Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two Tales of Education

Two reports below show two faces of the complex problem of education in the Palestinian curricula. I wonder which one will succeed? No prizes for guessing.

From a report in Palestinian Media Watch we now see a new character on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television station to “continue” the legacy of its star martyr, Farfur – the Mickey Mouse lookalike who was "beaten to death" by an Israeli on the previous program. The new character on the children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers, a bee named Nahool, tells the hostess he is Farfur’s cousin and that he wishes to “continue the path of Farfur… the path of martyrdom, the path of the Jihad warriors… and in his name we shall take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets...” The expression "Murderers of the prophets" is an Islamic expression used by the Palestinian religious leaders to refer to Jews. Defining the Jews as the enemies of God is common in their religious broadcasting.

Without apparent regard for the sensitivities of their child viewers, the show’s creators killed off the Farfur character in a particularly violent way that allowed them to continue the show’s rabidly anti-Israel messages.It is now clear that these messages will continue through the new Nahool character.

The following is an excerpt from the program:Hostess Saraa’: “Who are you? And where did you come from?”Nahool: “I am Nahool [the bee], Farfur’s cousin.”Saraa’: “And what do you want?”Nahool: "I want to continue the path of Farfur, the path of “Islam is the solution”. The path of heroism, the path of martyrdom, the path of the Jihad warriors. Me and my friends shall continue the path of Farfur. And in his name we shall take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets [i.e. the Jews], the murderers of innocent children, until Al-Aqsa will be liberated from their filth.”Saraa’: “Welcome! Welcome Nahool.”

On the other side of the coin, a recent report of educational cooperation reveals that Palestinian high school students from Ramallah, Bethlehem and east Jerusalem are working on technology projects alongside their Israeli counterparts from Beit Shemesh, Mevaseret Zion and west Jerusalem in the MEET (Middle East Education through Technology) program being taught at the Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus.

"I didn't realize they must serve in the army when they graduate from high school until we once spoke about it. I was shocked to hear they have to serve until the age of 21."

This sentence might not sound so surprising if it was coming from an overseas visitor. But the speaker is Anwaar, a 17-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem. She was talking about Amit and Nadav, fellow participants in MEET whom she has known for two years. "I don't know yet what I'll do in the army, I just know it's something I have to do," said Nadav. Amit added, "And we're happy to do it."

Most of MEET's funding comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When Anwaar and Manal, also from east Jerusalem, get together with Amit and Nadav, who both study at Leyada high school, also located on Givat Ram, they seldom, if ever, talk politics.

During this summer's school vacation they are busy writing commercial software for GHOST (Global Hosted Operating System), a Palestinian start-up company, developing a compatible task management application that will be accessible to users from any computer.

"I think being here while not talking politics really helps you to get to know each other. This situation helps with rearranging our ideas and minds about the other side," said Anwaar. "I will still be a Palestinian when it ends, but I'll have more experience and I'll get to know the person regardless of his citizenship."

MEET is in its fourth year; all 85 participants receive a scholarship that covers tuition, transportation, food and even the notebooks.

It's difficult to get into MEET. Thirty new students are chosen each year from about 440 applicants, after a selection process that includes a written exam, group dynamics and a personal interview.
Wissam Jarjoui, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Beit Hanina in north Jerusalem, completed the MEET program last year. This fall, he enters MIT with a full scholarship.

While Jarjoui works on his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or nuclear physics - he hasn't decided which - his friend Lior Kastel, 18, also a graduate of MEET, will be serving in an IDF intelligence unit.

No comments: