On the ground learning

Jewish/Arab education and organizing in Israel and Palestine

An evening of stories in support of the bilingual storybook and curriculum Sweet Tea with Mint

Thursday, June 14, 7-9pm
Temple Beth Emeth, lower level
2309 Packard, Ann Arbor
Click here to view and save a flyer for the event

Sweet Tea with Mint

Several members of our community have made trips to Israel/Palestine recently, specifically visiting organizations of Israeli and Palestinian educators and activists who, amidst a present of terrible conflict,  are working toward a viable future for the region’s peoples. On June 14th, they will be telling stories from their trips at an event organized to raise money for a bilingual educational project.

Sweet Tea With Mint and Other Stories is the heart of a new educational curriculum that was developed by Hagar: Jewish-Arab Education for Equality in Beer Sheva. The anthology is composed of six stories focusing on Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays, written by distinguished children’s writers in Hebrew and Arabic. Hagar is dedicated to creating a shared space for Jewish and Arab residents of the Negev – a space based on the foundations of multiculturalism, bilingualism and equality.

The storytellers at the event include AARC members Rebecca Kanner, Alice Mishkan and Debbie Zivan. Clare Kinberg, AARC Communications Coordinator will MC.

Rebecca traveled to Israel/Palestine in May 2017, her first visit in over 30 years.  She was part of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence (CJNV) delegation of over 100 Jewish activists from around the world.  CJNV was in a coalition with 5 Palestinian, Israeli and diaspora groups that created the Sumud Freedom Camp in the West Bank village of Sarura, in South Hebron.

Alice just returned from her third year leading a study abroad to Israel and Palestine through the University of Michigan. This year, Michigan students partnered with Palestinian students at Sakhnin Teacher’s College. Students learned about the differences in educations systems for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and Jewish Israelis. Students compared these to education systems in the United States, and learned about how education can be a tool for social change.

Debbie is just back from a family trip to Israel/Palestine for her nephew’s wedding. In addition to visiting with family (half of whom live on settlements), Debbie and family toured Hebron, the Jerusalem Hand in Hand school and stayed overnight in Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam. The combination of celebrating with family, seeing examples of how Arab and Jewish Israelis are prioritizing pathways to peace and a dual narrative tour that stressed the wrongs of the “other side” made for an interesting trip – a trip that created a sense of urgency to find ways to make a difference.

Hagar’s director of Director of Partnerships and Resource Development, Karen Abu Adra, will also be present to tell us more about the school and its importance to the Negev region. Karen is originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania but has been married to a Bedouin dentist from Segev Shalom, Israel and living in Israel since 1993. They have three adult sons.  Karen taught English for 13 years in a Bedouin high school in the Bedouin city of Rahat and has been working for Hagar for a year and half.

There is a very nice connection between Hagar and the Reconstructionist movement. Hagar’s Executive Director, Sam Shube, writes:

My name is Sam Shube and I’m CEO of the Hagar Association. I served as director of Kehillat Mevakshei Derech in Jerusalem, Israel’s first Reconstructionist congregation.  Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, z”l, was a member of Mevakshei when he lived in Israel.  The motive force for its establishment was Rabbi Jack Cohen, z”l, one of Kaplan’s leading students in Israel, a man I knew and loved.  Other Reconstructionist leaders of Mevakshei have included Jewish educator Norman Schainin.  Though I am not an ordained rabbi, my Master’s Thesis was on Kaplan and John Dewey, and I’ve always adhered to Kaplan’s views on Jewish civilization and democracy.  (I’m still a member of Mevakshei, where I occasionally read Torah and give a sermon).

I’ve lived in Israel for over 30 years (I did my undergraduate work at JTS and Columbia) and served in a variety of nonprofits. Of everything I’ve seen in this country, however, Hagar — the bilingual school in Beer Sheba — is the most familiar reflection of Kaplan’s idea of community.  Hagar’s Arab and Jewish families are intensively active on a day-to-day level, organizing field trips and fundraisers, and providing mutual assistance.   Last night at our Iftar celebration (the traditional Ramadan break-fast), Jewish and Arab families helped their children prepare gifts for hospitalized Gazan children – at the very time when Israel and the Hamas were trading rockets and artillery just a few miles to the west.   And I myself used to platform to raise funds from parents for scholarships to help needy families cover tuition fees.   Other recent community events have included discussions on the Moslem and Jewish connection with Jerusalem, and a visit to a Beer Sheba mosque.

Hagar’s community is remarkably diverse.  It includes Arabs from urban centers in northern Israel and Bedouins’ from the Negev, Jews from underserved neighborhoods in town and professors from the university.  Our community welcomes LGBT families, something not to be taken for granted in the more traditional environment of both Jewish and Arab communities in southern Israel.   In fact, the very existence of an Arab Jewish school in Beer Sheba – as opposed to more culturally liberal parts of Israel – is a miracle in and of itself.