Education and Community

Coping with Racism in Israel's Schools

Bimat Mandel 

How should we deal with racism in Israel's education system? How should racism online be addressed? How can we measure the effectiveness of educational programs that aim to combat racism?

These are just some of the questions that second-year fellows at the Mandel School for Educational Leadership (MSEL) sought to address in their annual group exercise. The topic of the exercise - methods of dealing with racism in the education system - was selected at the request of the Ministry of Education. The fellows presented an interim report, "Racism? Coping? Proposals for the Education System" at the Bimat Mandel [Mandel Platform] held at the Mandel Leadership Institute.

"Only when teachers feel they have permission - and capacity - to discuss the issue of racism seriously and systematically will it be possible to implement educational programs with the power to reduce the phenomenon"
– from the “Racism? Coping? Proposals for the Educational System” report

The report makes several recommendations for dealing with racism. It advises against short-term, one-time interventions. It also advises basing anti-racism programs on the education system’s internal capacity rather than outsourcing to external entities that are here today, gone tomorrow.

"Teachers and principals," the fellows write, "are most influential on the students’ worldview, values and behavior." "Bottom-up programs," they continue, "… build solidarity, trust and, in the end, are very effective. Programs dictated by the Ministry of Education, even if they sometimes address an immediate need, are less effective."

בימת מנדל 

Moreover, "the educational process cannot be disconnected from the specific school context. Thus, preference should be given to educational programs that take into account the school’s unique character."

In response to the fellows' presentation, Dr. Nir Michaeli, the head of the Ministry of Education’s Pedagogic Secretariat (and himself a graduate of MSEL), noted that "The best way to do this is as 'lateral education'… not as an occasional peak experience, but as something that is part of the everyday routine."

A second respondent, Dr. Ayman Agbaria, director of the Mandel Leadership Institute’s Mandel Scholars in Education program, noted "You can’t appropriate racism and say ‘it o​nly happens to me, I’m the only victim of racism.' Sometimes the same ​​people who carry out hate crimes are also of victims of racism."

The Bimat Mandel program on December 15 was the first of the current academic year. Bimat Mandel is a forum that focuses on Israeli society’s fundamental issues. It aims to enrich educational discourse within the Mandel community and the general public, through encounters with leading scholars, policy-makers and practitioners.

“It is incumbent on us all - senior staff, principals, teachers and students - to expose the racism within ourselves so that we can deal with it and change our behavior”
- from the “Racism? Coping? Proposals for the Educational System” report

On Racism in the Bible – Professor Moshe Halbertal

Drawing on the Book of Exodus (Exodus 1:8-22), Prof. Moshe Halbertal identified four stages through which hatred of the other develops.

The first is defamiliarization: "Here is this people, the Children of Israel" – notes Pharaoh, creating a buffer between his people and this other "people". Once this differentiation exists, next comes fear-mongering: "lest they multiply… and also become one of our enemies" – Pharaoh presents the children of Israel as a fifth column. After that disgust for the other develops: "And they were mortified on account of the Children of Israel" – and from there it is a short way to "and they shall be tossed into the Nile".

Halbertal, a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at the Hebrew University, and a Mandel Leadership Institute faculty member, believes that a sense of shared humanity, which prevents defamliarization, must underlie the fight against racism.

Watch the fellows share their personal experiences with racis​m (Hebrew)

Odeya Barkan: "Integration. Yeah, right"
Rinat Porat: "Spare them from 'Jerusalemite heterogeneity'"



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