According to a report published by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, the Israeli educational system “showed an effort to remove stereotypes against Palestinians, advance the values of peace and tolerance, improve the understanding of the national other, and nurture mutual respect and non-violent conflict resolution between the two sides” between 2009 and 2012. The report, titled “Peace, Tolerance, and the Palestinian Other in Israeli Textbooks” claims that Israel continues to educate her children that peace is desirable and possible, even though it is difficult to achieve. This occurred despite the deterioration in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict within the last decade.
This study of 149 school textbooks that were approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education for children in grades 1-12 show that Israel is truly committed to peace. The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance, a non-profit research institute dedicated to promoting peace-making between peoples, has found that Israeli school textbooks a) do not incite violence or demonize Palestinians; b) teach the Palestinian point of view as part of the curriculum; c) attempt to teach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an objective manner; d) recognize the Palestinian people and identity; e) acknowledge Palestinian religious affinity to places within Israel; f) consider peace to be the ideal goal and objective.
The study asserts that Israeli history textbooks teach about the development of Islam in a respectful manner, as well as the Muslim occupation of the Holy Land. They also teach about the Palestinian refugee crisis. Geography textbooks feature maps that demonstrate areas under Palestinian Authority control since the conclusion of the Oslo Agreements. They also discuss Israel’s Arab minority “in an in-depth, respectful and non-judgmental manner.” Civics textbooks portray non-violence to be a virtue. Hebrew literature books feature poems about peace as well literary texts promoting coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Religious textbooks also promote tolerance and cross-cultural understanding.
For example, an Israeli textbook called Knowing History—Nationality in Israel and the People: Building a State in the Middle East, quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as stating, “We, the soldiers who have returned from battles stained with blood… we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes… we who have fought against you, the Palestinians — we say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice: enough of blood and tears. Enough! We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance, and saying again to you: “Enough”.”
In other instances, an Israeli geography textbook titled Geography of the Middle East: Challenges on the Verge of the 21st century asks Israeli children to visit one of the Arab villages in Israel and to “report your impressions: the village houses, the public institutions, the village’s size, the quality of the roads, vehicles, stores, styles of clothing. Address the quality of life in the village in comparison to the city of Tel Aviv.” In a textbook titled Marching in the Road of Words, Jerusalem is described as a city that is holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews and that possesses many synagogues, mosques and churches. The 77-page report is filled with many other examples of Israeli textbooks promoting peace and coexistence with her Arab neighbors.
As Leviticus 19:34 states, “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your G-d.” The Israeli educational system strives to live by these values when it comes to educating future generations of Israelis about the minority’s that live among her and her Arab neighbors.
By Rachel Avraham