An educational response to the recent inter-community violence in Israel
May was a very difficult month here in Israel. Not only was there a 10-day military operation in Gaza, with Hamas firing near-constant rockets into Israel, but also inter-community riots took over the streets of many of our cities, with extremists attacking people, cars and buses, and setting fire to homes and businesses. The escalation of violence was disturbing and traumatizing, and shook the entire country.
The youth movement associated with Dror Israel, Hanoar Haoved, made sure to reach out to all youth and children participants during the violence to make sure they were safe, and also to send a message against violence and racism and promoting calm.
“It was a very difficult time,” Eitan Goldstein, a youth counselor in the mixed city of Akko tells us, “One participant was barricaded in her school to stay away from the rioters. Both Arab and Jewish kids were not sleeping well from the noise and the smoke, and rocks being thrown at their homes.”
Now that the riots are over, the youth movement is taking on the task of picking up the pieces and restoring the trust that was broken between Jews and Arabs in Israel, as well as providing an important safe space for the kids to share and process their feelings.
The counselors and coordinators in the mixed cities of Akko, Haifa, Jerusalem, Lod, Jaffa, and Ramleh – which were particularly hard-hit by the riots – got together to develop and introduce a new educational program to help address the recent events. The lesson plans were then quickly distributed to youth counselors and school teachers throughout the cities. Not only were the booklets sent out, but the developers of the curriculum offered to meet with any teachers who needed to talk it through and decide how to approach the topic with their specific students.
“We had teachers at the Aliyah Hashniah School in Akko telling us that they felt that all the content they were teaching felt irrelevant... why teach about history when crazy things are happening all around them?” Goldstein told us.
There has been a very positive response to the new program where it has been introduced so far. “Teachers report to us that they’re receiving a lot of educational content about the conflict from different sources, but no one is actually sitting with them and talking to them about their school, their students, and their particular needs.” said Goldstein. “Us taking the time to talk things through with them really made the difference and I hope that students who experienced this painful time will be able to process it properly with their educators and peers, and come out strongly against violence and extremism, and committed to shared society.”