Program uniting Jewish and Arab Israelis celebrates 15 years of activity

Dialogue and Identity pairs Jewish and Arab schools and teaches students about tolerance through a series of meetings about Israel's different religions.

Jewish and Arab youth playing baseball together  (photo credit: MARGO SUGARMAN)
Jewish and Arab youth playing baseball together
(photo credit: MARGO SUGARMAN)

The EU-funded Dialogue and Identity program that brings Jewish and Arab educators and pupils together will mark 15 years of activity next week in an event that will include the Ambassador of the European Union Dimiter Tzantchev.

Apart from Tzantchev, 1,200 students, 38 principals and 76 teachers from schools involved in the program will be present.

Dialogue and Identity is a program aimed at creating a balance between the Jewish and Arab sectors of Israeli society by creating open communication between educators and students from the two sectors about their differences and the blessings of diversity.

The program matches Jewish schools with Arab schools and includes four meetings every year. At the meetings, the students are taught about tolerance, respect and appreciation of other traditions. They also learn about the different holidays and rites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and the sources of each religion. Aside from the meetings held in the schools, the students are all taken to visit synagogues, churches and mosques together.

The 15-year celebration of the program will be held on May 25. A song, written by Inbar Ofek and Kobi Luria especially for the event, will be performed in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Jewish and Arab children take part in Katamon’s school activity. (credit: COURTESY NEW ISRAEL FUND)Jewish and Arab children take part in Katamon’s school activity. (credit: COURTESY NEW ISRAEL FUND)

"One of the beautiful things about the program is the constant movement that exists between the discovery of the self and the discovery of the other," said co-director of Dialogue and Identity Eva Halachmi.

"Dialogue and Identity opens a door for acquaintance around the cultural-religious axis," said another co-director, Hussam Elias. "The program arouses curiosity and a desire to learn and get to know the other."

"Our school believes in connecting people from different places, we learn to respect each other, and learn about the different cultures. We are happy to take part in this important project," said one of the students in the program.

"We live in a diverse society that includes people from different cultures and with different identities," said one of the school principals participating in the program. "The Israeli reality often presents us with challenges in everything related to Jewish-Arab relations. Our job at the school is to talk transparently and understand this complexity, and most importantly not to make generalizations."