The Audacity and Beauty of Multi-Cultural Education: Hagit Damri at TEDxBGU

Translator: TED Translators admin
Reviewer: Denise RQ As I was preparing for this talk,
I noticed that many of the previous TED speakers
were storytellers or people with a story. It made me think about the power
of the story and the influence
it has on people’s lives. Stories create our world
in the sense they are providing us with the necessary illusion that the random,
chaotic reality we exist in, has reasons, meaning and order. Our stories rearrange our memories,
they fill the gaps, they help us to set goals,
to justify our choices. They help us to categorize people
and situations. When we meet people with a similar story,
we feel comfortable, understood, able to connect,
to appreciate, to be appreciated. We feel validated and safe mainly
because it reduces the constant fear that our imaginative order
will be shattered. So, what happens when people
with different stories – or even worse – what happens when people
with contradictory stories are bound to live together? And I am not going to speak
about marriage. (Laughter) I am, however, going to speak
about the relationship between the Jewish and Arab
Palestinian communities within Israel. Judging from the history of the relationship
of our two communities, It seems like we have only two options. The first option is to clash, to fight, to try and force one story
on the other, and vice versa. The second option is to avoid
one another, to live in parallel worlds that were constructed by different stories
and therefore to never really meet. Seven years ago in Beer Sheva,
in the southern periphery of Israel a group of young, Jewish and Arab parents decided to revisit this problem,
and they came up with a third option the option or should I say
the opportunity to learn about to get acquainted
with each other’s stories. They founded Hagar Association and opened a kindergarten
for Jewish and Arab children. In Hagar kindergarten half of the kids were Jewish,
and half the kids were Arab. Two kindergarten teachers,
one Arab and the other Jewish, co-taught in Hebrew and Arabic. The curriculum mentioned holidays
from all three monotheistic religions as well as national days
for both nationalities. Pretty soon, Hagar evolved
from a kindergarten into a rich and vivid platform
for Jewish and Arab families to meet for picnics, field trips, volunteer work and other,
after school activities. My family joined Hagar
at its second year when we registered Yiftach, my first born
then at the age of 3, to the kindergarten. It wasn’t without concerns. Plus we didn’t get support
from our families or friends but my husband and I were fascinated
by the idea and the potential that was folded in it. In time, I fell in love with the place
and for the last almost 3 years, I have been the executive director
of Hagar. During the last few years
Hagar has grown and flourished. This year, hundreds of Jewish
and Arab men, women and children took part
in our community outreach program. This academic year our team
has educated more than 230 children in a bilingual multicultural daycare,
two kindergartens, an early childhood learning center
and a growing elementary school. I feel that the key to our success
has something to do with us not trying to merge the two stories
or to come up with a third one. Hagar is all about building linguistic, emotional,
conceptual and other bridges. Bridges that are allowing the two stories and the people
who are constructing their identities and their lives through those stories
to develop trust and respectful dialogue. I can probably speak for more
than 18 minutes about the many exciting projects
and practices that our bridges are made of but if I have to summarize,
to distill the component of our work, I would say that it comes down
to two abilities that we are constructing
and developing together. The first ability is the willingness
to be vulnerable, the second ability is the ability
to search for creative solutions. The willingness to be vulnerable is the willingness to hear
a totally different story sometimes a contradictory story,
about who you are, your history and the reality that you live in, is the willingness
to endanger your inner order to endanger your sense of meaning
to let yourself get exposed. It goes against every cultural instinct
that automatically tells you to shut your ears
to identify him or her as a threat, to secure the walls that defend you
and to restore the order. The meeting of the Jewish
and Palestinian stories is not just complicated,
it is not just challenging, it is not the regular case
of a culture clash. This meeting is full of pain,
it is soaked with blood, with grave losses and with personal and collective
traumatic memories. In order for that meeting not only
to occur but to grow into friendship into a safe place for children,
we at Hagar have to practice the willingness to be vulnerable
as a way of life. It is almost as other people
practice yoga or tai- chi. Some people may think
that we are weird, careless parents that we are taking
too many emotional risks, but the truth is we have built Hagar out of what we see
as responsible parenting. In contradiction to common beliefs
in Israel the armed way is not necessarily
the safe way or the most responsible one, especially when we already know
that it means that more of our children will get hurt now and in the future. Building an educational system
on a bridge or as a bridge between two rival communitites
requires tons of creativity. Everything from the way
the physical space is designed, through teacher training,
through the roles of the parents, through our curriculum
has to inspire children and educators not just to feel safe
but to feel eager and willing to rethink re-imagine and revisit every alleged truth that they know about themselves
and their surroundings. Since creativity is such an important,
crucial element of our work we choose a pedagogical model
that encourages the kids to ask questions to become critical thinkers, to team with others in order to design
projects, to engage in art. In Hagar, we don’t grade children
using numbers and we don’t expect them
to demonstrate their knowledge, or their insight by doing well in tests. Instead we are teaching them that mistakes
are the best learning opportunities. I brought some pictures
to give you a taste of Hagar’s spirit. This is our library. Those pictures were taken during our project
to renovate our school yard and everyone you see in the pictures
are community members and parents and I brought those pictures to show you
just how much the parents are involved. Those are the co-teachers
of the 5th grade. Thier friendship and their work, as well as the other co-teachers and kindergarden teachers’ friendship
and work serves as a role model for the students. Here you can see the pictures
where they attended community events. Those are Hagar children
learning Urban planning, practicing their artistic skills
and belly dancing (Laughter) and advocating for peace. Last year I visited
The Freedom Center in Cincinnati and in their elevator
there is this sign saying “Courage doesn’t always roar.” And it touched me, really deeply,
I couldn’t agree more because in my experience at Hagar
I know that sometimes courage sounds like little children
and their parents that are willing to be vulnerable
and are not afraid to make mistakes or to get hurt
in their quest for peace. Thank you. (Applause)

7 thoughts on “The Audacity and Beauty of Multi-Cultural Education: Hagit Damri at TEDxBGU”

  1. 39 sec. Stop 🛑 ✋
    If you come to My Country, USA 🇺🇸and have the “audacity” to prescribe as a benefit that I willing put my family to the back of the meal 🥘 line and forget about my family’s history, personal struggles, ethnic heritage, and remove any gratitude I have to be a Native born and settled American AT LEAST have THE COURTESY TO GET SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS (insert expletive here) ENGLISH CORRECTLY!!!!
    Kill yourselves CORPORATE- COMMUNIST-LIBTARDS, This video TEDX talk IS HATE SPEECH!!!

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