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The Primary School: Educating for Peace

“The primary school in NS/WAS is a unique school that pioneered the implementation of a bilingual and bi-ethnic educational program in the midst of a totally segregated education system in Israel. The school is a model of a dynamic entity that is constantly changing and developing to achieve better educational atmosphere.” - Muhammad Abu-Nimer

The J. Zel Lurie Primary School enrolls Palestinian and Jewish children, all Israeli citizens living in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam or nearby communities, in kindergarten through the seventh grade. The School was the first bilingual bicultural school recognized by the Education Ministry of Israel.

The Primary School draws 90% of its 220 students from areas ranging from Jerusalem to Ramle. These children travel daily by bus. Each class consists of 24 students. The intensive bilingual environment requires smaller class sizes and two teachers per class, one Jewish and one Palestinian.

In early 2009, a committee appointed by the Israeli Ministry of Education recommended that schools use a coexistence curriculum from pre-school to 12th grade. According to its conclusions, the education system must nurture the “recognition of the fundamental democratic values of equality and social justice, particularly with respect to social minorities, and should instill critical thinking skills and promote openness and tolerance." This can be obtained by each side learning about the other's "culture, society, history, beliefs, heritage, language, and collective narrative in the context of granting respect and legitimacy to that narrative, without necessarily agreeing with it."

Unlike most schools in Israel, the Primary School supports an educational environment in which stereotypes are broken down and mutual respect and understanding is taught. This is a necessary step in the development of a culture committed to peace, and the inclusive education of the NSWAS Primary School contributes to the process of Jews and Arabs learning to live side by side in peace.

"I was very impressed to see the children playing together, the Arabs speaking Arabic while the Jewish children answered in Hebrew or in a mixture of the two languages...Neve Shalom aspires to equality to the proper and equal representation of both languages." - Bar Shalom

Special projects: In addition to the regular curriculum, the school implements a series of special projects each year. Special activities include a state of the art Language Laboratory, a Multi-Media Resource Center, an Archaeology Project where children are uncovering a Byzantine floor, a Zoo Lab for interactions with animals and the Ecology Project to teach children about the impact environmental issues.

The Golder-Goodwin Language Center: Central to the Primary School's mission is bilingual education. From first grade, all students are taught to read, write, and speak in both Arabic and Hebrew. The language center has been established specifically to address the learning of these languages in such a way that students are able to manage all aspects of living in both languages. This requires a unique and creative approach along with real-life and hands-on applications, such as buying groceries and going to the doctor's office. Multimedia resources such as television, video, and computers are used as well. English is also integrated into the language training.

Teacher Training and Curriculum: The Primary School and its staff coordinate and provide teacher training for several schools that are trying to incorporate bilingual methods into their curriculums. Principals and teachers from surrounding schools learn from the Primary School teachers who bring years of bilingual education experience in Israel to their teacher methods. Currently, there are two schools (K-3) in the Galilee and Jerusalem and one kindergarten in Jaffa that have drawn significantly on the Primary School's curriculum for teaching bilingually in bicultural classrooms.

"These children are creating new realities, new expressions, and new images which give voice to a new collective consciousness of coexistence and hope for peace." - Grace Feuerverger

Download the Primary School "Wish List" for the school year 2010/2011!

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