We’ve been back for a few days from Israel and today I woke up thinking about how the next generation of kids in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could ever be reconciled. We heard repeatedly how this conflict is identity based and how children on each side no longer have any exposure to the “other.”
Observers of the conflict rightly are concerned with the education systems in Israel and Palestine. When Israelis do not learn about the Nakba or the Palestinian view of history, they are less likely to understand why Palestinians view themselves as victims. And when, for example, Palestinian children are educated in schools that are actually named after suicide bombers, it’s hard to envision how they will be able to change that narrative to live in peace. We know that education of children in conflict is key. As we saw at Yad Vashem, theories of racial superiority and German identity were embedded into the education system. Children raised to see Jews and others as subhuman in 1933 were then in the military by 1942 carrying out the Holocaust.
Yet we know that this can change. Part of the success story in Germany is how its education system was overhauled and designed so that every child would be exposed to the Holocaust. Virtually every school child in Germany visits a concentration camp. There was no pretending that Germans were not responsible or that the Holocaust did not happen.
After our trip, I wondered what would be the sites for Israeli and Palestinian kids. Should all Palestinian children come to the memorials for different suicide bombings (the memorial to the bombing of the Dolphinarium club, for example, is right on the Tel Aviv beach boardwalk with the names of the 21 people, mostly teenagers, killed in Hebrew and Russian). Should all Israeli children walk through the ruins of Lifta, the Arab town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where Arabs fled from in 1948? I am sure both Israeli and Palestinian educators could each come up with a list of what symbols and places teach their respective narratives. And, as we know from our own travel, seeing these places is so much more powerful than reading about them in a book or even hearing from speakers.
I know that peace will take more than field trips. And our own field study got me thinking about what that could look like for the next generation of children in the region and how important that could be.