Galilee dreamers: Jewish and Arab teenagers working together for peace

Jewish and Arab teenagers in Israel grow up in separate neighbourhoods and towns and attend schools where different languages are spoken. At this formative age, they have few (if any) experiences of authentic encounter with the “other” that could dispel prejudices and misconceptions and provide a model for shared society.

Building a Better Tomorrow

Oranim International School spearheaded a ground-breaking program bringing together select groups of Jewish and Arab high school students and teachers from Israel to travel to communities in different parts of the world. After preparation in Israel, the groups participate in a transformative program abroad including encounters with local high school students at Jewish and non-Jewish schools, home hospitality, and touring.  Galilee Dreamers aims to promote coexistence among the Israeli participants and to enable young people worldwide to learn about the complexity and potential of life in Israel – as they dream together of building a different world for tomorrow.

In the words of Rabbi Paul D. Schneider, former head of Stevenson’s Krieger Schechter Day the Galilee Dreamers delegation: “You have to start somewhere. This project has the potential to change minds and influence people. It’s the most important thing I do.”

Connecting Communities

Each delegation includes students and teachers from schools in neighboring Jewish and Arab towns in the Galilee. Delegations are led by Jewish and Arab teachers who participated in previous delegations and teach at these neighboring schools. After the participants return home, they build connections between their schools and communities with meaningful follow-up programming.

One participant explained the program impact: “It deepened my understanding that we and the next generation must work harder in order to make a change. I am certainly motivated to contribute as much as I can“.

The Galilee Dreamers, a group of eight Grade 11 Arab and Jewish school children from Israel, recently visited King David schools in Johannesburg. They brought with them a message of social harmony.

Visit to Canada 2018

Below is a link to a video covering the 2018 trip to Canada and is a great example of the work the team undertook there.  

Expanding Program Impact

This program was founded in 2016 in partnership with the Sparks of Change Foundation, which honors the life of Daniel Joseph Siegel by supporting programs that are involved in changing communities and creating a better world. The program (then known as Sparks of Change) began with one delegation visiting two communities in the United States in 2016. Since then, the program has expanded rapidly to include multiple communities in the United States, Canada, and South Africa.

The Sparks of Change program initiated a thoughtful discussion among Jewish and Arab Israelis at Park School. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Our vision is to expand Galilee Dreamers to more Jewish and Arab schools throughout the Galilee, including many more teachers and students. We also aim to expand the program to reach other communities around the world. Moreover, we want to make this program an integral part of training students of education at Oranim College, through including Oranim teachers-in-training in the delegations and training them to lead educational programming prior to, during, and following the delegation. These steps will give this project the potential to build shared society between Jews and Arabs throughout the Galilee, while sharing the message of hope, tolerance, and respect for diversity with young people around the world.

About the Author

Roberta Bell-Kligler is the director of the International School at Oranim Academic College of Education in Israel. At Oranim she teaches courses about identity, peoplehood and globalization. Oranim is a campus with a diverse population, and one of Roberta’s special interests is multiculturalism. 

She has published articles about inter-cultural education, American-Israeli school connection projects, and working with students around the world.  Roberta has initiated many educational programs dedicated to promoting shared society, personal and collective identity, and peoplehood. 

She loves working with university students and faculty from North America, South Africa, Germany, Russia, South America and Israel.