Panel 2: Learning Multiculturalism and Multinationalism


Chair: Dr. Uki Maroshek Klarman, Academic Director, The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peacemixed_city_20161116_0139

Asfahan Bahaloul, PhD Candidate, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, Co-Executive Director, The Abraham Fund Initiatives

Dr. Shlomo Fischer, Academic Advisor, Yesodot a�� The Center for Torah and Democracy

Uki Maroshek Klarman

Different education systems within Jerusalem contend differently with it being a mixed city, a city whose sovereignty is even under dispute. We will discuss a number of typical schools that organize diverse activities to assert the presence of different groups within the city.

Asfahan Bahaloul

I will talk about teaching the Holocaust in Arab schools. For my MA thesis at Haifa University, I researched how Holocaust discourse is established in Arabic newspapers in Israel. I examined the collective memory of the Holocaust, which characterizes the discourse about it in the Arabic press. Collective memory is dynamic and functional. It is a formalization process which constantly moves between the past and the present.

In 2008, a decision was made by the Ministry of Education to include a mandatory question about the Holocaust in the matriculation exams. Since then, the subject has been taught in the Arab education system. In 2009 the a�?100 Concepts of Heritage, Zionism, and Democracya�? program was expanded to include the Arab schools. Both these decisions originated in a desire to strengthen the historical and ideological awareness of Jewish Israeli students. It was assumed that Arab students needed the same, but how do Arab student relate to these concepts?

In the 1950s the policy was to hire only Jews from Arab countries to teach in Arab schools. The country was still in its early years and was trying to create mechanisms of control and coercion. This still happens. The 2008 decision is a mechanism of control and coercion. I interviewed Druze and Arab teachers to understand how they reacted to the decision to teach the Holocaust to Arab students. It was very difficult for them to accept this decision. First, teaching materials were unavailable in Arabic. The teachers had to translate material from the Hebrew databases. Beyond the technical problem, there was a problem of coercion – why is the narrative of the Jewish people imposed on the Arab students, while the Palestinian narrative is absent from the Jewish school system? This is a trend of exclusion.

Today, the Arab sector teaches the Holocaust within the subject of history, and a compulsory question worth 24 points appears on the matriculation exam. The Nakba [Arabic term meaning a�?catastrophe,a�? a�� the Palestinian experience in the 1948 war] isna��t taught in the Jewish education system. Teaching students about the Holocaust is both possible and worthy. Learning the narrative of the a�?othera�? can create affinity, if done on equal and inclusive ground.

Thabet Abu Rass

What is a mixed city? Jerusalem is not mixed but divided. We cana��t ignore the Muezzin law today [forbidding the use of amplified sound in the call to prayer]. Good-will makes it easier to solve problems, but this law only deepens the rift. The main divide in this country is along national lines, the Arab-Jewish divide. At Abraham Fund Initiatives, we noticed that language is a fundamental issue. Knowing the other should begin with knowing their language and culture. Our model is to send Arab teachers to teach Arabic in Jewish schools, and Jewish teachers to teach Hebrew in Arab schools.

Arab teachers teach in more than 200 Jewish schools across the country. The Henrietta Szold Institute tested the model and found that two-thirds of the principals feel the Arab teachers have integrated to a great or very great extent. In all, 91% of the principals were satisfied with the program and recommended it be implemented in other schools. The Arab teachers reported they understand Jews better as a result of their integration in Jewish schools. Jewish teachers teach in about 40 Arab schools. This program started last year, and has been a success. It is complicated and not easy, mainly because of the political reality. But along with the complexity there is a strong desire to know the a�?other.a�? There is a trend today to learn Arabic. It is heartwarming.

Arabs are familiar with Jewish culture; I know what Hora and a Yemenite step are [traditional dances]. But the Arab sector distances itself from Israeli [Hebrew] media and consumes mostly media in Arabic. This has weakened the knowledge of Hebrew among the Arab population, and has become one of the obstacles for the integration of Arab youth in the work force. Jews do not speak or understand Arabic, which becomes a barrier for knowing Arab culture.

The public spheres are shared and we need to reduce prejudices within them. A shared society is important. We are committed to it beyond the matter of language. It is important to make all students welcome on university and college campuses. For example, half the student body at the Western Galilee College are Arab, but there isna��t a single sign in Arabic throughout the campus. There are only two positions for Arab lecturers. The graduation ceremony took place during Ramadan.

There is no substitute for on-going dialogue. This is a shared homeland. We are here. We should talk continuously, without shying away from the difficult issues. You must understand the Nakba. Coercion doesna��t help and separation is only based on fear. Today, there is a heightened discourse of intimidation. Instead, it is worthwhile trying to know the a�?othera�? and putting real effort into this endeavor.

Uki Maroshek Klarman

I would like to recommend a film. a�?Dove’s Crya�? is about an Arab teacher in a Jewish school.

Shlomo Fischer

a�?Yesodota�? [Foundations] was established 21 years ago and today works mostly with the [Jewish] religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors. We run a few programs dedicated to multiculturalism and getting to know the a�?other.a�? Our programs take place within civic studies, at five elitist national-ultra-orthodox schools in the city. It is hard for them to accept the a�?othera�? and we aim to expand their capacity to do so. We are aware that the most significant a�?othera�? is the Palestinian sector.

To broadly generalize, the public we work with thinks in essentialist concepts. The state is Jewish, and thus reality is derived from this definition and not the other way around. Non-Jewish populations are noise. We want to change this perception and ask them to look at reality as it exists. I want to address the broader international context. The backlash against multiculturalism is very strong today. In the United States and in Europe there is a discourse of cultural dispossession. Identity grounded in space is important. Strengthening self-identity is a guarantee for good neighborly relations. Here, where we live, different groups need to live together.

These are populations with distinct differences. My preferences are different from yours and my method is different from yours. If I like chocolate and he likes strawberries a�� this is not a profound difference. We both agree on the method of personal taste. This is multicultural liberal consumerism. Yet if my culinary preferences are based on a divine dictate and yours on personal taste a�� it becomes a profound difference. In such a case, for better or for worse, what is at stake is more meaningful. I see the relationship between identity and state power as the key to the dilemma between identity and co-existence.

Uki Maroshek Klarman

The Adam Institute runs programs that promote democracy and peace. The institute was established because Israeli democracy is so fragile.

As a teacher, I want to relate to the class as a group. But the typical school does not deal with integration, but rather is forced to deal with different cultures and nationalities. For example, at the Alin and Hadassah Ein Kerem hospitals, there are schools that serve children who are hospitalized for long periods of time. All segments of Israeli society are represented, obviously not out of choice. The circumstances create a daily shared existence. These are Jewish schools in which Christians and Muslims enroll. The schools perceive themselves as Jewish public schools with Muslim and Christian students. Schools for at-risk children also enroll diverse populations.

In addition to systemic questions, pedagogical questions also arise: what does equal pedagogy look like? For example, teaching WWII history from a universal perspective, presenting a broad picture, alongside the narratives connecting each group to the historic event. The experiences of war were shared by many people, yet the specific narratives differ. Diversity is protected through equality. Universality can contain disparate narratives.

At the Alin hospital, we marked Holocaust Memorial Day by lighting six candles for the murdered Jews, and an additional candle was dedicated to Muslim Righteous Among the Nations. The Arab narrative was included in the Jewish narrative as a bonding element. Exclusive pedagogy produces at-risk children. Civil, politic and therapeutic elements should be integrated.

Question from the Audience

Language has been mentioned as both a bridge and a barrier. Is anyone promoting compulsory study of Hebrew in Arab schools and of Arabic in Jewish schools?

Thabet Abu Rass

Hebrew is a compulsory subject in all Arab schools. There is much discourse about the importance of studying the Arabic language in Jewish schools, but it remains theoretical. Arabic is perceived as the language of the enemy.

Asfahan Bahaloul

I was educated in Jewish schools. My parents thought this was how to best integrate into Israeli society. I believe in mixed and bi-lingual schools that enable genuine integration.

Question from the Audience

The Hand in Hand [bi-lingual] school network is a blessed and successful initiative. However, the children who enroll come from families who already value integration. How do you reach those who are unaware?

Thabet Abu Rass

Not many Jews want to study at the Hand in Hand schools. But new schools are opening. It is a challenge. I think the Ministry of Education should take initiative and support these schools. This is a political decision as well.

Shlomo Fischer

There are Arab children in Jewish schools, but the differences in political standing are not being reduced or eliminated.

Question from the Audience

Does emphasizing the Jewish-Arab schism hurt the complexity of multi-culturalism?

Shlomo Fischer

Most of our programs focus on different segments of society. Reality tends to emphasize the national schism.

Thabet Abu Rass

The national schism takes the fore, because of the deep inequality.

Uki Maroshek Klarman

We have our work cut out for us. Throughout this conference, members of different groups will present, discuss, and lecture.