Group of children in a joint workshop

Dialogue and Identity

About the program

The “Dialogue and Identity” program enables school students to deepen their acquaintance with their religious culture and tradition (Judaism, Christianity or Islam) and to expand their knowledge of the other’s religious culture and tradition. The program aims to promote understanding, respect and intercultural tolerance, and encourage the development of social and interpersonal skills in a multicultural society.

The program is a joint initiative of the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue and the Tali Education Fund.

To combat prejudice and stereotypes towards the ‘other’ that are rooted in ignorance, ‘Dialogue and Identity’, in operation since 2006, is a Jewish-Arab school-twinning program that directly involves school principals, teachers and pupils, and benefits some 800 -1200 Jewish, Christian and Muslim children every year. 

Dialogue and Identity operates on the assumption that we live in a multi-faceted society and that we must recognize and appreciate this complexity. It is the complexity and the difference that enrich our lives in Israel; they invite opportunities for learning and encourage positive values such as democracy and pluralism.

The program works out of the belief that when we come to know others different from us, it is important to focus not only on what we have in common but also on learning about difference, recognizing and respecting it. We believe that prejudices, one-dimensional vision and stereotypes are products of ignorance, and that not only hatred and fear are created, but also disdain for other people and religions. 

The uniqueness of this project and what facilitates its substantial impact is the fact that it works with school principals and teachers in order to maximize the impact on school students. The project trains educators in promoting dialogue among students on religious, communal and individual histories, identities and needs, and guides them in helping students overcome fear and misinformation. With the support of principals and the supervision of teachers trained by the Rossing Center’s staff, students together explore similarities and shared values – and differences as well – in their complex identities and religious trajectories and acquire the interpersonal skills necessary for positive communication. ‘Dialogue and Identity’ thus provides an opportunity very few school communities have, namely to challenge the ongoing norm of separation and segregation between Arab and Jewish students by bringing them together several times over the school year, and providing a setting for experiential, mutual learning.

Program components of Dialogue and Identity

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Rossing Center logo

Four meetings are held over the course of the year, alternately at the Jewish or Christian school, allowing students to both host and visit their friends. In the meetings, the children are exposed to the three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – as both Christian and Muslim students study in Christian schools. The main activities revolve around religious and intercultural issues, common values, beliefs and opinions.

Each session begins with a short and festive reception followed by a day of joint activity led by the home-room and other teachers who have been trained in the program. The instruction takes place in a pair – a Jewish facilitator and an Arab facilitator – thus serving as a model for cooperation and dialogue.

Before and after each encounter, the teachers work with the students in the classroom to prepare for the next encounter, and to help the students process their new experiences.

First meeting: Getting to know myself and know the other. The students learn their names in Arabic and Hebrew, learn about the daily life of their friends and about the similarities and differences in their communities.

Second Session: Holidays. The encounter deals with the holidays of the three religions and focuses on the holidays that are celebrated in this season: Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid al-Adha / Eid al-Fitr (depending on the calendar).

Third Encounter: Stories from the Sources. The encounter deals with stories from the texts of the three religions – the Midrashic literature, the New Testament and the Hadith literature – and focuses on the similar and different values that arise from them.

Fourth Session: Life-Cycle Events, Summary and Separation. The participants learn about life rituals during the periods of birth and maturity, customs and traditions in different cultures and religions. Finally, they summarize the year of activity and separate from their new friends.

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Teachers

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During the school year, 2 teachers from each school participating in the “Dialogue and Identity” program, Jews and Arabs alike, receive training that provides them with the professional tools needed to facilitate the meetings. Apart from the facilitation skills acquired in the program, the teachers receive enrichment in the relevant content areas. The teachers undergo a group process, share their experiences, consult, and create professional and personal relationships based on cooperation and trust. The warm ties between the Jewish and Arab teachers constitute a role model for the students.

Over the last five years two groups (one of school principals and one of teachers) spent a week of study and dialogue in Switzerland, under the auspices of the Swiss organization Coexistences. The program included workshops and tours, hosting of local families and meeting with local groups engaged in intercultural dialogue in Switzerland.

About 40 schools, 1000-1200 students and 80 educators from TALI schools and Christian schools (most of them belonging to the Catholic school network in Israel) participate in the program, which is recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education.

The 40 school principals also meet during the school year as a counseling and dialogue group and are in constant contact. They set the tone for the program with a positive atmosphere of cooperation, for all school teachers, students and their parents.

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Schools

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25 schools from the north and the center of the country participated in the Dialogue and Identity Program during the 2020-2021 school year (800-850 Students and 52 Educators from the TALI schools and the Christian schools). The program was founded in 2006, and has been adopted and recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education.

  • Don Bosco Elementary School – Nazareth
  • TALI Oranim School – Yokne’am
  • Al-Wasafiya Greek Catholic School – Nazareth
  • TALI Alona School – Amikam
  • Franciscan Sisters – Nazareth
  • TALI Beit Chinuch Daliot – Yokne’am
  • Al-Mutran School – Nazareth
  • TALI Ha’hita School – Zichron Ya’akov
  • Terra Sancta School – Nazareth
  • TALI Korchak School – Kiriat Motzkin
  • Nazareth Sisters Elementary School – Haifa
  • TALI Tidhar School – Yokne’am
  • Salvatorian Sisters Greek Catholic School – Nazareth
  • TALI ORT Dafna Junior High School – Kiriat Bialik
  • St. John’s School – Haifa
  • TALI Kaduri School – Lower Galilee
  • Mar Michael Orthodox School – Jaffa
  • TALI Tzukim School – Shoham
  • Terra Sancta School – Ramla
  • TALI Yesodot School – Petah Tikva
  • Orthodox Elementary School for Science and Technology – Ramla
  • TALI Itzhak Navon School – Hod Ha’Sharon

Staff

Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue

Hussam Elias, Program Director hussam@rossingcenter.org

Hannan Haddad, Program Coordinator hannan@rossingcenter.org 

Toha Arafat, Program Coordinator toha@rossingcenter.org

Hiba Ganadry Abu-Khadra , Program Coordinator hiba@rossingcenter.org 

Michal Fisher, Program Coordinator 

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