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Teaching Cross-Cultural Understanding

The new Israeli Hope Education Center at Beit Berl College is set to become a national hub for research, action and dissemination in the field of Education, to create a society equitably shared by all its members

Ella Lavon
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Two Education students on the Beit Berl campus
Two Education students on the Beit Berl campusCredit: Beit Berl College
Ella Lavon
Promoted Content

The Israeli Hope Education Center is based on Beit Berl, and inspired by Israeli Hope, the flagship program of former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to strengthen the “togetherness” of Israeli society and establish a partnership among its four main “tribes”: secular Jews, religious Jews, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Arab Israelis. Israeli Hope is an inspiring vision that reflects a rare combination of a civic, values-based approach, together with a practical, sustainable set of policies.
Implementing this vision begins with education. Investing in teacher training is the most lucrative social investment, since each teacher passes on a world of values and knowledge to thousands of students, and the multiplier effect of teacher training is significantly higher than any other educational investment. Educators can break down sectorial isolation, ignorance and mutual hostility, laying the foundation for a culture of mutual respect and an equitably shared society.

Since 2015, Beit Berl's Center for the Advancement of Shared Society has built an infrastructure for inclusive educational work on campus and in the community, providing the prototype and foundation for Israeli Hope in Education nationwide and globally. Beit Berl College continues to pioneer the development of shared society education. Former President Rivlin endorses the establishment of the new Israeli Hope Education Center at Beit Berl College and will serve as its first Chair (See President Rivlin’s speech ).

Providing tools to lead change

The Israeli Hope Education Center will prepare the next generation of teachers, principals and counselors to be agents of change in Israeli society. The Center will build an educational spectrum: educating teachers about Israel as a multi-faceted democracy, providing tools and skills to lead change and experience shared society, and guiding educators in creating change in schools, youth movements and community centers throughout the country. The Center's work will help educators facilitate communication and understanding across boundaries in Israeli society, lessening fear and demonization of the other, and leading the way toward a more equitable and fully shared society.
The new Center will create, test and disseminate models for teaching cross-cultural understanding in Israel, and will foster encounters among educators and students from all sectors in both the formal and informal educational settings. It will promote entrepreneurship and offer educational activities suitable for schools; as well as prepare and disseminate research-based policy papers on how to improve relations across the various sectors among policy-makers, academics and practitioners. Finally, the Center will develop tools to assess the social climate in schools, and monitor changes as a result of the integration of Israeli Hope in the curriculum.
One of the foundations supporting the new Israeli Hope Education Center shared its enthusiasm: “We feel that we are investing in something that will have deep impact on Israeli society for years to come.”

Former President of Israel Reuven Rivlin will be the first Chair of the Israeli Hope Education CenterCredit: Courtesy of Beit Berl College

Creating connections across sectors

The Israeli Hope Education Center will work with other academic institutions, civil society organizations and government ministries to foster four tracks of educational activity designed to create cross-cultural understanding within each sector of Israeli society and connections across sectors: 
1. Prepare new teachers to teach effectively in others' school systems – Arab teachers in Jewish schools and vice versa – in coordination with Merchavim Institute and Givat Haviva.
2. Educate the educators by strengthening teachers' understanding of all population groups living in Israel and giving them the tools to counter racism, strengthen democracy, and build cross-cultural competencies – with Hand in Hand and Sikkuy. 
3. Expand shared education by institutionalizing field-tested models for pairing schools across sectors to create learning partnerships where Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, can study core subjects and learn narrative history together – in cooperation with the Center for Educational Technology and High-Tech High. 
4. Create an informal education curriculum that brings together youth movement leaders to explore common and divergent values, in partnership with Beit Berl's Martin Buber Center for Dialogue Education. 

In its first five years, the Center’s central goal is to ensure that thousands of students of Education will start their careers with a deeper appreciation for the principles of a democratic society, adopt new perspectives and skills to counter racism, and be able to create mutual understanding. The Center aims to train 500 new teachers to teach across boundaries – Arab teachers in Jewish schools and Jewish teachers in Arab schools. In addition, it will train 500 veteran teachers from different schools with cross-cultural competencies; work with 50 groups of youth leaders across ideological boundaries to guide thousands of Israel's young people to overcome hatred and racism; and engage 5,000 pupils to study core subjects and narrative history in 50 paired schools.

Furthermore, the new Center seeks to shape national policy toward shared society education, aiming to bring about implementation of many of the recent recommendations of Israel's Comptroller: Education for a Shared Society and the Prevention of Racism. Its actions will be accompanied by formative and summative evaluations, as well as organizational oversight to track its progress toward these goals and learn from work in the field throughout the country.
The new Israeli Hope Education Center will be housed in a central location on the Beit Berl College campus.

Beit Berl’s Center for the Advancement of Shared Society recently led a bilingual program using museums as a platform to explore identityCredit: Beit Berl College

About Beit Berl College

Founded in 1949, e is one of Israel’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary colleges, serving close to 9,000 degree and continuing education students in its Faculties of Education, Arts, and Society & Culture. Its graduates make up approximately 20% of Israel’s public-secular school teachers – Jewish and Arab. 

Spearheading new developments in education, society and the arts, Beit Berl College is at the forefront of groundbreaking initiatives in Israeli education, such as the Masters in Teaching in the Sciences and Mathematics. Its innovative methods, emphasis on community involvement, and rigorous hands-on learning are changing the face of Israeli education. The College is a center of excellence for second-career students, cultivating experienced professionals from Israel's tech and defense sectors to become leaders in education and the public sector. 
Beit Berl views higher education as a vehicle for social advancement and equal opportunity. Situated at the socio-geographic crossroads between Israel’s high-tech hub and central Arab Israeli population, the College is a microcosm of Israeli society, where Jewish and Arab, secular and religious students study together. Beit Berl College trains teachers for all four Israeli school systems, including special programs for ultra-Orthodox educators, and it is the only college of education in Israel that has an Arab Institute integrated in its Faculty of Education. 

Finally, Beit Berl is home to Israel's informal education system. Members of youth movements come from a wide range of ideological worlds and work to shape tomorrow's social agenda. 

Shattering stereotypes

The Jewish public education system currently employs over 1,000 Arab teachers. New research by Dr. Wurud Jayusi, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Shared Society at Beit Berl College, demonstrates that the presence of an Arab teacher in Jewish schools shatters stereotypes and increases teachers' sense of self-worth and self-efficacy.

One Arab teacher who teaches at a Jewish school relates: “After a recent terror attack, I felt that the children were scared and in distress. I sat the kids down and did an exercise with them. I drew a circle on the board and wrote in the middle ‘Arabs,’ and asked them what they think of Arabs. They answered: ‘terrorist, Gaza, Qassam missiles, Hamas, uneducated’ and other stereotypes. Then I drew another circle in which I wrote my name, and they said: ‘Nice teacher, fun lessons, love you.’ I drew an arrow from my name to the Arab circle and said to them: I'm an Arab myself; I'm no different from all the Arabs. Their response was: ‘We know you. You teach us.’”

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