Launched in early December 2014, the Min HaBe’erot Initiative for Jewish-Arab Coexistence Education asserts that engaging with one’s identity and culture can reinforce a commitment to the moral values found in these traditions, positively affect the ways in which we deal with contemporary challenges, and emphasize rather than blur unique cultural identity.
We believe that religion can inspire humanistic-values education and has the power to serve as the foundation for an egalitarian society in which members of diverse cultural and religious groups can live together harmoniously. Based on this belief, the program brings together Jewish, Muslim, and Christian high school principals to address issues related to their shared background as citizens of the State of Israel through regular study of traditional and new religious sources guided by an imam, a priest, and a rabbi. Three Jewish and Arab facilitators – Itay Yavin, Wisam Saadi, and Labiba Saliman – accompany all sessions and workshops and lead post-lecture discussion.
In April 2015, principals participating in Min HaBe’erot were hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in jerusalem. The principals shared their experiences, their plans as educators, and the challenges that they face. Welcoming the participants, President Rivlin expressed his support for the initiative. "We must continue to work to create a relationship of trust between all parts of the Israeli public, working always to reinforce the values of a democratic Jewish State," he said.
"Text study gives everyone a better knowledge of themselves," said one of the program participants. "The assemblage of different traditions creates a new picture that enables comparison of our different religions. Each of us is required to examine and criticize his or her self, culture, and religion, before criticizing others."
The Min HaBe’erot educational methodology encourages participating principals to become committed partners in cultivating Jewish-Arab coexistence within their schools. These principals will in turn engage and support the educational faculties in their schools to lead change.
Participating principals approached the program with honesty, a willingness to be reflective and self-critical when necessary, an understanding of and appreciation for text study and pedagogic methodology, and a deep commitment to the program and to translating their study into meaningful action.
Addressing the Hartman Institute board of directors Tamam Wakid-Dabbah, Principal of the Gadida Comprehensive School, said that for a long time she had given up hope that she had the power to make a difference. Her experience in the program gave her the strength and faith in herself as an educational leader to make change. The content and interaction between program participants deepened her commitment to pursue peace and encouraged her to do more to change attitudes of those around her, by bringing the three religions closer.
One of the Muslim principals participating in the program said that religion used to intimidate her, but at the same time realized that the new generation is very much influenced by religion, something she and her educational team did not know how to address.
"The program made me realize that instead of ignoring the issue, we should cope with it. The program made me understand that religion does not belong only to those who live by its law but also to a secular school principal. Studying texts brought me closer to religion," she said.
Following her participation in the program, this principal initiated school workshops with religious individuals, something she would never have dared to do before.
"The leadership team envisions that the entire educational faculty in participating schools will eventually work to transform coexistence education into a meaningful part of the curriculum and school culture", said Itay Yavin, Program Director. "This in turn will lead to a commitment to creating a unified Israeli citizenship."
In 2015-2016, Min HaBe’erot will offer a second year of training to the current cohort of principals. Each of the principals will bring one to two members of his or her educational staff to Be’eri training. These teachers, who have the support of their school administration, will participate in yearlong Min HaBe’erot training.
The teachers will undergo a personal and professional process wherein they gain crucial knowledge of relevant texts, better understanding their relationship to their own heritage and that of the "other," and work together to develop methodologies for transmitting these lessons among faculty and in the classroom. By training principals and their staff, Be’eri is creating a coalition that will lead the process of coexistence education in schools.
As schools begin implementing this process in fall 2016, Min HaBe’erot will open additional principals and teachers cohorts, expanding the number of schools reached by the Min HaBe’erot program.
Once a strong leadership that includes Ministry of Education support, principals, and teachers has been created, Be’eri will work with the entire educational faculty in partner schools, to transform coexistence education into a meaningful part of the curriculum and the school culture, building the infrastructure to support a conversation focused on building coexistence in Israeli society.