A brave glimpse

What happens when IDE meets the Israeli democracy’s backyard?

Only after we passed through the gates of three East Jerusalem schools did we realize the complexity of this city. We hesitantly felt our way, looking for the meeting point between our world view and an intolerable geographical, political, and mostly human reality.

We asked ourselves, how is it possible to connect optimistic views of happy and, egalitarian human spaces with establishment neglect, an unclear legal status, and an education system which is torn between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?

So what really happened there?

We’ll start at the end; the successful products’ evenings held at the end of the PBL in-service course summarized a successful year of activity. In impossibly crowded conditions and lacking material resources, the teachers, led by the amazing principals we met, started a change. We began to witness a rise in the motivation of teachers and the students, as well as favorable responses from the parents, who supported the staff all the way.

The project topics picked by the teachers integrated learning with pleasure, while creating a bond with people and with the neighborhood. For example, a guidebook for the use of local medicinal herbs for the month of fasting, advertisements to strengthen people’s awareness of polluting the environment during pilgrimage time, inauguration of a garden in memory of Fadwa Tuqan, a well-known Palestinian author, suggestions for a Jerusalem market, suitable for children and more.

What’s next?

About a week ago, in a meeting with the inspectors of the East Jerusalem Ministry of Education, we presented to them the Educational Pioneer and the courageous Programs. The responses to the challenges met by these two programs were enthusiastic – the nurturing f an intermediate management level and a management reserve and leading profound pedagogical change processes. These are undoubtedly the two most significant challenges met by the East Jerusalem schools.

The complexities of integrating into the programs came up during the conversation, starting with the language barrier and ending with the economic barriers. But despite the difficulties, we have just begun to receive applications to join the Educational Pioneer Program from schools recommended by the inspectors.

We are very excited about this and hope to start the Jerusalem Educational Pioneer Program next year, with 3-4 Arab schools in East Jerusalem, and continue working with the schools on the Courageous Program.

Special thanks are due to Sheikha Hilwa, who has been counseling the schools, for doing this all-important work in our holy city.