November 28, 2017

New school year shows expansion of Jewish-Arab shared life education programs

Shared Life Education programs have long been part of both the Jewish and Arab public school streams and Israel’s bilingual schools. In recent years, these programs have been growing in number, reach and range of content, as reported in the Task Force mapping paper, “Shared Life Education in the Israeli Public School System.”

This school year, the expansion continues. Many programs have increased in size and several organizations have added new initiatives encompassing hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of Jewish and Arab students from all over the country.

Overall, these programs advance concepts of equality and mutual respect, prevent and repair stereotypes, foster partnerships, increase cultural and linguistic familiarity, and promote the socio-economic integration of the Arab community in Israel. They work through various models, such as school twinning and shared learning, teacher integration and training, bilingual education, and Hebrew and Arabic language education.

Below are descriptions of some of the shared life programs run by major civil society organizations in this field that have expanded or just launched this year.  All the programs listed below have received the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Education (MOE), and for many, the Ministry is a central partner and has fully adopted some of the models.

The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI):

    • “Ya Salam” Spoken Arabic program: The program which has been adopted by the Ministry of Education, employs Arab teachers to teach spoken Arabic in Jewish elementary schols.  It is currently being implemented in 185 schools.


    • “Ivrit B’Salam” Spoken Hebrew program: At present there are 26 Jewish teachers teaching spoken Hebrew in 33 Arab schools (in the Northern, Southern, and Haifa districts).  The Ministry of Education pays the teachers’ salaries, while TAFI provides professional, organizational and cultural management and support.


  • School Encounters and Shared Learning programs: Through the School Encounters program, six neighboring schools in the northern and central districts are paired for a three-year, intensive program bringing students, staff members, and parents together on issues of language and health. Currently, there are around 350 students and 20 teachers participating in this program.  The Shared Learning program, which is modeled after initiatives developed in Northern Ireland that bring together Protestants and Catholics in the school system, was adapted for the Israeli school system by the Center for Education Technology (CET – see below).  Under this framework, TAFI twins 10 pairs of Arab and Jewish schools throughout the country for classes co-taught by Jewish and Arab teachers in subjects such as cinema and language.  The program includes 170 students and 20 teachers.

AJEEC – Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation:

    • Shared Society in the Negev program: This program pairs Arab and Jewish high schools for joint leadership and team-building activities. The program has grown from 34 participating high schools last year to 40 schools (20 Jewish and 20 Arab with about 1,100 participants) in the current school year, and has expanded for the first time from the Negev to the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. It is conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, which awards the students a Social Matriculation credit for their participation.


  • Shared Learning program in cooperation with CET and Beit Berl College: The Shared Learning program twins 6 geographically neighboring schools in the Negev as part of a two-year program for joint-weekly English classes for students in the seventh and eighth grades.

A New Way

  • A New Way twins Jewish and Arab schools for 1-2 year encounter programs that include arts, sports, drama, and music activities for the students, the schools’ staffs, parents, and the surrounding communities.  The program includes 33 paired schools in six regional clusters throughout the country with approximately 1,800 students and 1,400 teachers and principals participating, an increase from 1,400 students last year at 28 paired schools. This year the organization also started a pilot of 3-year programs in Lod, accompanied by an evaluation of Tel Aviv University, “shared learning” model in some schools and empowerment groups for local women in Lod.

Bilingual Schools:

    • Hand in Hand: The Hand in Hand bilingual school network currently operates in six locations: Jerusalem, the Galilee, Wadi Ara, Jaffa, Haifa, and Kfar Saba. Growth since last year can be seen in the number of students, which has increased from 1,578 to 1,756, and the size of the teaching staff, which grew from 275 to 285.


    • Hagar: As the only bilingual school in the Negev, Hagar, which is located in Be’er Sheva, currently enrolls 320 children from nursery school through sixth grade, which represents an increase of 30% overall and a doubling of preschool enrollment over last year. Staff includes 29 Arab and Jewish kindergarten teachers and auxiliary staff, 36 teachers in the elementary and middle school, along with 14 teacher-counselors in after school programs for a total of 79 educational staff.


  • Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam: The Jewish-Arab community of Neve Shalom- Wahat al-Salam runs a bilingual school, where over 250 Jewish and Arab students are enrolled in two preschool frameworks and 9 elementary school classes (8 last year), employing 24 teachers (22 last year).

Center for Educational Technology (CET):

  • Shared Learning program: This model, adopted from Northern Ireland, pairs Jewish and Arab schools from neighboring communities for staff training, pedagogic partnership and joint learning for Jewish and Arab pupils led together by Jewish and Arab teachers in subjects such as English and science. Last year marked the end of the first three-year phase of the program, including development of content and methodology and implementation in 70 schools throughout the country (40 in Jerusalem, 18 in Ramleh, 6 in the Negev and 6 in the Sharon/Triangle region). The Ministry of Education is a partner to the program, providing up to 20% funding. It will expand  to 25 new schools in Jerusalem, at least 50 new schools in the Sharon/Triangle region, 20 more schools in the Northern District and 20 more schools in the Haifa district.

Givat Haviva:

    • “Iyhiye Beseder” Hebrew Language Enrichment: The program, which Givat Haviva provides the professional and cultural management and support for, places Jewish Hebrew teachers in Arab middle schools throughout Israel’s four school districts in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. This year, it grew from 45 teachers working in 58 middle schools and teaching 651 classrooms to 53 teachers, working in 74 schools and teaching 850 classrooms. The number of participating Arab students increased from around 22,600 to around 26,000.


  • Face to Face School Encounters: The program brings together approximately 1,800 students from 50 high schools (25 Jewish and 25 Arab) for a full day of encounter and dialogue. This year it is expanding to also include an extended in-depth dialogue program that will bring together 9th graders from 3 pairs of Jewish and Arab high schools 5 times throughout the school year.


    • Arab Teacher Integration in Jewish Schools program: The program, which was started by Merchavim and has since been adopted by the Ministry of Education, integrates excelling Arab teachers into Jewish schools to teach core subjects including English, math and science. Since the program’s creation, it has integrated 294 Arab teachers in 202 Jewish schools an increase from 240 teachers in 187 schools last year.


    • “Let’s Talk” – Learning Spoken Arabic: This program places Arab teachers in Jewish elementary schools to teach communicative Arabic language and culture.  The curriculum has been approved by the Ministry of Education which, together with implementing schools, cover the cost of the teaching hours dedicated to the program. The program currently integrates 25 Arab teachers in 28 schools reaching 5,700 students.


    • “Art of Kulanana” – Encounters through Art: The program brings together Jewish and Arab teachers and schoolchildren from 24 schools for museum and gallery visits, collaborative art projects and art exhibitions at participating schools. At the core of the program is a yearlong training course for art and homeroom teachers for 4th, 5th and 6th graders.  The number of participating students grew from 1,000 last year to approximately 1,500.


    • Community Archeology in Lod: The program’s goal is to increase engagement and knowledge among Arab and Jewish 4th graders about Lod’s history and culture through the study of archaeology, joint-learning activities and onsite participation at excavation sites in the city. It currently operates in 5 schools in the city.


    • Performing Arts pilot: The project supports the Ministry of Education in a pilot program (20017-2018 school year) to provide a matriculation-approved music program in three Arab schools. These schools will be matched with three Jewish schools that have existing music programs for a shared society music curriculum and engagement program.


  • Teacher Training programs: Merchavim provides seminars and training sessions in the Shared Citizenship Model to a number of teaching institutions including courses approved by the Ministry of Education for physical education and English language teachers, as well as for the teaching staff of the Lod Agriculture Farm and Meir Hospital.

How Can We Help?

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How Can We Help?

Do you need support integrating these resources and issues into your philanthropic, communal, or Israel education work? Reach out for consultations, connections to experts, program support, training, or to plan your next event or mission. If you’ve used our resources, tell us about your experience!

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