At Sadaka Reut we are active for the creation of a shared reality within Israeli society, while also seeking a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The alternative we promote is based on our recognition of the structural injustice which characterizes today’s reality, on our taking responsibility over it, uncovering ways to repair the harms this injustice has created over the years. We believe these three principles – the recognition, the responsibility and the repair – to be the grounds upon which to build a better future for both people. Our actions emanate from the sense of belonging our activists feel to their community, and from the belief that only bi-national partnership will bring the desired change. Shared life based on reciprocity and equality is the guarantee to the security, the freedom and the life of both people.
The educational system is one of the mechanisms by which a nation builds its collective identity. As such, it is responsible for shaping youth’s awareness and relation to the ‘other’. In Israel, it is possible to say that the Jewish educational system frames a collective memory and a Zionist-Jewish identity which encompass culture and status. The Arab educational system, in turn, deconstructs Palestinian identity and obscures collective memory. In this context, our role as activists-educators is to bring youth to understand reality in which they were born, the different social roles expected of them and the importance of personal choice in changing this reality. In parallel, alternative bi-national education cannot pretend to symmetry and to a single approach in its work with Palestinian and Jewish youth, out of the understanding that reality itself is not balanced:
The Jewish educational system promotes a narrative that underlines historical racism and persecution. The Zionist movement proposed a solution to this problem by demanding a ‘national home’ for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, this sense of victimization continues to be a central part of the Jewish ethos even following the establishment of the state of Israel. The price the Palestinian people had to pay is never mentioned in the educational system. The story of the Nakba is being told through generations and is a central element of Palestinian identity, but it does not reach Jewish youth’ awareness. For them, a simplistic picture is formed that hides historical injustice, thus eliminating possible common points from which to discuss the conflict and deal with its true roots. Jewish youth are being educated to a narrative that explains the conflict as a continuation of historical persecution of the Jewish people, this time by the Arabs, who are added to the list of enemies Jews have known throughout history.
The Arab educational system almost completely disregards the history of the Palestinian people in the time of the conflict, and presents the establishment of the state of Israel as a step into the civilized world. But, while Israel was established as a Jewish state defined in terms of ethnicity and religion, the indigenous Palestinians who remained within its borders became ‘minority’ citizens. The state therefore recognizes the Jewish majority as a national collective, but defines the Palestinians as a collection of minority groups (Muslims, Christians, Druze…). This approach brings Palestinian youth to distrust in the system and in their ability to change it, preventing a constructive and healthy challenge of the reality in which they were born.
Our perception of the political reality in Israel of 2009:
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is reflected on and influences relations between Jews and Arabs within society in Israel. When the conflict escalates, so does each side in its own positions. The past activity year (2008-9) has brought severe challenges to our work as educators and to our activities as a social and political organization. The events in Acca in October 2008, where violent clashes developed between the city’s mixed residents, raised essential questions as to the possibilities of coexistence for Jews and Arabs. The bloody attacks on Gaza in the past winter represented a blunt escalation in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The general elections in February 2009, which ended with the clear win of the right-wing camp, have also left their mark on Jewish-Arab relations: racist slogans and attempts to disqualify Arab parties led the Palestinian public in Israel to pessimism and despair. Since the instatement of the new government, we have witnessed direct attacks on the Palestinian community in the form of racist and anti-democratic bill proposals and degenerate remarks on the part of government representatives. The new Minister of Education has been actively attempting to censure Palestinian cultural and historical contents which were being exposed in some Jewish and Arab schools; the Nakba bill proposal put forward by Israel Beitenu was approved in the Ministers Committee; Tzipi Livni, chairman of opposition, said that the word Nakba should be erased from public consciousness; Ariel Atias, Minister of Housing and Development, called to ‘stop the Arab deployment in Wadi Ara’; and more.
In this context, it is important to remind ourselves that youth are born into this reality, and many times lack the tools and the understanding needed to analyze the situation and consolidate their own personal positions. Many times we witness youth’s tendency, in an attempt to make sense of this reality, to adopt a racist approach towards the other, an approach based on fear, ignorance and hate.
In light of all the above, we have decided to hold a campaign promoting the importance of bi-national meeting frames and activities which serve as an alternative to the discourse of segregation and violence, help increase understanding and recognition of the other and challenge the structures which perpetuate inequality and injustice. The campaign began with the Jaffa Convention on Education in March 2009, which we organized in cooperation with different bodies and which focused on the analysis of the educational system’s role in the context of the conflict. The campaign then followed in the summer camp, which challenged the consequences of the conflict’s escalation on youth and asked to strengthen youth’s capacity to deal with the situation. The height of the campaign is to come with the opening of the school year, where different activities which were designed by youth are to take place in schools and in the public place in Israel.
The camp took place between the 19th and the 23rd of July in the Nordia hostel, and 58 youth attended. The camp focused on learning contents related to Palestinian history and culture and on training to social change activism. Built on the concept of ‘alternative school’, the camp’s main goal was to expose youth to contents that are not presented within the formal educational system, to develop youth’s capacity to critically think the reasons for this absence, and to brainstorm possibilities to act within the formal and informal frameworks in order to promote change in the educational system and in society as a whole.
The alternative school – the camp’s structure:
Each day of the camp was dedicated to a different theme or content issue: Arab culture, Palestinian history and critical view of the educational system. The participants chose the content workshops they wished to attend from a pool of workshops. Each theme day was divided into three workshop timeframes, each with four different content workshop options.
Each participant also had to choose an orientation group which was to be his/her ‘mother group’ for the time of the camp. The orientation groups included: art, media, activism and leadership.
All workshops and orientation groups were facilitated by Sadaka Reut’s staff and volunteers. Only three external facilitators joined us for the task – names will be provided further on.
A) Arab culture day
The culture day was meant to underline how segregation between Palestinians and Jews in Israel exists in various levels; not just physical, but in all that relates to language, music, art and more. Emphasis was given to the importance of language in the world of culture, and to the fact that most Jewish youth lack knowledge of the Arabic language.
The day included workshops in the following subjects: popular and political songs in Arab culture / language-culture and the tight relationship between them / modern popular music among Arab youth / theatre and literature in Arab culture; Mahmood Darwish, Emil Habibi and more / the caricature Naji ElAli and his importance in the Palestinian struggle / hip-hop music as a means of expression / the culture of blessing and customs in Palestinian society.
B) Palestinian history day
The history day was particularly loaded. Its goal was to expose youth to Palestinian historical narrative, shining in its absence from both Jewish and Arab schools’ curriculum. The contents thus underlined some of the principle cornerstones in modern Palestinian history, while analyzing the reasons for their non-appearance as part of the educational system.
The day included workshops in the following subjects: the 1948 events from a Palestinian perspective / Palestinian resistance and acquaintance with various political movements / women in the conflict and in the protest movement / the erasure process of Palestinian identity / Arab and Mizrahi identity / acquaintance with maps related to the conflict / Palestinians in Israel / first acquaintance with the issue of land allocation.
All participants also took part in two simultaneous tours of destroyed Palestinian villages and there met with refugee families. The tours were facilitated by representatives of the Committee for the Displaced Families. One tour left towards the north and included visits of the destroyed villages of Ein Razal, Ein Nakura, Ijzim and Tantura. The other tour headed south and visited the Sidny Ali mosque and the destroyed villages of Ajlil, Abed ElNabi and Sheikh Mouanes.
C) Critical view of the educational system day
The educational system day focused on the analysis of schools’ curriculum and of the educational goals the system has set forth for its Jewish and Arab schools. A panel under the title ‘exposure and acquaintance with political and social criticism of the educational system’ invited Mrs. Galia Zalmanson of the Center for Critical Pedagogy at the Kibbutzim College of Education, and Mr. Raja Zaatra, from the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education to speak. In parallel, one workshop dealt with texts and commemoration days in the educational system and another analyzed the differences between the Jewish and the Arab educational systems. Following this, all youth participated in a simulation which consisted in youth acting within school, dealing with actual contents and ways to create social change within the educational system.