Opportunities and Challenges of Integrated Education in Conflict-Ridden Societies: The Case of Palestinian-Jewish Schools in Israel
Bekerman, Zvi, Nir, Adam, Childhood Education
This article reports on a rather new and revolutionary education initiative in Israel. The information and descriptions offered are based on the results of a long-term ethnographic research effort that has been conducted since 1999 in the integrated bilingual Palestinian-Jewish schools in Israel.
The Political Context
As much as any other modern nation-state, Israel is a product of an invented tradition (Hobsbawm, 1983) and has institutionalized itself by establishing public education, organizing a standardized legal system, and developing a secular equivalent to the church (Ben-Amos & Bet-El, 1999; Gellner, 1997; Handelman, 1990).
The Palestinian-Jewish conflict started with the birth of political Zionism at the end of the 19th century and the development of Arab nationalism in response to colonialization in the Ottoman and the British Empires in the 19th and 20th centuries (Abdo & Yuval-Davis, 1995; Kelman, 1997). Since the 1920s, violence has afflicted the area, and became fiercer when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared Israel's independence in 1948 without declaring the state borders, a declaration that ensued from the UN partition decision in 1947.
The 1948 war, called the War of Independence by the Israelis and the Nakba ("The Catastrophe") by the Palestinian Arabs, was the first open military clash between the Zionist and Arab nationalist movements. Four major wars have erupted since then in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. In 1977, Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement. The intifada outbreaks in 1997 and 2000, organized in the conquered territories under the flag of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), brought about even bloodier events, which shattered the optimism for a peaceful solution that emerged after the Oslo agreements between the Israeli government and the PLO in 1993. It remains to be seen whether the Israelis' recent disengagement from the Gaza Strip will relight the path to such a solution.
The Palestinian presence in the State of Israel and the awakening of Palestinian national consciousness has thrown into question the seemingly natural construct of the Israeli nation. ("Palestinian Israelis" has, in recent years, become the preferred denomination for those who were traditionally known as Arab Israelis. This article addresses only these Palestinians and not those in the domain of the recently created Palestinian Authority.)
Being a Palestinian in Israel is no easy task. For the most part, Israel's ethnic democracy--its self-definition as a Jewish democratic state (Smooha, 1996)--has not welcomed the political, cultural, or social participation of groups outside of its legitimate, imagined, community (Anderson, 1991) of Jews. Palestinian-Israelis, although officially offered full rights as citizens, have suffered as a putatively hostile minority with little political representation and a debilitated social, economic, and educational infrastructure (Ghanem, 1998). Only recently have Israel's implemented segregationist policies towards its non Jewish minorities begun to be challenged in the courts of justice (Gavison, 2000). Although the outcomes of these separatist policies are varied, they are most visible in the fully separated residential and educational arrangements for both the Paiestinian and the Jewish communities (Rouhana, 1997). Palestinians in Israel experience Israel as a Jewish "ethnic" state, and not a democracy (Ghanem, 1998; Rouhana & Korper, 1997). From their perspective, Israel is a colonializing state that took their lands (Stasiulis & Yuval-Davis, 1995). Nonetheless, most Palestinians in Israel express their preference to remain in Israel rather than move to a Palestinian state, if one were to be established (Smooha, 1998).
The Socio-Cultural Context
Although their historical development and their cultural resources are not dichotomous, Jews and Palestinians have been constructed as such through the long history of their conflict. …