During a spring trip to Israel, Technology Director Doug Fodeman had the extraordinary experience of visiting two schools -- one Arab and one Jewish -- and interviewing students on the Arab-Israeli conflict. His work will be used to enhance the Grade 6 Social Studies Unit Evan Diamond teaches on the Middle East conflict.
Before heading overseas, Evan and Doug brainstormed ideas about what types of information would best add to the curriculum. “We both agreed it would be invaluable to incorporate perspectives of Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians living in the region and what they actually think, instead of us studying them from a distance,” Doug says. “In an effort to make our curriculum more authentic for our students, I tried to reach out to both Israeli Arab and Jewish elementary/middle schools to find some I could visit and talk to the students about this topic. The topic is VERY sensitive and difficult to discuss over there,” Doug explains.
Through iEarn.org (International Education and Resource Network), Doug established a connection Kefah Lehwani, an eighth grade English Teacher of about 30 students at the Ilut Junior High School in Galilee not far from Nazareth. A Brookwood family put Doug in touch with an Israeli guide named Elad Vazana who had a strong contact at HaShalom, a Jewish Israeli elementary school in a suburb of Jerusalem.
Doug met first with the Ilut JHS Arab students and Kefah Lehwani in her classroom and spent an extended time talking with the excited, eager children. Being it was an English class, the questions were all asked in English and the students read their answers in the language as well. The questions included:
• What is it like living as an Arab in Israel?
• Fear, hatred, and fighting often grow out of mistrust. Can you think of any way in which both sides can come together to build trust and help them to know and understand one another?
• What do you think are the most important things that must happen to produce a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis? What will each side want?
• Why do you think it is so difficult for the Palestinians and the Israelis to come together and build a peace agreement?
• If you wanted to deliver a message to all of the many different people who live in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank to encourage them to find a way to live together in peace and support one another, what would that message be?
Doug says the students’ answers were truly amazing and wide ranging, such as the following from Malak who is 15 years old: “ . . . I think that there is discrimination between Jewish and Arab. This country prevents Arab to dream. I dream to be a pilot to fly or engineer but I am not allowed to work in that. So try and imagine that. Even a dream, I can’t dream as I want. There are discriminations in other areas too.”
View the entire meeting and Q&A. (Password is Israel. It's helpful to download the .pdf transcript of the presentations offered on the web page because it is sometimes difficult to understand the students.)
Doug then met with Jewish students, two sixth graders and two fourth graders, at HaShalom elementary school, asking them the same questions. Again the conversation was wide ranging and the answers to the questions were equally amazingly thoughtful and mature. Listen to and watch the HaShalom interview. (Password is Israel)
“Doug’s work is going to be invaluable in the class,” says Evan. Doug created seven videos for the sixth grade curriculum.
“The entire trip was incredible, and my time visiting the schools and interviewing the students was a once in a lifetime experience. I believe the connections made between Brookwood and Ilut JHS will benefit both schools for years to come,” Doug says.