Tonight I saw a fine documentary about a bicultural school in Kafr Qara, near Haifa. It an attempt to educate young Palestinian Israelis and Jews about each other, and other campuses in the Hand-in Hand Network have opened up in the country, least of all because of the substantial funding that the project has received from abroad.
The film pulls no punches in recording some of the contradictions and uncertainties that arise: how to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s religious holidays, which seems particularly problematic for the secular Jews whose children attend the school; how to acknowledge Israel Independence Day AND the Palestinian Naqba (the anniversary of the disaster), or the stereotypes which exist about each other, even amongst small children. Particularly striking is the statement from several Jewish children that Arabs will grow up as terrorists. Furthermore, we see how one Palestinian Israeli family is prevented from visiting relatives in Tul Karm on the west bank–again, highlighting the tensions for all in the school.
What’s striking from the film (and what we know from experience) is that Israel doesn’t have a bi-national culture that can treat both communities equally: and until some tortuous path towards multiculturalism and reconciliationis undertaken, the divisions will occur (above and beyond anything to do with a resolution of current violent conflict or questions of the occupation or compensation). Thus, the kids in the school–and the teachers, are beset by difficult moral questions that are not always comfortable. But perhaps from this experience, some young people will wish their country, and act in new ways for innovation.
Futhermore, the school’s philosophy flies in the face of the separate school systems, whether for orthodox children, secular children, or the deprived Arab educational sector, and it can be seen as indulgent middle-class privilege. But this should not be used to detract that at least some Israelis, Jews and Arabs, are trying to resolve the identity conumdrum through education.