The recognition, implementation and enforcement of
the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness codified in
the U.S. Constitution are necessary but not sufficient for coexistence.
Despite all the work that has been done, and is being done to resolve
conflicts in the United States, tensions, intolerance and violence persist.
It is possible to resolve disputes, sometimes before they escalate into
violence, sometimes only after hostilities, but the ideal is to create
a tolerant society where conflict does not exist, or at least does not
intensify to the point of violence. This should remain our goal and our
dream, but, realistically, the next best solution is a community where
everyone coexists. The Abraham Fund notes that Coexistence is the
minimal, least demanding way for people to relate to one another positively.
It is not the same thing as love. It may not even be the same thing as
friendship. To the contrary, it is an expression of distance, and an acknowledgment
that boundaries will remain, that the possibilities of misunderstanding
will never completely disappear.
Israel has no magic solutions for eliminating conflict; however, Israelis
have their own long, painful experience with similar problems and have
developed innovative approaches to promote coexistence. Most of the projects
focus on relations between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel; however,
similar approaches have also been applied to relations between secular
and religious Jews and immigrants and veteran Israelis. In
addition, several organizations have already adapted their programs to
address conflicts in places such as Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia.
The Israeli programs offer potential models for Americans interested in
Coexistence is not just an ideal pursued by utopian organizations; it
is a public policy goal advanced by the government. The Ministry of Education
has a division with the specific purpose of promoting education for democracy,
tolerance and coexistence that could share its experience with the U.S.
Department of Education through a Memorandum of Understanding in education.
Israeli programs reflect three different philosophies for promoting
coexistence. One school of thought, the encounter approach,
holds that the key to understanding is bringing Arabs and Jews together
for relatively short, intense encounters and forcing them to confront their
prejudices and the issues at the root of the conflict. Five such programs
are described in the study. A competing philosophy is the experiential
approach, which holds that you can't talk about coexistence, you
have to practice it. This school's approach is to bring Jews and Arabs
together over a long period of time and to concentrate on joint activities
of mutual interest. The study includes 12 experiential programs. The third
philosophy emphasizes the importance of teaching the principles of democracy
as a means of fostering tolerance. Two such programs are described here.
The three approaches are used with Israelis and Arabs of all ages, but
are applied in a variety of settings. Programs detailed in the study include:
- Programs where people participate in activities of mutual interest
like archaeology, photography, language and culture (Ein Dor Museum of
Archaeology, Leo Baeck Education Center, Beit Shmuel, Beit Hagefen, Centre
for Creativity in Education and Cultural Heritage).
- In-school programs and curricula to teach coexistence and democracy
(Givat Haviva, Pelech, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, Adam Institute, Hebrew
University, International YMCA).
- Projects to build a sense of community through joint activities (SHEMESH,
Beit Hagefen, Leo Baeck Education Center).
- Community service projects (Re'ut Sadaka, Interns for Peace).
- Leadership development programs (International YMCA, Beit Hagefen).
- After school programs (Beit Hagefen, Re'ut Sadaka, Friendship's Way).
- Adult programs (Beit Shmuel, Beit Hagefen, SHEMESH).
- A summer camp (Leo Baeck Education Center).
- A program for at-risk youth (Friendship's Way).
- Training programs for teachers and mental health professionals (David
Yellin Teachers College, Carmel Institute, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam).
- Programs to reduce intolerance of newcomers and ease immigrant absorption
(Joint Distribution Committee).
- The importance of recognizing language differences.
- Coexistence can be an unstated goal.
- Programs should be held at neutral sites.
- Teachers and administrators must support projects run in their schools.
- Preparation is needed prior to interactions.
- Parents should be involved.
- Promoting coexistence is facilitated by government support.
- Careful student selection enhances prospects for success.
- It is important for projects to be consistent and ongoing.
- Internships can contribute to individual and community coexistence.
Americans can learn lessons from all three Israeli approaches. The techniques
developed in Israeli encounters could easily be adapted for
use in the United States. Similarly, the experiential programs
could be applied by copying the Israeli models or using them as examples
of creative ways to bring groups in conflict together for relatively long
periods of joint activities. Americans, who often take democratic principles
for granted, can also learn from Israel's approach to teaching these principles,
especially to immigrants who come from undemocratic nations.
Much of what Israel has to offer is training for teachers who are interested
in learning proven techniques and strategies for promoting coexistence
and preventing, resolving, or, at least, minimizing conflict. The programs
documented in the report are applicable to conflicts between any groups
and are aimed at promoting tolerance among all.
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