In an effort to create a more culturally integrated and harmonious Israel many grassroots activists are focusing on the development and promotion of integrated learning for Israeli Jewish and Israeli Arab children. The Israeli Education system suffers from a lack of awareness over the affects of their language policies. While Arabic is elective in most Israeli schools, it is treated at best as a second language and the majority of courses are taught in Hebrew, inherently creating educational disadvantages for Arabic children. It creates a segregated education system that forces Arabic speaking children to seek alternate sources of education while their Jewish compatriots can continue in their Hebrew classrooms.
School is where children begin to develop an awareness of societal norms and values. Given the difficulties facing the current generation of Israeli political leaders, should we not desire a more equal and just beginning for the next generation? Education reform is obviously not the cure all for Israel’s societal woes but it is a solid first step towards correcting the injustices of the past. There are many grassroots organizations and activists that are working towards this goal with a multitude of different methodologies and practices.
Many organizations focus on ensuring that all children are afforded the maximum benefit allowed under the law and provide education on the law and support to families who have been left behind by the system. Additionally, there are institutions and people who work to try to change the law, those who engage in attempts at top down reform. Both of these forms of social activism are extremely valuable and contribute to the betterment of Israel’s education system. However, there is a new third brand of educational reform that is in its very initial stages.
There has begun a movement to develop educational options for those families seeking a more culturally and religiously balanced education for their children. Rather than wait for the law to demand such forms of education, these visionary educators have moved forward with little or no governmental support to develop these programs. A prime example of this is the Ein Bustan Arab Jewish Waldorf School, a program that Music in the Key of Peace has partnered with. The educators at Ein Bustan “share a vision of a society in which Jews and Arabs live together peacefully in equality and understanding. In order to create this reality, we believe that there must be education that fosters true friendship, trust and shared culture and language. An educational system that separates children by their religion and nationality fails to take into consideration the widening gap between the two communities, which will take years to bridge and generations to mend. “ Through the education of children, Ein Bustan hopes to build relationships between disparate parties in its community in an attempt to begin small scale coalition building with the view of promoting a larger peace. This is an education model that can be replicated across Israel and, in its limited tenure, has shown remarkable success.
The expansion of this education philosophy would became far easier with increased support from the education ministry who has so far been unwilling to support innovative education techniques. The Education Ministry needs to place an emphasis on correcting this issue, if Israel continues to segregate youth through its education practices, little hope can be placed in the creation of a more just and equitable society in the future free of the perceived racial biases that plague Israeli institutions in the present.