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After Gaza war, a harder coexistence for Jews and Arabs

Israeli groups that focus on Jewish and Arab coexistence are just beginning to wrestle with the fallout from the Gaza war.

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NEW DIVIDE: Parents at Hagar kindergarten says Arab and Jewish children are playing separately at school since the war.

Joshua Mitnick

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The Hagar bilingual kindergarten was founded as a rare cocoon from ethnic alienation for children and parents in Israel. But even this place of innocence and coexistence isn't immune to the deeper divisions between Jews and Arabs here that has followed the Gaza war.

"When Assin came back from her first day [after the war] she said, 'Mommy, today we played war between Israel and Gaza,' " says Suha Farhat, about her 5-year-old daughter.

The school intended to meet Tuesday, in part to address students' and parents' feelings following the battle between Israel and Hamas, but discussing it may have proved too painful. Few parents came.

Groups that focus on Jewish and Arab coexistence are just beginning to wrestle with the fallout from the war but despite an ideological commitment to living together in peace, the search for political common ground has been largely seen as too controversial.

"I wasn't against the war. I think that we have a right to defend ourselves, but that isn't something I bring up," says Debra Mathias, whose has sent two children to the kindergarten. "I don't expect [the school] will change the world, but I at least hope for my children to be open minded, and to really understand the complexity of living here."

Amid Israel's mostly segregated education system, the kindergarten is part of a network of four schools sponsored by the bilingual educational nonprofit Hand in Hand. At the kindergarten, walls are filled with a rainbow of pictures with captions in Hebrew and Arabic. Since the war, an alarm has been added in case of an unexpected missile strike.

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