Hanna Szekeres writes for NoCamels
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Could this biblical phrase, which was
written in the Middle East nearly 2,500 years ago, be any more appropriate for
the region today?
That phrase could well be the motto for the Bible Lands Museum
in Jerusalem, which has created a program for Jewish and Arab school children to
teach them about their ancient shared heritage.
The Bible Lands Museum is
the only museum in the world dedicated to the history of the Bible and the
Ancient Near East. Its Permanent Exhibition, which is made up almost entirely of
the former private collection of Dr. Elie Borowski, spans from earliest
civilization to the Early Christian era in the Lands of the Bible.
artifacts on display bring to life the rituals, religions and daily life of the
nations and cultures that lived in the region thousands of years ago. These
ancient treasures have inspired the rich variety of innovative educational
programs offered at the museum. One of them is the unique coexistence
educational program titled “The Image of Abraham.”
Participants in the
program come from Arab and Jewish schools in Jerusalem and trace the common
elements in the Arab and Jewish culture. During the year-long program that, they
learn about the role of Abraham, or Ibrahim in Arabic, as a Patriarch in Judaism
Each meeting explores a new subject relative to the ancient
world and the journey of Abraham with a series of gallery tours, games, guided
discussions and creative workshops.
Yehuda Kaplan, Education Director at
the museum, tells NoCamels: “I think this project is a very modest attempt to
make a change in our troubled and diverse community, by giving the young
generation the opportunity to meet and learn about each other’s
“Unfortunately, Jewish and Arab children living in Jerusalem
hardly have a chance to meet, learn and play together, since they live in two
almost isolated societies, physically and foremost mentally, with a different
education system,” he says.
He adds: “I hope that this opportunity opens the
children’s (and their parents’) eyes to the idea that their neighbors have many
things in common with them and that by working together they can accomplish
The many workshops of the program offer an insight into an
ancient world and way of living, but it also encourages the two groups to share
their present-day culture with each other. In one of the workshops for example,
the students are introduced to ancient games and how they were played, followed
by the playing their favorite modern games.
Another workshop is focused
on language. As Hebrew and Arabic share many common and similar words, the
children teach each other their favorite words and expressions, which are then
compiled into a bilingual dictionary distributed to everyone at the end of the
Exploring the themes of leadership, responsibility and hope, the
students tour the galleries, play games, build kites and fly them together in
the Jerusalem skies as a symbol of the yearning for freedom and peace between
“I believe that education as a tool and frame is the key to
transform the scary and unknown ‘others’ into neighbors with names and faces,”
says Ruty Geva, PR manager of the program. ”Education is the most important path
to peace and co-existence, specifically the education of the next
The museum’s focus is on children, but also offers programs
for parents, which offers an opportunity for them to meet and discuss the
project and to see and experience their children’s change of attitude.
the end of the program, the students, teachers, parents and guests are invited
to see the exhibition of the group art project. This year, the exhibition is
entitled “Journey of Abraham,” and features large models of the four main
stations that Abraham visited during his journey: Mesopotamia, Canaan, Egypt and
Each team concentrated on one of these regions and the models
will go to each of the three participating schools following their debut in the
Bible Lands Museum.
Due to the success of the program and by request, a
new pilot project was introduced based on the story of Noah and the flood, which
appears both in the Bible and in the Koran.
Every year more than 250
fourth and fifth graders from Jewish and Arab backgrounds, many teachers and
hundreds of parents learn about Abraham through Bible Lands’ program. In the
last 15 years, the program has reached more than 15 ,000 people from each side.
This year, for the first time, the project had staff applicants who were
participants when they were children.
NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!