Obstacles and Challenges in the Israeli Peace Education Experience
By Dr. Ruth Firer, Director of the Peace Education Forum
Truman Research Institute - The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The state of Israel is in open violent conflict with the Palestinians more than one hundred years with short breaks of nonviolence (1921-1929 1936-1948, 1967-1987, and 1993-2000).
Until 1948 and from 1967 the lives of the two nations are interwoven on growing dependency of coexistence despite the randomly hostilities and the Palestinian uprisings (1987-1994, 2000-2004).When the second Palestinian "Al Quds Intifada" (the Jerusalem Uprising) started on October 2000, many Israelis have felt that all the Peace Education (PE) programs had been illusions on the Israeli side. When the Palestinian youngsters and children have been involved in the upraising, at first by stoning Israelis and later by suicide terrorist bombs, these feelings have been enhanced. Livnat, the Likud Minister of Education has declared on a return to traditional Zionist values, and officially rejected the Post Zionist critical aspects of the national narrative. The Shenhar and Kremnitzer Staff (Value Education Department within Ministry of Education) focus on Jewish values and democracy education that includes cultural/ religious tolerance towards the minorities within the Israeli public (19% Israeli-Palestinians). It encourages diversity education and co existence education (CEE) among the Israeli citizens, avoiding the main political issues, like the occupation and the difference in formal and concert human and civic rights among the Israelis of the two nations. Because of the situation the Ministry is not involved in any PE activities with the Palestinians of the PNA.
The Israeli Ministry of Education and more then hundred NGOs (uni and bi national) are using the traditional CEE methods, as: Teaching model that is based on regular and supplementary teaching in classrooms, Informal Contact Model, that brings together groups and individual of both nations mainly for cultural joint activities, Task model, in which both sides are involved in joint task projects, and The Cluster Project of the Ministry of Education that infuses the three models by bringing together Israeli schools of both nationalities, on a basis of “Twin Schools".
In spite of the many NGOs and the efforts of the Ministry of Education members of both nationalities are reluctant to participate neither in CEE programs nor in PE that is almost impossible on the current violent background. Because of the concrete difficulties, the Virtual Peace Education (VPE) starts to be a safe and plausible way to reach teachers without endangering their position. NGOs and academics try to overcome Wall that is erected between the two children of Abraham by virtual means. It has a chance to become a third track agent of socialization that will work on the roots level within communities in order to change public opinion, and pressure the leaders of higher track to change policy towards peace. Thus, VPE can face issues and problems that the authorities decline and ignore, cross borders of nations, religions, gender and races. VPE can teach the learners skills of networking in their own language and in English; by participating in the virtual classroom, the learners of both nations can fuse shared competence and encourage mutual dependency as a condition for success. VPE can transfer the traditional PE "Teaching" and "Contact" models into the new discourse of virtual reality that will prepare the participants to real changes in their lives. Such a new global language can be practical in Cyprus, North Ireland, US among its ethnic groups, Europe in regard to minorities and new comers, and in many other locations and settings of explicit or/and implicit conflicts. It is the time to establish a Virtual International Peace School: VIPs.
 Right wing party that leads the government with Sharon as a prime minister
 PE- peace education with enemies of different state /country
CEE- Co existence education- understanding among citizens of the same state/country
 PNA- Palestinian National Authority
 60 Jewish and Arab classes work in teams on research tasks, monitored by the NGO "School on Line" and supported by the Ministry of Education. Pupils of 200 schools of both nationalities are involved in CEE supported and initiated by the Ministry of Education: focusing on Citizenship and art.
 I am working now on virtual course: From War Culture to Peace Education" for the European and Middle East Virtual University and on virtual textbook for Israeli and Palestinian primary schools.