First Bilingual Binational School in Israel
Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom’s educational system was the first Jewish-Palestinian bilingual binational children’s educational program in the country. It was never intended simply as a solution for the Arab and Jewish children of the community, but as a model of integrated schooling that could be emulated across the region and the world.
"it is possible for Arabs and Jews to work together"
As children learn to speak each other’s languages and appreciate each other’s cultures, they learn that the inter-cultural exchange is natural and desirable. Primary School children learn that it is possible for Arabs and Jews to work together and share authority, and they practice this unique egalitarian model daily. Openness and tolerance at the school encourages children to understand, accept and appreciate each other, preparing them for a future shared society.
The Primary School was born in the late 1970’s, when the first children were born in Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom. The school was founded on principles of coexistence and equality, the first such school in Israel.
In 1984, as the community grew in population, members used recycled building materials to construct a small building for a primary school. Initially serving the dozen school-aged children in the village, our confidence in the binational and bilingual teaching methods allowed us to welcome students from neighboring towns.
State recognition came slowly but steadily, with Kindergarten authorization in 1992, and Primary School in 1993. In 1997, the Education Ministry awarded the Primary School "experimental school" status. Since 2012, the Primary School has been a recognized independent school and, as the first bilingual, bicultural primary school in Israel, has served as a successful model for several new bilingual schools. It remains the only bilingual, bicultural school that is located within a bilingual, bicultural and egalitarian community.
The Primary School is governed by these key principles:
- Equal participation by Jews and Palestinians in administration and teaching
- Use of both Hebrew and Arabic as media of instruction for all children and for all subjects
- Nurturing each child’s identity by imparting a knowledge of their culture and tradition as well as a knowledge of the "other"
Students, approximately half Arab and half Jewish, meet and exceed national school system requirements while becoming confident and knowledgeable in their own identity, culture and traditions.
The Primary School faculty have developed a holistic curriculum for teaching in a bilingual, binational, bicultural school environment. The curriculum, currently in translation, includes the various cultures, languages and national identities of the region’s people, and will be available to other schools.
Impact and Influence
The location of the school within Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom serves as a model for students, proving that a commitment to equality and mutual respect ‘works.’ Students travel up to 20 miles per day to be a part of our inspiring community.
The Primary School, now educating a third generation of children, continues to be the cutting-edge model for the future, inspiring the creation of several schools across Israel such as the Hand in Hand schools and the Hagar school in Beersheva.