Hope for a Shared Future


Especially in Times of Conflict, Educate for Peace

by Mohammad Darawshe

While the current war between Hamas and Israel is focused on Palestinians who live outside the borders of Israel, its impact on Arab Israelis cannot be ignored. Arab Israelis live within the State of Israel’s internationally recognized borders and became Israelis as a result of the invitation extended to them by the founders of the state in the Declaration of Independence. 

This population—often called Arab Israelis or Palestinian Israelis—was granted citizenship and promised equal treatment, politically and socially. And yet, after 76 years, Jews and Arabs in Israel still live separately for the most part. This reality invites tension and mistrust, as we witnessed in the years 2000 and 2021, when violence broke out between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.

Givat Haviva Educational Institute—whose tagline is Shared Society, Shared Future—founded the first peace education institution in the Middle East in 1963. It was based on the idea that Jews and Arabs—Israelis and Palestinians—are destined to live together, regardless of the final political framework of the State of Israel.

Givat Haviva led the way in recognizing the impact of the broader regional context of Israeli-Palestinian relations on Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel. The organization started by attempting to break the Jewish-Arab divide with language education: teaching Arabic to Israeli Jews, and Hebrew to Israeli Arab citizens. With time, it incorporated programs based on the Contact Hypothesis, a psychological concept that states that contact between groups in the right settings can reduce prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination, especially between majority and minority groups. Givat Haviva brought Arab and Jewish youth together in order to have their first encounter with the other in an appropriate way.

Today Givat Haviva facilitates more than 70% of these encounters in Israel. It also brings together Arab and Jewish teachers, school principals, mayors, business leaders, and other professionals to look for mutual interests. It looks for places of potential cooperation in order to create more islands of success in these relations, as has been done in Israel’s medical industry, academia, and a few additional arenas. Unfortunately, many other areas have yet to find success, like the ongoing separation in the educational and residential systems. Here, there continue to be many policies and practices of discrimination against Arab citizens.

In this time of crisis, Givat Haviva has tried to reduce the current damage by continuing to facilitate encounters between Jewish and Arab youth who knew each other before October 7th. Unfortunately, encounters between new groups that have never met before have had to be put on hold, because those would likely devolve into narrative and identity debates without building trust and humanizing each other first. Breaking initial stereotypes is essential for any dialogue and provides a better ecosystem for potential success, even if it ends with people “agreeing to disagree.”

Givat Haviva’s most successful programs are the ones that have longevity. Their Children Teaching Children program pairs Jewish and Arab classrooms together for a period of three years. During that time, kids meet every month to study civics, geography, Arabic, and Hebrew together. The racism rate amongst these kids is 80% lower than the average among Jewish and Arab counterparts who never meet. 

In addition, the cross-sector teachers’ program helps send Jewish teachers to Arab schools, and Arab teachers to Jewish schools. Since the program began in 2005 with just six teachers, it has grown to nearly 2,500 teachers. For 93% of kids who learn with a cross-sector teacher, it becomes their only meaningful encounter with the other, and in 68% of the cases this encounter changes their perspective of the other from negative to positive.

In these times of crisis, we need to rebuild the Israeli education systems to place peace and sustainable development at the core. Lesson plans and learning materials can plant the seeds of reintegration, both into a stable society and into a future national education system. Cross-cutting themes of conflict resolution, alongside other core values like gender equality and sustainability, should be built into all education programs, whether in Jewish schools or Palestinian schools.

For more information:

Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues

“A Brief Introduction to Arab Citizens of Israel”
Short Film
Facilitators Guide
Arab Citizens and Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel: Impact of Oct. 7th, 2023 

“Mohammad Darawshe: Helping To Keep The Peace” (ISRAEL21c)
Article in Israel21C 

Mohammad Darawshe is Director of Strategy at The Center for Shared Society at Givat Haviva. For more information about Givat Haviva, please see: www.givathaviva.org.

תחנות יסוד קשורות בתחום החינוך לישראל

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