Arab-Israeli-DC School Partnership

By Shelli Putterman-Kenett, Hebrew teacher at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and program head of the Triangular Partnership for CESJDS

The experience I had with the Triangular school program has been unique.

I first learned about the “dialogue through cinema” program when I was approached by JDS to create a program for our school that will link to the program running in Israel. I was excited about the idea that the two schools in Israel are going to meet in person, learn about each other, and then create a film together, as I saw this as a symbol of hope for a joined future for the young generation.

I started thinking about this Idea, figuring out how JDS students can be a part of the program. What can they learn from the program about “the other”? about themselves? about the Israeli society and how all of this can be integrated with our school core values? JDS core values of V’ahavta L’rei-a-kha (love your neighbor), Ahavat Yisra-el (love of Israel) and K’hillah (Community) were central for me when creating this project. It was important for me that the students connect on a personal level. I believe that when we get to know each other in person, it changes our ability to listen to other people and to have empathy, even if we do not think or see things the same way.

After the delegation from Israel visited our school, came to class and had met our student in person, I thought letting students to get to know each other as teenagers (via our virtual meetings with the schools in Israel), will enable them to learn from the point of view of other students, just like themselves. I wanted them to hear about the life of both groups from the eyes of actual students living in Israel, experiencing life in a complex environment. The goal was to enable learning through their work together and allow it to influence their point of view of each other and provide the basis for their joint future. I wanted students to create their personal points of views without external intervention based of what they hear and learn and also have the chance to share their questions and opinions.Group of students video-chatting with their Arab and Israeli peers.

As the Hebrew language is an fundamental part of our school I thought it would be the right thing to have our top Hebrew class take part in this project, thinking that the students will gain leaning about Israel from authentic perspective of students their own age living in Israel using the authentic language.

Our students were enthusiastic about getting to know the other students (and teachers) from Israel and were very excited before the initial encounter. At the end of each virtual session, the students came to me and told me that they had fun and that they were eager to learn even more about the other two groups. The fact that students became curious to learn even more, ask question and have more knowledge about the Israeli society while enjoying themselves means to me that they had a successful learning experience which brought all three groups closer together.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is proud to support a triangular partnership between Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Maagan Michael, a Jewish Israeli school and Kfar Qara, an Arab Israeli school, with NGO The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI) bringing educational and shared society expertise to facilitate the partnership. The three schools have been collaborating throughout the school year and have had several virtual, giving them a chance to get to know and learn from one another. Their joint curriculum includes: exploring areas of disparity between the vision set forth in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the reality of life in modern day Israel and exploring issues of cultural and social identity, multiple narratives, and understanding the story of the other, all through the medium of film.