As a parent who raised three children in Jerusalem, I insisted that they engage in some type of interreligious or Israeli-Palestinian dialogue initiative before they graduated from High School. Had I not placed such a condition, my children would have had no contact with the ‘other’ before starting their adult lives. Unfortunately, this is the reality for most Israeli, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian children in our context. They simply do not have any contact with people who are different from them. The system is built to maintain this separation.
It is for this reason that at the Rossing Center we encourage and train teachers to facilitate meetings between ethnically and religiously different schools. Our Dialogue and Identity program, which worked in 38 schools this year, is designed to disrupt the matrix of separation. An effort that we need to communicate to more and more individuals and communities.
To increase the visibility of our vision and work, together with our partner in this program, the Tali Education Fund, we organised an event for all of the students and educators who participated in our program. We brought together 1,200 students and over 115 educators, along with the program staff, to partake in a singing event called Sabbah al-Shir (‘Morning Song’ in Arabic and Hebrew). We commissioned a song titled ‘Seeing Eye to Eye’ in both Hebrew and Arabic that promotes respect and inclusion of the ‘other’. It was a magnificent and unique event, especially because it was during political tension, violence, and the normalisation of hate.
We hope the video of the event (see above) will inspire others in our context and around the world to sincerely pursue respect, inclusion, peace, and equality for all. Values that all children should encounter through meeting the ‘other’ at an early age. Life transforming lessons that I am glad my children learned, and that I hope the several thousand students who have participated in our program over the last 15 years, have learned too.
We are deeply grateful to the EU who co-funds this program.
Dr. Sarah Bernstein