Recently, in view of the Minister of Education’s 2022 reform, I’ve been searching for examples of renewable learning about multidiscipline associated with shared living and came across the “Horizon in Conflict” curriculum. The program, published in 2003, deals with an aspect of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict in that has not been taught in schools so far: the dual narrative approach. In my search, I came across Naomi Vered, a veteran educator who worked with a quality team of educators through the Sipur Hikaya association to develop and write the program. I asked Naomi Vered, a few questions and here you can find a fine and fascinating glimpse into the secrets behind the scenes in preparing a curriculum about a shared life – Familiarity with narratives – “horizon in conflict”.
How did you come up with this idea of writing a curriculum on a subject that was never officially included in the curriculum in Israel?
The program is based on our experiential and intellectual experience in the dual-narrative approach when dealing with the Jewish-Palestinian Conflict, which we experienced as Israeli teachers who worked with Palestinian teachers when writing the book “Getting to Know the History of the Other” (Prime Institute 2009); The book presents the history of Israel in the 20th century through Jewish and Palestinian eyes.
At the conclusion of our joint effort and the publication of the book, we thought that we should teach about the Jewish-Palestinian conflict in Israel, as a stand-alone program, and that we should assimilate the dual narrative approach in our schools as the right way to learn. As history teachers who are always busy checking notebooks, grading tests and teaching we did not fulfill the task, but Sefi Donner, an energetic and determined business entrepreneur, came across the book and was enthusiastic about the idea. We joined his initiative and established the “Sipur-Hikaya” association, which will promote this type of study. We attach great importance on the teaching this program and believe in it.
Who wrote the program and what’s its pedagogical innovation?
We wrote the program: Rachel Zamir, Yehoshua Ratz and I (Naomi Vered), adopted the dual-narrative approach and learning in every field we taught, as a way of a critical approach and a fruitful and empathetic dialogue, especially in situations of disagreement and conflict. The pedagogical innovation lies in the introduction of political education into schools, in the way students formulate their positions after acquiring comprehensive knowledge, tackling questions that arise from it, and learning about how the other experiences and interprets reality. Knowing and becoming familiar with the story of the “other” constitute, in our opinion, a condition for an intellectual discussion that is conducted based on listening, equality and respect for other positions. Becoming an informed person is conditional upon this kind of learning, uncritical, but relying on principles and opinions aimed to persuade and from agreements. With this program, we hope to promote understanding and moderation within and between nationalities, as well as a humanistic basis for a democratic society in Israel.
Where did the dual narrative approach come from?
The first to establish the dual-narrative approach as a way of resolving conflicts and social disparities was the late Professor Dan Bar-On of Ben-Gurion University, who first worked in Germany with the sons and daughters of Nazis and their victims.
Through the years, the dual-narrative approach to holding open, equal, and constructive conversations between groups, was accepted by teachers, facilitators, and mediators of various disciplines.
What was your thought process in setting up milestones for your curriculum program?
Our guidelines in writing the program touched on four angles related to teaching and education:
1) From the students’ point of view – we wanted the program to suit most students.
2) From the teachers’ point of view – we wanted every teacher who was willing to teach the Jewish-Palestinian conflict to be able to adopt the program and enjoy it.
3) In terms of content – it was important to us that the plan would not be identified with the “left” or the “right” (with an emphasis on ‘the’) but would suit those at the center of the political map – left and right, those who believe the conflict with the other side can be discussed with the other side.
4) In terms of the structure of the program – we decided not to be satisfied only with the dual narrative study, but to continue from it also to political activism in Israeli society. It seems to us, that the program presents in a balanced way, reasoned positions of the right, of the left and of religious Zionism in their response to the conflict and allows students to formulate a personal position.
Can the program be taught only by history or citizenship and political science teachers?
The program includes detailed instruction for the teacher (including “press a button” activities and possible answers to questions that may arise in class) so that each teacher from any discipline can teach the topic if it’s close to his or her heart and expand and diversify it through the topic he or she specializes in. The program has a variety of activities, usually in groups, presentations, videos and more, and since the topic is current it may fascinate the class. The program can be taught in tenth-twelfth grades as an annual enrichment class, in a seminar dealing with the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, as part of an annual “general education” class in tenth grade, as part of various subjects taught in school, and in education classes.
Is it appropriate to teach the program also in Arab society in Arabic-speaking schools?
The program as it stands today is only suitable for Hebrew-speaking Jewish schools because it was written by Jewish teachers and relates to Jewish politics in the State of Israel. We intend to write a program in this spirit also for schools in Arab society, in which we will cooperate with Israeli-Palestinian teachers who will bring the Israeli-Palestinian narrative and the options available to Israeli Arabs with regard to the conflict.
Can you explain the structure of the program?
The program has 9 units:
Unit 1: Theoretical unit (Lessons 1 – 4) What is a conflict? How is a conflict encouraged and how can it be toned down? What is a narrative, and what is its role in conflicts? And a case study (Ireland).
Units 2-5: The History of Israel in the 20th Century in Dual Narrative Studies (Lessons 5 – 14)
The Jewish World and Israel until the Balfour Declaration; The Balfour Declaration and the 1920s and 1930s in Israel; The Partition Plan and the War of Independence; The Six Day War and its aftermath.
Unit 6: Palestinian Society – The Status of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and their Situation (through “stories from life”), terrorist organizations and the first Intifada (Lessons 15-17)
Unit 7: Israeli Society and its Attitude towards the Conflict – Attitudes in Israeli Society on the Conflict (Lessons 18-21)
Unit 8: Political activism – acquaintance with movements and associations dealing with the subject
Conflict, and personal decision (Lessons 22 – 25)
Unit 9: Feedback and Hope – our chosen path, the horizon in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
(Lessons 26 – 28).
So Naomi, if educators are interested in hearing and reading more details about the program, how can this be done?
You can write an email to Info@sipur-hikaya.org and you can also call Sefi: 0544360360