Face to Face is a national program facilitating encounters between groups of Israeli Jewish and Arab high school youth through a series of workshops. These workshops are designed to create a greater understanding of one another, reduce feelings of fear and hatred, and lay the foundation for the formation of a joint future based on mutual respect. The program is designed for older students, and the encounters include intensive and substantive dialogue sessions that dig deep into the controversial topics at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Face-to-Face program aspires to enable each young person in Israel to participate in at least one Face-to-Face encounter in an educational, egalitarian framework during their high school years. The purpose of the encounter is to lay the foundation for a joint future based on mutual respect between Jewish and Arab citizens by reducing the sense of alienation and mutual fear. Givat Haviva believes that this type of encounter between different national and religious groups in conflict is an essential step toward Israel’s democratic future.
The primary goals of the program include:
Decreasing alienation and the mutual feeling of threat between Jewish and Arab citizens of the State of Israel.
Promoting mutual acquaintance between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel in the context of the creation of a future based on shared citizenship.
Promoting accountability for the creation of an egalitarian society based on recognition, understanding, and mutual acceptance of Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.
The secondary goals of the program include:
Enabling and inculcating pluralistic values.
Acquaintance with the other identity and mutual examination of stereotypes.
In-depth acquaintance with the various national narratives.
Developing tools for dialogue between equals.
Creating a positive attitude towards the possibility of establishing a life in common based on democratic values.
Ensuring the health and equailty of both identities’ existence.
Normally, the seminars are held at the Givat Haviva campus. Each seminar is attended by about 36 students from an Arab school and about 36 students from a Jewish school, divided into small bi-national groups during the seminar. Each group is led by two facilitators, one Jewish facilitator and one Arab, who are trained to lead Jewish-Arab dialogue groups. An intensive preparatory Uni-National Session (1/2 day) is held prior to the encounter in the schools and followed by a Uni-National Session (1/2 day) following the encounter.
During the year 2022, after two years of the Corona epidemic, we were able to return to almost full activity, but the effect of the Corona was still felt, and several seminars were canceled on short notice at the beginning of 2022 (January – March 2022.)
Despite the challenges, about 1000 students, Arabs, and Jews from all over the country, participated in the Face to Face program and together had significant and successful experiences which included a two-day seminar that included interpersonal and intercultural acquaintance and a discussion about significant conflicts and various issues between the societies.
The 2022-2033 school year began with uncertainty and difficult challenges. Unfortunately, The Israeli Teachers Union went on strike in June 2022 just as we were about to close the recruitment process for the 2022-2023 academic year. We were required to halt all communications with educators and all efforts. The strike lasted until the opening of the school year, with a reported shortage of almost 6000 teachers in the Jewish sector and an unprecedented number of principals retiring. In addition, the Ministry of Education opened the new mechanism, Geffen program, which allowed schools to invite programming but took a couple of months for the start-up.
While there was a delay in the recruitment process, the new system exposed the program to both our older partners and schools we had yet to reach throughout Israel, creating new opportunities. Additionally, the political instability of Israel and the tension between the two sides helped increase the understanding of the need for Jews and Arabs to meet. After laying much of the technical groundwork, we expect an increase in activity for 2023.
In spite of the political turmoil, this last year has been both exciting and complex.
During the initial workshops of getting to know each other and having personal conversations, the students connected with each other and found a lot in common. They learned about each other during the process.
"It was really surprising to see how similar we are."
"We learned a lot about their culture, we knew nothing about their tradition before the meeting."
Jewish students said: "We thought most of them were religious, but we discovered that this is not necessarily true."
Some said they thought they wouldn't be nice and were surprised. They were also surprised to find out that they are very politically involved "It seems that we really talk to them at home about politics; they know much more than we do."
Arab students said: "It's the first time they've met Jews one on one and had an open discussion, and it really affected how they see them now.” “We didn't believe they would listen to us, we said difficult things, and the Jewish students really listened"
Besides the exciting and intimate moments, the encounter was also accompanied by a complex and sensitive discussion about issues that are challenging for the students but equally important in the stages of their relationship.
The youth stated that there were things that were very challenging for them to hear from both sides, certain things made them angry, and other things made them want to read and delve into the subject to get more information.
The great majority of the students stated unequivocally that despite the difficulty, they remember the seminar as a significant experience, they would recommend their friends from school to join future seminars, and they themselves would also like to take part in such a seminar again.
Most of the schools have already asked to register for the seminar for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Face to Face
Facilitating encounters between Jewish and Arah high schoolers