Monday, May 29, 2006

Much more complicated

Ok, in Israel things are always more complicated than they seem to an American. For example, tonight we heard an new reaction about the Hand-in-Hand schools. We described these schools to friends over a beautiful French dinner at a restaurant called Margaux. We explained that the Hand-in-Hand schools seem to attempt to share Jewish, Christian Arab, and Moslem Arab cultures but not to blend them. Our friends hadn't heard of the Hand-in-Hand schools.

From our description, they concluded that such a school had a political agenda. "I didn't hear the people from Hand-in-Hand state a political agenda," I said. Everything in Israel, they reminded me, has a political agenda. If the school has 50% Jews and 50% Arabs, two teachers per class, teaches in two languages, and strives for equal cultural exchange, then (to put it simply) the agenda is to foster a pluralistic country, not a Jewish country. The term "post Zionist" came up.

Our friends described a multi-ethnic school in Jerusalem that has a different agenda. Students include both Jews and Arabs, but "it's like the army. The food is kosher in the dining hall, but the kids can do what they like in their rooms. There's no alcohol for several reasons; the stated one is that there are Muslim students. The general atmosphere is secular Jewish. The key words are tolerance and excellence."

Before their reaction, I would have thought that the major differences were due to Hand-in-Hand being an elementary school and the school they described being a high school. But this is uncomprehending on my part.

Another thing that's becoming obvious to me is that many multi-cultural schools say they are the unique example of such a project, but somehow one always hears of more of them. I wonder how widespread they really are.

I don't know how I'll ever learn to read the complex political agendas that have been swirling around me. This evening I was afraid to even try to describe Jewish Family Education as we learned about it in Migdal haEmek. It's not my style to go over everything and tease out the politics. I'm stuck in American values.

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