The school community comprises of pupils, family members (parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles…), school teachers and principals.
We talk of our ‘total community’ approach to co-existence work because we do not limit the target population to age, gender, religious or subject-oriented group.
Since the programme becomes part of the school curriculum we are assured that participants will participate as a matter of course. As the subject material is folklore, the children will need to collect information about their own home-culture from their parents’ and grandparents’ traditions, which means that we are also assured of family participation when the children interview them as part of their homework.
Many family members then come and work with the mixed groups of Arab and Jewish children as folk artists in the Joint Activities between the pairs of classes.
By bringing folklore studies into the schools, the programme helps pupils strengthen their own sense of community as well as offering the institutions opportunities to include parents and grandparents in the process of education. The Joint Activities, which are the culmination of each program unit, bring partner classes together, giving communities the opportunity to cross traditional social boundaries.
Over the years we have worked in rural and city settings with mixed and separate Jewish and Arab communities, giving us wide experience of the diversity of cultures and living situations in Israel, for example, the mixed cities of Ramle, Jaffa and Jerusalem, and in the Abu Gosh and Jerusalem areas.
Each course unit culminates in a Joint Activity, when family members from partnering Jewish and Arab schools come together to share folk traditions. Each community has the opportunity to host an activity in their own school. For individuals who may have never entered their partner community before, these activities can require confronting cultural stereotypes and fears that are based on a long history of violence and misunderstanding. Visiting each other's schools, homes, mosques, synagogues, and public spaces, and finding themselves welcomed as honored guests is an enormous event, the value of which cannot be underestimated.