Israeli Public Policy
Individuals and nongovernmental organizations can promote
coexistence; however, to establish this goal as one of national
importance, it is necessary to have the backing of the government.
Symbolically, the government can demonstrate its commitment to
the objective and, practically, it can contribute resources toward
its achievement. The Israeli government has to a far greater extent
than the United States made the promotion of education for
coexistence a priority. The Ministry of Education established a Unit for
Education for Democracy and Coexistence specifically to provide
training for teachers and administrators; support educational
programs; develop curricula and work with nongovernmental
organizations to incorporate their programs in the schools.
Unit for Education for Democracy and Coexistence
Dr. Shaul Paz
Ministry of Education
Unit for Education for Democracy and Coexistence
2 Devora Hanivia St.
Tel. 2-293-215/7, Fax. 2-293-875
To promote education for democracy, tolerance and
coexistence at a time when youth from different sectors in Israeli societies
were becoming increasingly radicalized.
Students from preschool to high school and teachers.
Program and Activities:
The Department of Education for Democracy and
Coexistence was established in the Ministry of Education and Culture in
1986. The idea for the Department was predicated on the assumption
that formal and informal education activities have the power to
combat existing stereotypes and preconceptions and to develop
tolerant behavioral patterns, which center around accepting differences
and acknowledging that all people are equally important.
The Department focuses on subject matter taken from the
principles of society and democratic rule. The Department
introduces curricula and instructional programs that encourage both
teachers and students to debate and analyze highly controversial issues,
while working to improve their skills in oral expression and stressing
the importance of verbal civility.
The Department encourages the students to take an active
role in the community, the school and the government, viewing this
as a fundamental component of the democratic way of life. The
Department offers system-wide programs: preschool,
elementary school, high school and teacher seminars. The Department
also provides consultation and funding to voluntary institutions
and organizations that are promote education for democracy.
The Department's main areas of focus are:
1. Education for life in a democratic society education for
tolerance, for accepting differences, for awareness that all people
are equally important and for socio-political involvement.
2. Education for life in a multicultural society, with emphasis
on promoting the relationship between Israel's Arab and Jewish citizens.
3. Education for democracy for students who immigrated
from countries that have no democratic political culture.
4. Educational involvement in current events, providing the
teachers with the tools to better deal with controversial political,
cultural and value-oriented issues.
5. Familiarizing teachers and students with Israeli democracy.
6. Instituting democratic processes in educational institutions
and the educational system.
7. Education toward peace.
To accomplish these objectives, the Department sponsors
joint study days and workshops for Jewish and Arab teachers who
wish to explore Arab-Jewish relations and other current events.
Conventions and in-service training sessions for teachers and principals
from different sectors are also conducted. Participants discuss relevant
social and educational issues, become acquainted with available
programs pertinent to the Department's work and learn about
relevant curricula. The Department provides in-service training for
teachers in several specific subjects:
Education for life in a democratic society.
Discussing current events in the classroom.
Ways to handle controversial value-oriented topics.
Jewish-Arab coexistence, Jewish-Israeli identity, Arab-Israeli identity.
Ways to make school more democratic, methods to
encourage involvement and participation in school.
The Department works jointly with voluntary organizations
and other institutions in arranging in-service training for teachers
and principals. Examples include:
"Traveling Seminar" This two-day seminar for Arab and
Jewish principals and supervisors who work in the same district is
held in conjunction with the Information Center. The program is
designed to explore current events and to give participants an
opportunity to become better acquainted.
Understanding the Peace Process In conjunctions with the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, members of the Ministry's
Information Bureau discuss the peace process during meetings with high
school teachers and students and at principal/teacher conventions.
Teachers Workshops In cooperation with Givat Haviva
(see pg. 35), these workshops present the subject of education for
life in a democratic society to Arab teachers.
In-Service Training for teachers of new immigrant students
Teachers are exposed to the tools to deal with questions of
democracy and tolerance raised by immigrant students who come
from countries with no democratic political culture.
Children Teaching Children This pilot program is run in
conjunction with Givat Haviva (see pg. 35). It brings together
Jewish and Arab elementary and junior high students and teachers,
so they can become acquainted and engage in shared study of a
subject. This program takes place during regular school hours
over the school year.
Young Archaeologists/Young Painters/Young Sculptors
This year-long program offers Jewish and Arab students
regularly scheduled courses where they can work together in
archaeology or the arts.
Language Studies Jewish and Arab high school students
study together for their oral matriculation examination in English.
During a weekly meeting, they choose topics and prepare them
Democracy for new immigrant students This program is
designed for high school age immigrants. Jerusalem becomes a
living classroom where students study democracy and tolerance,
and become familiar with Israeli society and culture. Participants
visit institutions that symbolize democracy the Knesset,
the President's house, the Supreme Court and take part in
workshops and social activities. Both new immigrants and veteran
Israelis participate in some of the workshops to cement the
ties between them.
"The Young Legislator" The objective of this program is to
make the legislative process more accessible to students and
teachers. The students take part in deliberations of the Knesset
Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Later, in school, they study
the proceedings and draft laws and articles that were discussed
during the year in the Knesset.
Study Center in The Knesset The Knesset, in conjunction
with the Department of Education for Democracy, established an
instructional unit for teachers and students to better acquaint
them with Israeli democracy. Participants attend study workshops
at the Knesset, students observe meetings of special committees,
the plenum and the presidium and meet with Members of
Knesset. Before and during the visit, the participants are given
background information that describes and highlights the Knesset's work.
"Children of Peace" Jewish and Arab students meet
regularly to study drama. Their final project is a play, which generally
explores the conflict between the two groups, including
Joint workshops A joint drama class for Jewish and Arab
elementary school students.
Acre Festival During the Acre drama festival, Jewish and
Arab high school students from Acre and its environs attend joint
theater arts workshops and stage a joint production.
The Ministry of Education and Culture and other
organizations have developed and published different curricula adapted to
every age level. Samples include:
"We and Our Neighbors" Curriculum for grades three and
four (in Hebrew and Arabic) designed to acquaint children in ethnically mixed neighborhoods with their neighbors. This
program is part of the geography and Israel Studies curriculum and is
integrated within the unit on "My Community."
"Jews and Arabs in Israel" Curriculum for grades five and
six, integrated within the unit on the northern region of Israel.
"Arab Citizens of Israel" Curriculum for secondary school
students. The course textbook is part of the required curriculum
for the matriculation examination in citizenship in Israeli
"Families in Israel" Curriculum for grades eight and nine,
which explore the complexity of Israeli society. This program uses
six anthropological monographs of the lifestyle of six different
families in Israel, based on anthropologist Dani Rabinowitz's
Twelve Families. Along with the family stories, the teacher receives
lesson plans devoted to stereotypes and preconceptions,
tolerance, cultural differences, etc.
"All Rights Reserved" An activity and games kit for junior
The Ministry provides an example of how a governmental
body can contribute to introducing coexistence projects into the schools.
The Ministry also plays a role in developing curricula and
Ministry-sponsored study days and workshops for teachers
from different schools and backgrounds offer opportunities for
promoting coexistence on the professional level and reinforcing
The Ministry provides a model for public, nonprofit and
private sector cooperation in integrating coexistence and democracy
curricula and projects in the schools.
Opportunities for Cooperation:
Many Israeli ministries have cooperative agreements with
counterparts in the United States. One agreement that has expired,
and that Israel would like to renew, is a Memorandum of
Understanding in Education with the U.S. Department of Education.
Cooperation in education for democracy and coexistence could be
part of this agreement.
The Israeli government is also typically open to cooperation
with state and local officials and contacts could be established
through the various state-to-state agreements.
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