When I completed my master’s degree at the Hebrew University, in social studies, communications (in 1996…) I had two options – I could continue to work in media, communications and film or choose teaching. I found both options intriguing. I already had experience in both areas, in education certainly, but also in communications having worked during my master’s studies at Ma’ariv newspaper and then at a government ministry in the spokesperson’s office. To expand my educational experience, I studied teaching at the Kerem Institute of teacher training for humanistic education. I acquired skills for teaching interesting and inspiring humanistic subjects focusing on faith in man and humanism. I was undecided about which path to follow. Eventually, I decided to connect with what has always been my mainstay — humanistic educational ventures, and I left the ‘big city’ and the stressful oftentimes manipulative world of media making a sharp break, and moving to a quiet kibbutz in the north to teach. There used to be a practice at certain Kibbutzim to invite ‘big city’ teachers to work there as ‘hired teachers.’ I taught at the regional school, lived in a kibbutz and we started our family there. The community was amazing, and we have great memories from that time. A few years later, we moved on, and I worked as a teacher and coordinator of communications and film at Hof HaCarmel regional high school.
One day, I was approached by Osnat Bar-Or, artist, photographer and activist who taught educational leadership at the Mandel Leadership Institute, and was asked to initiate a long-term social-educational project. She shared her idea with me for a program meant to connect two neighboring film study programs, ours at Hof HaCarmel regional high school and the one at the Fureidis high school. She told me that at Fureidis high school there was a communications and film studies coordinator called Ibtisam Mara’ana, and that she had already agreed to join the program. I too confirmed my participation and we jumped into a crazy process…this is what we looked like 20 years ago, myself holding a microphone at the graduation ceremony of the film students at Hof HaCarmel, and Ibtisam caught between teaching, coordinating and directing, camera in-hand.
Our program consisted of meetings between the film students for joint studies, individual studies – through teacher exchange (Ibtisam and I switched and taught some lessons to the other’s class) and field trips – such as to the Diwan El Lajun theater in Nazareth. For the practical part of the program, the students from both schools created a TV magazine for young people about ‘home’. The purpose of the project as Osnat put it (with a little help from us) was to create a multi-cultural model for youth, that would include diverse voices, and allow various identities and perspectives to live together – a shared life. The program continued for over a year. It went beyond the usual awkward getting-acquainted meetings between Arabs and Jews. The joint ‘doing’, producing the magazine and the long-term meetings created both meaning and depth. While filming the clips for ‘my home’ – getting to know the homes and lives of each student, seeing how they live, their family and the conversations and stories that accompanied the filming, exposed the students to profound thoughts about what they did and didn’t have in common, and issues that mattered to them at the time. We also had many talks about whether we could co-exist as neighbors. We identified the hardships and obstacles and discussed them, while also discussing how to actively recognize and choose tolerance and good neighborly relationships – I suppose that the goal was to create a process for changing people’s perspectives from one-dimensional to multi-dimensional.
In addition, the program had a special quality thanks to my relationship with Ibtisam. At the time, we were two young women running film and communication study programs, we had many other things going on as well, as well as a whole future ahead of us, and suddenly we met, an Arab and a Jew, out of the blue in the middle of life to run a joint program. Under the auspices of the unique Osnat, we developed a deep and mind-expanding connection – a connection that undermined the myths that we grew up on. A connection between an Arab and a Jew that we cultivated for years afterwards. There was deep contemplation about identity. I remember that even then, I was thinking that this meeting was so meaningful to me as a factor in developing my own identity, it expanded my emotional range, raised a lot of questions, caused a shift in my existing thought patterns and axioms, I felt then (and to this day) that everyone should go through a similar process (that continues through the years and through further encounters…). An encounter that can cause a change in opinions, behavior, perceptions and will contribute to a new perspective on life. Our meeting was fateful to me and raised questions and new thoughts and was a turning point, like a missing puzzle piece that would accumulate other pieces during my lifetime to create a large colorful picture (and the blog and website about shared living that I began in 2016 as a social volunteer activist initiative – are of course also connected).
I thought about us and our social-political situation then and since in a new light and also about our and our children’s future here in Israel and recently I watched Ibtisam Mara’ana’s opening speech as new member of Knesset – I remembered her words about the healing properties of peace and co-existence, I remembered the students, I remembered us twenty years ago, and this article just poured out. And to anyone who missed it, here is Ibtisam’s important and moving speech:
The process that maybe started then – continues to this day, because I continue to learn how to ask questions, try to be open and think differently, work towards social change in both shared living and activist pedagogy to bring about change in education. And I’m hopeful – yes, because this is our time!! Our time to bring about healing revolutions.