In Israel thousands of initiatives dealing with peace education are targeted at pupils from kindergarten through university. In most cases the focus is on Jewish-Arab relations (an “intractable” conflict), but numerous initiatives exist that address conflicts of a different nature, whether those subsisting between the religious and secular publics, veteran Israelis and new immigrants, etc. Some of these initiatives are administered by the Ministry of Education, while others are operated by various non-governmental organizations and institutes (NGOs).
Education for peace and conflict resolution lies within the purview of two separate units within the Education Ministry – a unit responsible for teaching democracy and civics at the cognitive level, and the Psychological Counseling Service, which deals with the emotional-social side of these issues. An estimated 300 NGOs are currently active in this field, whether directly or indirectly. An effort is underway to organize them within a Jewish-Arab coexistence network (www.coexnet.org.il).
It is very difficult to assess the scope of activity represented by the various existing initiatives. The initiatives may be divided into two main types:
A. Jewish-Arab encounter programs: “mixed” and bilingual schools, “twin” schools, joint delegations abroad, summer camps, etc.
B. Study and enrichment programs: programs within the education system that deal with education for coexistence and democracy, for multiculturalism, humanism, mediation, etc. Israeli universities operate teacher training programs based on principles of social justice, as well as programs that focus on research and development.
Research has recently been conducted at the University of Haifa on the topic of peace education. The findings indicate that, despite all efforts, only about 6% of the pupil population is exposed to education of this kind. There is reason to believe that a more precisely-formulated and binding standard regarding peace education would produce more precise findings.
Numerous cooperative endeavors exist between the formal education system and the NGOs. These partnerships generally spring up at the local (school or locality) level; occasionally they are driven by key units within the Ministry. High motivation and initiative on the part of teachers, along with knowledge and budgets provided by involved organizations, are what make efforts of this nature possible. We have no hard data regarding the scope of these activities.
Long-term programs characterized by continuity and tenacity are among the most successful ventures in this area. Of particular note are the bilingual schools where Jewish and Arab pupils study together in mixed classes. The Seeds of Peace program, in which participants spend extended periods of time together in a structured summer-camp format, is also recognized as a success story.
Ministry of Education policy encourages the development and implementation of programs of this kind:
Allocation of 1 study hour per week throughout the education system, from kindergarten through high school, to the subject of life skills.
Encouragement of local initiatives aimed at developing and incorporating relevant programs.
Promotion of contact with bodies external to the schools.
At a minimum, one may say that all Israeli children are exposed in one form or another to some kind of program related to this field. However, only about 6% take part in comprehensive, long-term programs.