistic, I have to admit that I really do believe children are our best hope. There is a freshness about them, a willingness to forgive and forget. At a young age, children do not really understand hatred. And personal contact is the most effective way to begin to mend Muslim-Jewish relations. When we meet and learn about people personally, our stereotypes are stripped away. It is so much easier to concoct an enemy when it is a faceless entity. It is hard to sit in a room with a person for a few hours and hate that person. I find it very reassuring to know that a cohort of Jewish and Muslim children will be engaging in this experience in the years to come.

If nothing else, be sure to check out the very inspiring documentary, created by Tomer and Barak Heymann, about the school, its students and its parents.


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