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Jewish Arab Dialogue Program in HAC College

02/04/2020 | Yael Lezmi

Every year, HAC sponsors the Jewish-Arab Dialogue Program, an elective course that consists of a series of encounters that bring Jewish and Arab-Israeli students together in joint activities. The Program was established in order to create a format through which Jewish and Arab-Israeli students could become familiar with each other’s culture. The Program creates a warm group dynamic that lowers the emotional and psychological obstacles that often exist between these groups, and makes efforts to break down patterns of stereotypical thinking. Students learn about their differences - but also discover the many things that they share in common. The students ultimately come to realize that their quest to obtain a higher education and advance themselves in life is something that creates a greater influence than the cultural and religious sensitivities that may divide them.

HAC has found that creating a positive, cohesive social group that is evenly divided between Jewish and Arab-Israelis allows for authentic dialogue to take place about all subjects - even those that could potentially be divisive and painful. The activities through which the Program is conducted utilize a variety of vehicles that cut across cultures and create bridges between people, such as: music, the arts, dance, and sign language – which is not based upon any given culture or perspective. In addition, the students learn about Jerusalem’s rich history and geography, and go out in the field together to see historical sites and to discuss their significance from varying points of view. The students also participate in preparing and sharing food together, an activity that readily highlights the many things which these two groups share in common.

One particularly noteworthy activity which started a few years ago was the establishment of a joint committee that was given the task to learn about, summarize, and share information concerning the background and customs of various Moslem, Christian and Jewish religious holidays. This required the Jewish students to learn about the Moslem and Christian holidays, and the Moslem and Christian students to learn about the Jewish holidays. This activity resulted in the production of a series of posters about all the religious holidays celebrated during the year. Since then, these posters have been prominently displayed throughout the campus before and during all the religious holidays, in both Hebrew and Arabic, in order to sensitize the entire campus community to the celebrations taking place at those times of the year. At least one heartwarming tradition was established through this process: the Moslem and Jewish students always share at least one kosher ‘iftar’ meal during the month of Ramadan, accommodating the needs of all group participants.

The Dialogue Program is being sponsored during the current 2019-2020 academic year for the fifth consecutive time for a group of 30 participations.