Hear from our students!
Givat Haviva facilitator, Zakaria, guides an activity with CTC participants
Children Teaching Children (CTC) is a two-year program that combines civics study with personal encounters among Arab and Jewish middle school students, who live near one another, yet have never met. Over the past 32 years, CTC has reached over 30,000 Israeli students and teachers in the Wadi Ara region of Israel. The program fosters mutual understanding and respect as teachers and students confront their viewpoints on complex issues such as individual and national identity, community life, and what it means to share citizenship with a group whose narratives differ starkly from your own.
A leader in the field of conflict mitigation and shared society work, Givat Haviva has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognition over the years, including the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, the FES Human Rights Award, the Dr. Chaim Constantiner Prize in Jewish Education, and the Austrian government’s Intercultural Achievement Award. In 2018, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) awarded Givat Haviva Special Consultative Status in recognition of its longstanding work in promoting Jewish-Arab dialogue and reconciliation.
Context and Need
There is a growing social divide between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities that has existed long before the country’s founding. Relations between these divided peoples have been marked by mutual distrust, lack of communication, and racism on both sides. Moreover, 92% of Israeli Jews and Arabs live in separate communities and 99% of their children learn in separate schools. These phenomena threaten to unravel the democratic fabric on which Israel’s future stability and legitimacy depend.
In such an environment, narratives about “the other” are both formed and informed through prejudice, fear, stereotypes, and the media. Opportunities for Jews and Arabs to express themselves authentically and to be heard by each other are, unfortunately, extremely rare.
Givat Haviva understood over thirty years ago that there was a growing need for Arab and Jewish young people to have a safe environment to express themselves and also hear the perspectives of “the other.” CTC does that by allowing critical discussions to be had under the supervision and guidance of Givat Haviva-trained facilitators. Program participants hear unique and personal perspectives they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to and begin to humanize those on the other side of the social and religious divide. Through the program’s pairing of Jewish and Arab schools, students not only gain the intellectual and pragmatic skills they need to be thoughtful members of a shared society – they also form friendships and engage in experiences that will forever change their lives.
Goals and Objectives
Students who participate in Children Teaching Children:
Become more cognizant of the uniqueness of one another’s cultures and identities;
Develop critical thinking skills and a broadly-informed perspective on the context in which they live;
Understand and internalize at an early age the principles of tolerance, mutual respect, democracy, and peace;
Participate in positive and personal interactions with one another; and
Gain experience learning about and reflecting on the meaning of democracy and the conditions necessary for an Israeli society to be shared by both Jews and Arabs.
Program objectives are based on the following key principles:
Acknowledging the profound influence of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict on Israel’s citizens;
Perceiving inclusive citizenship in a shared society as an alliance between groups and individuals who exist as equals;
Affirming that dialogue is the preferred way to promote change.
The program runs in the schools as part of the formal curriculum. It consists of both uni-national meetings (Jewish and Arab classes meeting separately) and bi-national (mixed) encounters at the Givat Haviva campus, or at one of the paired schools. Participating classes are matched with groups from schools in neighboring Arab and Jewish communities and each group works with its own facilitator. Uni-national sessions are held once a week for two hours and for a total of approximately 25 sessions each year. Following several weeks of uni-national sessions, the participants begin a series of encounters with their partnered class.
At first, Children Teaching Children operates with each class separately in the classrooms of their respective schools. In these sessions, each student becomes aware of his/her personal identity, group identity, and self-image. By increasing and establishing their self-confidence in these initial sessions, students are better prepared for the bi-national meetings. Students vigorously discuss the concepts of democracy, pluralism, and stereotypes, applying themselves to the frameworks in which they live, and the reference groups which make up their identities.
As the year progresses, classes begin to meet with their partners in each other’s schools, alternating locations. Classes engage in a range of creative activities from preliminary ice-breakers to drama, art, simulation games, and field trips, dealing with subjects that neither teachers nor students normally broach. The content is decided jointly by students and teachers during the preparatory period. Students are encouraged to communicate with their counterparts via storytelling, art, music, and other media. They are encouraged to think about and openly discuss complex questions of identity. Through dialogue and shared activity, they confront, and ultimately begin to overcome their own anxieties, fears, and stereotypes.
Teachers who participate in Children Teaching Children are selected for their high level of motivation and desire to seek out the professional challenge afforded by the program. CTC allows Jewish and Arab teachers to work hand in hand in ways that are seldom possible in Israel’s educational system. The teachers consult with CTC staff on a regular basis, as well as with their paired colleagues. They discuss the events that have transpired in their classrooms, as well as the difficulties that they have encountered. The teachers learn about one another’s societies, share reflections from their homeroom sessions, and undergo a growth process, not unlike the one that their students go through. CTC is as much an educational program for teachers as it is for students.
Trained, professional facilitators are at the core of Children Teaching Children, working with each participating class and teacher. Each day, facilitators encounter new situations and challenges as a result of current events and the ever-changing responses of teachers and students to the program. Because facilitators require an environment in which they can receive support and assistance from peers, they meet regularly on the Givat Haviva campus with CTC’s two program coordinators in both uni-national and bi-national sessions. These sessions are dedicated to evaluative discussions and the professional growth of the facilitators and the program coordinators.
The CTC program is not a fixed series of expository lessons but rather a process through which current events and personal stories can significantly impact both program content and scheduling. The facilitators are attentive to the needs of teachers and students, and are flexible in leading the program. Guest speakers are frequently invited to share their knowledge, diversify perspectives, and broaden understanding.
One of the most valuable aspects of the CTC program is its two-year duration. This distinguishes it from many other encounter initiatives which tend to be more limited in scope and impact. The extended nature of the program allows for in-depth introspection into self-identity and the identity of "the other," as well as the formation of bonds of trust between students and teachers alike. Furthermore, because the program takes place during the school day, the study of shared society is increasingly seen as an essential part of the Israeli curriculum.
Evaluation of the program is conducted through student questionnaires and reports from the project facilitators, teachers, and coordinators. Evaluation of the program's success is based on five criteria:
The level of cooperation achieved between the Jewish and Arab teachers and students, and the degree of involvement in the activities.
The changes in the tone of the discussion, and the ability of participants to listen.
The willingness to breach and discuss controversial topics, and the degree to which students and teachers are willing to reveal their personal thoughts.
The willingness for introspection and for questioning what had been taken for granted.
The interest of schools, project facilitators, and students to continue the program.
Chilren teaching children
Bringing Jewish and Arab middle schoolers together through learning