ركوب حافلة المدرسة معاً في القدس

 
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بوجود تفاعل محدود بين الإسرائيليين والفلسطينيين كيف يمكننا منع الأصوات المتطرّفة من الكلام
بلغ انعدام الثقة بين الإسرائيليين والفلسطينيين درجة أن كل تصرّف تقريباً من قبل الطرف الآخر يُنظَر إليه عبر منشور الشك والريبة. خذ على سبيل المثال خط قطار القدس الخفيف. عندما يبدأ هذا القطار عمله قريباً، سوف يصل غرب المدينة اليهودي مع شرقها الفلسطيني.

ينظر العديد من الفلسطينيين، الذين ينتابهم القلق حول التوسع الاستيطاني الإسرائيلي المستمر، إلى القطار الجديد على أنه جزء من خطة إسرائيلية لإحكام القبضة على مدينة القدس بأكملها، وليس كخدمة نقل مفيدة. بالنسبة للعديد من الإسرائيليين، فإن فكرة مشاركة الفلسطينيين كركّاب هي احتمال يثير الخوف والبغضاء.

ويعود ذلك جزئياً إلى أنه بوجود اتصال شخصي محدد بين الجانبين، فإن أصوات المتطرفين هي الأعلى. ويعتبر تجنب الوصول إلى هذا الوضع النهائي من انعدام الثقة رحلة طويلة يجب أن تبدأ مبكراً بقدر الإمكان في الحياة. قد يكون إقناع الإسرائيليين والفلسطينيين أن يصبحوا زملاء في ركوب الحافلة المدرسية، على سبيل المثال، واحداً من أكبر التحديات التي تواجه هؤلاء الذين يسعون لتحقيق مستقبل من التعايش المشترك.

تهدف شبكة “يداً بيد” التعليمية الثنائية اللغة إلى توفير فرصة كهذه بالضبط. تتكون الشبكة التي تأسست عام 1997 من قبل عامل اجتماعي إسرائيلي أمريكي، هو لي غوردون ومعلم فلسطيني إسرائيلي هو أمين خلف، من أربع مدارس يستطيع فيها اليهود والفلسطينيون الإسرائيليون الدراسة معاً باللغتين العربية والعبرية. وتقع أكبر المدارس، والتي تضم 500 تلميذ في مدينة القدس.

تمشّياً مع هدف المدرسة بتشجيع المساواة التامة بين العرب واليهود، لا يعرف التلاميذ أحياناً بل لا يهمهم عرقية زملائهم في المدرسة. “لا ينظر التلاميذ في المدرسة إلى بعضهم بعضاً كيهود أو عرب، بل يستخدمون معايير خاصة بهم” يشرح أيرا كيريم العامل الاجتماعي الأمريكي، ودليلي هذا اليوم. “الأمور التي تهمهم هي أمور مثل: هل هذا الشخص مادة لصديق جيد، هل هذا التلميذ جيد المعشر، هل يجيد لعبة كرة القدم؟”

“نتعلم أن نحب الناس لشخصيتهم وليس للمكان الذي يأتون منه أو لدينهم.” تقول روث، وهي تلميذة يهودية.

رغم ذلك، ورغم أفضل جهود المدرسة فإن عدم المساواة يزحف إلى المعادلة. نظرياً يجب أن يضمن توجيه المدرسة ثنائي اللغة أن يصبح جميع الطلبة على كفاءة متساوية في العبرية والعربية، تشرح إيناس ديب، المسؤولة عن البرامج التعليمية في المدرسة.

“إلا أن التلاميذ العرب بشكل عام يتكلمون العبرية بصورة أفضل مما يتكلّم التلاميذ اليهود اللغة العربية”، تقول السيدة ديب. “العبرية هي اللغة السائدة … يتكلم التلاميذ العرب العبرية خارج المدرسة، بعكس معظم التلاميذ اليهود ]الذين لا يتكلمون العربية[“.

رغم هذه الفروقات اللغوية، التي تعمل المدرسة وأهالي الطلبة على التعامل معها، يؤكد التلاميذ على الشعور العام بالمساواة والثقة. “لا توجد فروقات هنا بين التلاميذ اليهود والفلسطينيين. بعكس الوضع خارج المدرسة، نشعر هنا بالمساواة” يوافق مؤيد وجوهان، وهما مراهقان فلسطينيان يدرسان في المدرسة.

ولكن واقع المدينة المقسّمة ليس بعيداً أبداً عن بوابات المدرسة. عندما أصرّيت على سؤال التلميذين الصغيرين عما إذا كانا يتفاعلان اجتماعياً مع أصدقائهم اليهود، أجابا بالإيجاب، ولكنهما أشارا إلى أن الجيران اليهود والفلسطينيين ليسوا دائماً متسامحين ومتفهّمين.

تفعل مدرسة “يداً بيد” كما يشير اسمها، ما بوسعها لتشجيع الحوار الصادق والاحترام المتبادل بين التلاميذ والأهالي على حد سواء، يقول كيريم، “ندرّس أن سفك الدماء لن يحل النزاع أو يحقق السلام”، تضيف السيدة ديب.

ورغم أن ذلك يدعو إلى الثناء، فإن السؤال حول الفرق الذي حققه بضعة ألاف من الأطفال درسوا “يداً بيد” وغيرها من المدارس المماثلة هو سؤال مثير للمشاعر. “ليست لدينا مشاعر زائفة بأن هذه المدرسة سوف تحقق السلام بين الإسرائيليين والفلسطينيين” يعترف أحد الآباء اليهود الإسرائيليين لي. “ولكن يتوجب عليك أن تفعل شيئاً، وكل شيء مهما كان صغيراً يحقق فرقاً. ويتوجب عليك أن تبدأ بنفسك”.

“توفر هذه المدرسة بصيصاً من الأمل للمستقبل، ولأجل أطفالنا، نحتاج لأن نوفر لهم كل قدر ممكن من الأمل”، أضافت صديقته الحميمة، وهي أم فلسطينية.

ولكن حتى يتسنى الإبقاء على هذا الأمل منيراً، وربما المساعدة على زيادة جذوة اشتعاله فإننا نحتاج للدعم. تعتمد “يداً بيد” في ثلث تمويلها على الأقل على التبرعات الدولية الخاصة، التي تأثرت كثيراً بالتباطؤ الاقتصادي. إذا فشلت في الحصول على المزيد من الأموال فقد تضطر للحد من نشاطاتها.

رأي كاتب هذا المقال أن “يداً بيد” لا تستحق المساعدة فحسب، ولكن هذا النوع من التعليم ثنائي اللغة يجب أن يتوفّر بشكل عالمي أكثر حتى يتسنى مساعدة الأجيال المقبلة على تعلّم العيش معاً.

 
This article was first published by the Common Ground News Service on 26 July 2011.
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Can peace be as simple as child’s play?

 
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 By Khaled Diab

Palestinian and Israeli children are victims of the conflict they have inherited. So can joint schools help them learn to live together?

Sunday 7 August 2011

Palestinian and Israeli children are born into a protracted and bitter conflict and conflict is the ‘normal’ backdrop to their childhoods, which can have serious long-term psychological and emotional repercussions.

In terms of the future, perhaps the most worrying aspect of childhood here is that animosity is almost a birthright, a jealously guarded heritage that is handed down from one generation to the next, perpetuating the hatred, distrust and fear that fuel the conflict.

One way of breaking this intergenerational cycle of hostility is through joint education, where Israeli and Palestinian children study together as peers rather than foes. This is just what the Hand in Hand network of bilingual schools seeks to do.

Set up in 1997 by an Israeli-American social worker, Lee Gordon, and a Palestinian-Israeli teacher, Amin Khalaf, the Hand in Hand network is currently made up of four schools. The largest school, with some 500 pupils, is in Jerusalem.

A few days before I went to the state-of-the-art $11-million Jerusalem campus, the Colombian pop star Shakira, who is of part-Lebanese heritage, also visited the school in her capacity as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, much to the delight of the school kids.

Lacking her talent and celebrity, the buzz of excitement and the frenzied commotion surrounding me had nothing to do with my presence but were what you’d expect from hundreds of youngsters counting down the long hours to their summertime freedom on the last day of term. The key difference was that the kids in question were speaking an organic mix of Hebrew and Arabic.

Given that Arabs and Israelis tend to believe they come from different planets, one thing that immediately strikes you is how similar all the pupils appear, and how hard it is, without language and dress as a guide, to tell them apart.

And the children themselves, especially the younger ones, often can’t tell one another apart or don’t care to. “The children at the school don’t look at each other as ‘Jews’ and ‘Arabs’, they use their own criteria,” explains Ira Kerem, an American-Israeli social worker who works for the charity running the schools and my guide for the day. “What they’re interested in are things like is this person good friend material, is this kid cool, how good is he at football?”

And this was confirmed to me by some of the pupils we came across in the
corridors. “There’s no difference here between the Jewish kids and the Palestinian kids. Unlike outside the school, here we feel equal,” agreed Mu’eed and Jouhan, two Palestinian teenagers studying at the school.

But the reality of the divided city remains just outside the school gates. When I probed the youngsters about whether they socialised with their Jewish friends, both answered in the affirmative, but noted that Jewish and Palestinian neighbours were not always as tolerant and understanding.

In addition, the conflict is never far away, especially at times of heightened tension. “During the Gaza war, we had some very heated arguments with our Jewish classmates, but we didn’t let it get in the way of our friendships,” describe Mu’eed.

Hand in Hand promotes honest and mutually respectful dialogue among pupils and parents alike. It also gives equal time and attention to both Israeli and Palestinian narratives and tries to strike a balance between them, perhaps in the hope of helping create a new, more inclusive history.

This contrasts strongly with the experiences of Palestinian-Israelis who grew up with the official Israeli state curriculum. “Palestine’s history was a missing link in our history lessons,” observed Hatem Mater, a father at the Jerusalem school, in a special book profiling the parents of Hand in Hand’s pupils. “I want my children to know the Palestinian story and the Israeli story. I want them to know the truth.”

Although this is commendable, how much difference can Hand in Hand and other schools like it really make in such an apparently intractable situation. Kerem explains that the schools role is not to resolve the conflict but, in a context where Palestinians and Israelis who live or work together are seen as collaborators or traitors, to show that coexistence is possible.  This motivation is similar to the one that drove the Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli families of Neve Shalom/Wahat el-Salam (Peace Oasis) to settle together for the past four decades.

“We have no illusions that this school will bring about peace between Israelis and
Palestinians,” one Israeli-Jewish father admitted to me. “But you have to do something and every little bit counts – change comes in drips. And you have to start with yourself.”

And this gradual change can be viewed in the shifting attitudes of the parents
themselves. “My association with Arab parents at the school has had a great effect on me,” writes Sigalit Ur, a Jewish mother at the school who defines herself as Orthodox, which shows that, despite stereotypes, it is not just secular, leftist Jews who are for peace and coexistence. “Once I used to take for granted that singing patriotic songs on national holidays was the right thing to do. Now I am more aware of the problematic nature of those songs.”

“This school offers a glimmer of hope for the future, and for the sake of our children, we need to provide them with every bit of hope we can,” a Palestinian mother told me.

Sadly, with Hand in Hand and other bilingual schools struggling to survive, even this glimmer risks being snuffed out. And if broader action to resolve the conflict is not taken, and if tolerance and coexistence are not taught across the board, then the enlightened voices of these youngsters may be drowned out by the overwhelming currents of hatred around them.

This article first appeared in The National on 29 July 2011.

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Riding the school bus together in Jerusalem

 
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By Khaled Diab

Bilingual Hebrew-Arabic schooling has the potential to build bridges between Palestinians and Israelis. So why aren’t there more of them?

Arabic version

Thursday 28 July 2011

Pupils joyously evacuate the school for the summer. ©Photo:Khaled Diab

The mutual distrust between Israelis and Palestinians is such that almost every action by the other side is viewed through a prism of suspicion. Take the Jerusalem light railway. When it finally starts operating, it will connect the Jewish west of the city with the Palestinian east.

Many Palestinians, concerned over Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion, see the new tram not as a useful transportation service but as part of an Israeli plan to cement its grip on the whole of Jerusalem. For many Israelis, the idea of becoming fellow passengers with Palestinians is a prospect that elicits both fear and loathing.

This is partly because, with little personal contact between the two sides, the voices of extremists are the loudest. Avoiding an arrival at this terminal state of distrust is a long journey that should start as early as possible in life. Perhaps persuading Israelis and Palestinians to become fellow passengers on the school bus, so to speak, is one of the biggest challenges facing those who seek a future of coexistence.

The Hand in Hand bilingual education network aims to provide just such an opportunity. Founded in 1997 by an Israeli-American social worker, Lee Gordon, and a Palestinian-Israeli teacher, Amin Khalaf, the network is currently comprised of four schools where Israeli-Jews and Palestinians can study together in both Arabic and Hebrew. The largest school, with some 500 pupils, is in Jerusalem.

In line with the school’s aim of promoting complete equality between Arabs and Jews, the children often don’t know or care about the ethnicity of their schoolmates. “The children at the school don’t look at each other as ‘Jews’ and ‘Arabs’, they use their own criteria,” explains Ira Kerem, an American-Israeli social worker and my guide for the day. “What they’re interested in are things like: is this person good friend material, is this kid cool, how good is he at football?”

“We learn to love people for who they are more than where they come from or what religion they believe in,” writes Ruth, a Jewish pupil, in a letter to an American supporter.

Nevertheless, despite the school’s best efforts, inequalities do creep in. In theory, the school’s bilingual approach should ensure that all the pupils become equally proficient in Hebrew and Arabic, explains Inas Deeb, who is in charge of educational programmes at the school.

“However, Arab pupils generally speak better Hebrew than Jewish pupils speak Arabic,” says Deeb. “Hebrew is the dominant language… Arab kids speak Hebrew outside the school, unlike most of the Jewish kids [who do not speak Arabic].”

Despite these linguistic disparities, which the school and parents are working to tackle, pupils confirm the general sense of equality and trust. “There’s no difference here between the Jewish kids and the Palestinian kids. Unlike outside the school, here we feel equal,” agreed Mu’eed and Jouhan, two Palestinian teenagers studying at the school.

But the reality of the divided city is never far from the school gates. When I probed the youngsters about whether they socialised with their Jewish friends, both answered in the affirmative, but noted that Jewish and Palestinian neighbours were not always as tolerant and understanding.

As its name suggests, Hand in Hand does its best to promote honest and mutually respectful dialogue among pupils and parents alike, says Kerem. “We teach that bloodletting will not resolve the conflict or bring about peace,” adds Deeb.

Although this is commendable, the question of how much difference the few thousand children who have studied at Hand in Hand and other schools like it can make is a poignant one. “We have no illusions that this school will bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” one Israeli-Jewish father admitted to me. “But you have to do something and every little bit counts. And you have to start with yourself.”

“This school offers a glimmer of hope for the future, and for the sake of our children, we need to provide them with every bit of hope we can,” his good friend, a Palestinian mother, chimed in.

But to keep this glimmer alight and perhaps help it burn more intensely requires support. Hand in Hand depends for at least a third of its funding on international private donations, which have been hit hard by the global recession. If it fails to raise more funds, it may be forced to cut back its activities.

It is the opinion of this author that not only does Hand in Hand deserve a helping hand, but that this kind of bilingual education should become more universally available in order to help the next generations to learn to live together.

This article was first published by the Common Ground News Service on 26 July 2011.

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