Learning about the other

By most accounts, Israeli students don’t learn much about Palestinian students, their history, their culture and aspirations. Palestinian students don’t learn much about Israelis. What a shame since they live within a handshake of each other, and their leaders are supposedly negotiating a “peace” agreement.

Seems each side wants to keep their people in the dark (“ignorance is bliss”), brainwash the children about the “other” side, and instill unquestioning loyalty.

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I thought about this as I walked around an International celebration at an elementary school in Logan, Utah on Friday night.

Palestine

Palestine

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Little tables for short people were set up in the library with displays and artifacts from the Dominican Republic, India, China, Iran, Brazil, Palestine and elsewhere.

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

China

China

Iran

Iran

 

Young people were testing strange musical instruments, drawing new letters, watching slide shows, tasting the cuisine and TALKING with families whose home of origin they could barely find on the world’s map. 

Brazil

Brazil

Parents and families watching performances at International Night

Parents and families watching performances at International Night

Afterwards, everyone (probably 200+) filed into the cafeteria to watch several performances, including the traditional Palestinian dance — the Dabke.  Here’s a hip-hop version of the Dabke performed in the Beirut airport by a flash mob.

These Logan elementary school children are exploring the wonderful “otherness” in the world. Hopefully, this experience feeds both their hearts and minds so they grow up to be respectful and tolerant of others.

The xenophobic educational policies in Israel and Palestine guarantee that their children will grow up spiritually impoverished and politically estranged from each other. I think the adults should know better, but then I remember — the adults in Israel and Palestine were probably victims of the same misguided educational systems. It’s just a vicious cycle. Where does it end?

Learning about the other is the best remedy for the toxic, xenophobic environment in many schools in the Middle East.  Come to think of it, members of Congress might learn a lesson or two from International Night.

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