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ADL Program Builds Bridges, Confront Stereotypes Among Bedouin and Jewish Pupils in the Negev

Posted: March 13, 2008

It's not everyday that Jewish and Bedouin kids meet up in school to talk, learn and play together.

On March 12, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) helped bring together for the first time some 50 Jewish and Bedouin fifth graders as part of a pilot program to remove stereotypes and prejudices and to foster communications between the two communities in the Negev. 

Since the beginning of the school year, ADL facilitators have been working separately with the Ibn Sana elementary school in the Bedouin town of Rahat and with the Amit elementary school in Beersheba, implementing the ADL's A World of DifferenceĀ® Institute program developed to tackle bias and prejudices. 

The two groups had been anxious to meet each other and this week, some 25 excited Bedouin pupils arrived by bus to the Amit school, where their Jewish counterparts rushed to the school gate to receive them. For most of the Jewish pupils, this was the first time in their lives they had met a Bedouin, and vice-versa.

"I thought at first that Arabs were bad," said Vadim, a pupil at the Amit school. "But when we met them we saw that they are just like us. They play like us and think like us."

The morning session helped create communications between the two groups. Despite the fact that they didn't speak the same languages, they were able to interact together. They then signed a pledge, in Arabic and Hebrew, which urged them to reject stereotypes, accept the other and prevent violence. After lunch, the pupils ended the day with a special activity of drumming and rhythm.

"You all were chosen to be in the first, the pioneers, in this Anti-Defamation League project. Your success will help us expand the project next year and to more classes in the school," said Phyllis Gerably, director of the ADL Israel office.

"The ADL's program was very welcomed here because of its components that teach the acceptance of others. It is exactly what we needed to help the pupils respect those who are not like them," said Oren Cohen-Zada, the vice principal of the Amit school.

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