JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli coexistence group was awarded a three-year grant of nearly $1 million from the U.S. State Department.
The Abraham Fund Initiatives, which aims to advance Jewish-Arab coexistence and equality in Israel, announced Tuesday that it had received the grant to advance peace and reconciliation through bilingual and bicultural education as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation Program.
The program is designed to promote mutual respect and understanding by enabling Arab and Jewish youth in Israel to communicate in Israel’s two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic.
The State Department-funded program will organize cultural encounters between Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish youngsters throughout the school year. Arab students will participate in Jewish cultural seminars and Hebrew-language enrichment classes, while Jewish students will participate in Arab cultural activities and courses in conversational Arabic.
Some 1,600 Arab and Jewish students will participate in the activities.
“Although they share a state, Jewish and Arab Israelis are still divided by language, culture and history, and this U.S. government grant will help us expand our work to better equip Arab and Jewish children with the educational and social experiences they need to live peacefully in a shared society,” said Dadi Komem, director of coexistence education for The Abraham Fund in Israel.
The program is part of The Abraham Fund’s Language as a Cultural Bridge initiative, which aims to mandate the teaching of Arabic language and culture in Israel’s Jewish public schools, starting in the elementary grades.
Arab students are required to study Hebrew as part of their public school curriculum; Jewish students are not required to study Arabic. The pilot program now has more than 15,000 students in 220 schools throughout Israel as a required subject during the 2010-11 school year.