The course “The Jewish Arab Conflict in the Reflection of Theory and Practice”, which the SFP teaches each year at the Tel Aviv University, ended on January 14. The course was attended by 10 Arab and 11 Jewish students. The SFP has been teaching this university level course for over 24 years, always updating it to be relevant to the conflict and how it is reflected in present day realities.
Individual fear always comes up in these courses. At the start of one seminar a Jewish student shared with the group an experience in Akko (a mixed Arab-Jewish city) when she felt threatened by a group of young Arabs. This story opened up a discussion on the roots and causes of fear; the Arab participants tried to explain why Jews do not need to feel threatened by Arabs. The Arab students spoke about the experience of Arab citizens of Israel as the group discussed the issue of identity and the ability to keep their distinct identity in a joint group. In another seminar the topic of fear led to discussions about army service. The Arab students asked the Jews why they serve in the Army and the Jews said it was to defend their country. The Arabs did not disagree with the need for an army, but not an army that bombs Palestinian citizens with phosphor bombs. The Jews said this didn’t happen and if it happened it was a mistake, to which the Arabs said every atrocity is explained as a mistake. The Arab students concluded that if you do not agree with what the army does you should not serve, and the Jews disagreed. The question of a Jewish state versus a state for all its citizens was central in this group. The Arabs wanted a state for all of its citizens and the Jews wanted to keep it as a Jewish state. These questions are central to the conflict and there were varying ideas in the group. This was the first time they had an opportunity to discuss these issues with the other side. “We see this as the way to begin a process of change” says Nava Sonnenschein, who taught the course with Maya Rabia. The issues that arise in this course are crucial for students of social science to understand and analyse so that when they enter the working world they have a sensitivity to the effects these issues have.
An educational tour of Jaffa for the participants of the Tel Aviv University Course, guided by Dr. Sami Abu Shehadeh.