The 60 year old Israel: a celebration and a NAKBA

The state of Israel will be marking its 60th independence day on May 8th.
A week later groups of Israeli citizens, with Israeli passports, who are Arabs will mark their 60th grief day, for the same event: the birthday of the state of Israel.
~~to clarify: I am not talking about the Palestinians, who reside in Gaza or the west bank and are not Israeli citizens. I am talking about Israelis, who belong to the Arab nationality, and live among us, in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ramla, Lod, Beer-Sheba, Nazareth, Tiberius and more. Israelis who hold the same ID card and Passport I do.

There are Arab schools throughout the country. These are schools run by and for the Israeli Arabs. They are funded by the Israeli government like any other school in Israel. They are supervised by official Israeli government clerks, among them, of course Israeli Arabs. The main language in these schools is Arab, and not Hebrew and the school program is slightly different, accenting the Arab heritage, naturally.

According to the article I read, they do not want to celebrate Israel's 60th Independence day on May 8th, together with all other schools in Israel. They cling to the 60th grief anniversary they want to mark a week later.

Ever since I read it I can't stop thinking about the meaning of it. We generally live in peace with this population. We go shopping there, they come to work here. It's a normal life.
Or is it?

Israel is a fact of life. It exists. There is only one state for Jews in the world - and that's it. There are 7.2 million Israeli citizens. But for 1.4 million of the Israeli citizens, Israel getting to 60 is no reason to celebrate. And it makes me sad.

I am asking myself what, if at all, can the state do to change this situation? I don't mean political agenda (I honestly dislike politics). I am talking, of course, about education. What can educators do to close the gaps and make all citizens become patriots? Or at least feel they belong?

And for the Hebrew and Arab speakers here - http://www.keshet-tv.com/Program.aspx?ProgID=4554
Perhaps the best comic-drama series that tackles exactly these questions.

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Hi Or-Tal,

Your discussion is quite interesting here, specially for the importance of education in peace process. Is it really a surprise that Arabs Israelis don't celebrate the birth of Israel after expulsions during the war of 1948 ? My ideas about this question...

1. when you say We generally live in peace with this population, what does exactly mean ? You're right, you go shoping in the same places, go working in the same offices but you live side by side, not together... No mix... Just check the rates: how many Jews speak arabic in Israel, and how many Arabs speak hebrew ?

2. Concerning education, i visited many schools in Israel, and you know like me that there is unjustice about the levels, the quality and the funds between jewish schools and arab schools. And how many Arab-Jews schools in Israel ? Just a few. This is what it makes me sad...

3. You speak about ID Card: is it really the same when Israel distinguish between, Jews, Arabs and Druzes. Not really the same card.... Israel is an ethnic democracy where many people inside are in a kind of under-citizenship... And you know the importance of the army and military service in Israel. Arabs Israelis can't join israeli army, so they are not considered as normal citizens...

4. So what can we do ? Maybe we can enforce/enlarge educational experiments where Arabs and Jews learn together like in the wonderful Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem. I was impressed by the intelligence of these teachers, both jews and arabs. I have a presentation video of this school but too heavy to upload it. I'll try to compress it for you and others members...

5. I'am also member of a very nice ning network, mepeace.org, where people try to build bridges and not walls between Jews and Arabs. You can also join here my friend Nidal, born in Nazareth. It will be a great pleasure for him to talk with you !

Conclusion: Israel has to build his future inside its borders by giving the same citizenship rights to all the people...

Have a good day !
Hi
Let me answer some of your points. First let me state the obvious: I am an Israeli Jew. I was born to 2 Israeli parents. My mother was born in Israel and her father too. My 3 kids were born here.
My father was born in Berlin in 1935. He was never granted any sort of citizenship for the first 13 years of his life. That's until the state of Israel was founded and he was awarded an Israeli citizenship. That was when his mother received a citizenship too. His father never got to it.

The state of Israel was founded, among other reason, as a refuge for all Jews, expelled or driven away from the countries in which they were born. Being a Jewish state placed a major role in its establishment. Jews did not want to be a minority in their country ever again. They wanted their state to be a safe harbor for generations to come.
According to the "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181" the territory previously occupied by the British was to be divided to 2 states: Israel and Palestine. (For maps look here: http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_maps.php - many interesting facts).
The Jewish population accepted whatever they could get. Anything will be better than nothing. The Arabs didn't want any Jews around. Read here: http://deadsmall.com/3J7 (BBC).

Anyway, the result of the war inflicted on the Jewish population in 1948 was that the Jewish population, indeed a minority at that time, has concurred more land. Driven by fear, desperation and determination to have their own state, they fought back. Arabs fled and left their homes. Complete villages were emptied. Many abandoned their family houses in the cities - Jaffa, Haifa and ran away. This is perhaps the saddest most painful chapter in the history of Israel.
Who was it that said "à la guerre comme à la guerre"? The war, any war, is ugly. But when wars are started, all parties lose.

So, yes, I am aware of the fact, that when my country was born, the dream of a Palestinian, Jews- free, state, faded away.
The remainder of territories not occupied by the Jewish, became parts of our neighboring states such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

Now, 60 years later, things are not the same as they have been. The Jewish population is a clear majority in this state. Israel proved the ability to advance and establish a modern developed country in the middle east, in spite of the fact it is surrounded by enemies from all sides (and from inside). Two of our neighbors have realized that Israel is here to stay and it's time to live, let live and advance: hence the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
Most Israelis are looking forward to a peace agreement with Syria and Lebanon, and of course, with the Palestinians.

What's next? As I told you, I do not want to go into politics. There are many injustices in Israel. Not only between the Jewish and Arab populations, but also between religious and secular Jewish population, for example. Budgets are not divided as they should be. Citizens' obligations are not equal. As for military service - of course no one expects Arabs to serve in the IDF, but they are offered to do a civil service for their population instead, and gain similar rights to those gained by citizens who served in the army. Some already do it. Some will refuse any offer. There are religious Jews who also refuse to serve in the army, nor are they prepared to do any volunteer citizenship work for their population. That is also an injustice, in my view.

Now, I am not the minister of Treasure. I cannot change the way budgets are allocated. Nor can I change history. I am saddened by so many things here. But still, I am hopeful that through correct educational moves, we can make a change.

I know that kids are curious about each other and are willing to learn. That openness is the best thing of our times. We must use it to improve the situation.

I wish I could establish a kids' peace conference....

There are Arab schools in Israel.
Ellen
I did not want to get into politics. I honestly thought there could be a good opportunity here to discuss educational means to bring estranged populations closer.

There are many ways to present history in various lessons, books, sites, movies and enriched media propaganda, something the state of Israel has alway and still does lack.
But here is what I know and I have heard it directly from my parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, who were here when these things actually happened.
The Jewish population was happy and excited at the announcement of the new state. No one wanted war then, more than we want war now.

To be perfectly clear: Israel and the Jewish people do not want war and will do what it takes to reach peace agreements with all of our neighbors.

It is indeed the Arab population and the neighboring Arab states that attacked Jewish population all over the areas that were supposed to be "the state of Israel" according to the original UN plan. They began attacks the minute the British have left this area. No one has anticipated what happened then as they didn't expect the results of the 6 days war in 1967 (again, inflicted on us) or the Yom-Kipur was (inflicted on 1973).

Arabs fled their homes because they didn't want to stay under Israel reign. Not all fled their homes - hence the Arab towns and villages all over Israel (not under what is called the "occupied territories"). I believe that some ran away fearing for their lives. I know that was is an ugly thing and people were indeed killed - many Jewish people too, as you well know.

The Israeli army is not called "Israel Defense Force" by mistake or as a trick. That's it's purpose. That's the only justification for its existence. It's a people's army, and not a professional army. Every child here has to serve in the army the minute they are out of hi-school. Unfortunately for me I experienced the death of a close friend from school, who was killed at the age of 20, when he tried to defend Kibbut Manara against terrorists who penetrated from Lebanon.

We live under terror and fear constantly here. There are armed guards at the gate of every kindergarten in Israel. Not to mention malls, cafe houses, stores. Some of us are more fearful than others. Me, for example. I never take my kids to these enormous crowded street events in the holidays because I fear suicide bombers. I get a stomach ache every time my 13 year old girl mounts a bus on her way to the music lessons she is attending 10 minutes from home. That's the reality we live in. We didn't choose this. Some one else has chosen to turn a totally civilian population into a justified target for killing.

And no matter how the media is trying to twist the reality - it is not the same as populating terrorist bases with kids and women hoping they will become the human shield, to protect the terrorists while they are building bombs and rockets to fire into Israeli schools and homes. And please, don't tell me you think that firing rockets into Israeli homes is equal to targeting terrorists and their bases and their ammunition.

OOF, I am sick of the horrible Israel public relations. No one can fix a 60 year non existent PR. Certainly not me.
I think that this is a real problem. I don't want Israel's celebrations to be a constant grief day for a quarter of my fellow citizens!
I want Israel to be plural. I don't want any people to feel persecuted or discriminated against here, in the land established by the most persecuted people in the human history.

What would I want?
I want to change the National anthem of Israel to something that every citizen, independent of nationality or relitgious views, will gladly sing. (That's why "I have no other country" is such a deserving song in my view, with small alterations....)
I want budgets to be allocated equally for education and for development first.
I want that it will be mandatory to study both Hebrew and Arabic in all schools and students won't graduate school if they haven't accomplished a minimum degree of speaking knowledge in both languages.
I want that our flag will carry more symbols: not only the david shield.
Yes, I want it to be a Jewish state ruled by a Jewish majority. But I want all its people to feel at home here. I don't want anyone to feel like we are doing them a favor by letting them live among us. This is condescending and unacceptable! I want them to be a full part of the development of this incredible state. Everyone can gain from it, you know.

Is it beyond reach?
Ho Or-Tal, i was just sending a long message on mepeace.org and i discover the argumentation of Adalah NGO for the cancellation of celebrations in Arab Schools. Read it please, and read also maybe the very good new historians you have in Israel about War of 1948: Benny Morris, Ilan Pappé for example...

About discrimination in education inequalities are so strong that an NGO like Adalah (The legal center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) has to send requests... almost EVERY DAY ... see pdf files on this site for the demand Cancellation of Education Ministry Program Celebrating 60 Years of Israel in the Arab Education System (24/04/2008), or Lack of a Safe Road Leading to Schools in Unrecognized Arab Bedouin Village of Al-Sayyid in the Naqab (16/04/2008). You can read also on this link a recent report about the situation of education in East Jerusalem: “ (Alternative Information Center) The education system of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem is a stark example of the discrimination and inequality that are a direct and intentional result of the Israeli policy toward the Palestinian population” notes Shir Hever, economic researcher and author of the report.
That's terrible!!!
It is!
I hate it!!! (BTW: schools in Tel-Aviv and Sderot are not equal too...)
But I cant change this so I want to change what I can. Try communications between school kids, try inter-activities. Try promoting understanding and knowledge and support and help and cooperation.

Look here: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,540689,00.html
yes i'm sure that we can build a project about it, with a collaboration with good-looking teachers from Israel... I'll invite soon here Idan Toledano who teaches in Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem :)

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