Education Across the Divide: Shared Learning of Separate Jewish and Arab Schools in a Mixed City in Israel

May. 04, 2017

Source: Education, Citizenship and Social Justice 2017


This article examines the impact of contact-based educational encounter strategies of shared learning on Jewish–Arab relations in Israel. It analyses a programme of education for shared life that takes place in a mixed (75% Jewish/25% Arab) city at the centre of Israel since 2012. The programme aims to mitigate Jewish–Arab relations in the city amidst tensions resulting from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, unequal power relations and hostilities between the groups. Uniquely, it assimilates shared life education into the generally separate educational system in the city, and uses methods of shared learning – adopted and adjusted in part from an educational approach developed in Northern Ireland. Given the inequalities between Jews and Arabs in Israel, in education as well as more generally in socioeconomic parameters, this article studies the prospects of success in achieving educational and social cohesion goals through face-to-face contact and shared learning. The research is based on over 25 interviews as well as observations throughout the programme’s activities.


This article examines a programme of ‘education for shared life’ that has been implemented in Ramle since 2012 to improve Jewish–Arab relations. This programme is implemented in almost all of the secular elementary schools in the city, Jewish and Arab alike. It is based on the assumption that face-to-face contact has the power to reduce prejudice and improve intergroup relations, and has adopted the methodology of shared education developed and tried for nearly a decade to address the Catholic–Protestant divide in Northern Ireland, delivering both educational and societal benefits.

The two main goals of the programme are to improve Jewish–Arab relations in Ramle and enhance learning achievements for all students. This article reviews the perceptions of programme leaders and participants about the extent to which these goals have been met. The article is based on evidence from over 25 interviews with programme participants and participant-observation fieldwork of programme activities. The interviews and observations were collected between February 2014 and March 2016, which included periods of routine learning and periods of crises, such as the incident described at the beginning of the article.

The article is composed of five parts.

  • The first part describes the research methodology.
  • The second part provides the context of the site and population, including an overview of Jewish–Arab relations in the city of Ramle in general, and the more specific story of relations between the neigh-bourhoods of Jawarish and Ganei-Dan. Jawarish is a predominantly Palestinian–Arab community and found itself at the centre of public attention in the aftermath of the stabbing event because the teenagers who perpetrated the attack are its residents. Ganei-Dan is a neighbouring Jewish community. This part also discusses Jewish–Arab achievement gaps and asks whether peace education can make a difference in the context of intractable conflict.
  • The third part describes the programme for shared-life education in Ramle and the methodologies employed.
  • The fourth part presents research findings, focusing on participants’ perceptions of the programme’s success and challenges, and pro-vides examples from the schools in the neighbourhoods of Jawarish and Ganei-Dan and other schools in the city.
  • In the fifth and final part, the broad conclusions of the work are outlined.
Updated: May. 23, 2017