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How We Teach Children Multiculturalism — Hand in Hand’s Shared Holidays Curriculum

As the lead providers of bilingual, integrated, and multicultural education in Israel, Hand in Hand’s schools navigate a multitude of unique challenges. Israel’s public education system is segregated—tracking students into Jewish and Arab schools. There are, therefore, no readily available bilingual educational materials tailored to the needs of our schools. For years, Hand in Hand has been producing these materials through our innovative Resource Center.

These educational materials are the pillars of the values-based education our schools provide, and allow our diverse students to learn about their own identity, culture, and history, while fostering compassion for one another—all in an equal and bilingual environment.

April of this year marks the beginning of Ramadan, and the celebration of Passover and Easter.

Holidays are opportunities for joint learning in our schools and communities, and build intercultural bridges. By learning about the unique stories, customs, and traditions of each holiday, students are able to embrace their own heritage and identity, while connecting with others who are different.

Sharing our expertise, expanding our impact

In response to our schools’ ongoing need for unique learning materials, Hand in Hand has developed a first-of-its-kind shared holidays Hebrew-Arabic curriculum for preschool through grade 2. Pedagogic staff collected the best practices for teaching shared holidays from our schools and hired an expert curriculum writer to prepare an integrated curriculum. The curriculum delves into every major Jewish, Christian and Muslim holiday, providng a description of the holiday’s historical significance, main customs, and shared values, along with complementary activities, texts, songs, stories, and arts and crafts projects.

The shared holidays curriculum includes the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Eid al-Fitr, Chanuka, Christmas, Tu B’shvat, Purim, Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Birth of the Prophet Mohamad, and Shavuot. It is now being used by teachers in all of Hand in Hand’s preschools and in grades 1 and 2, and has enriched students’ learning experience manifold. In an internal evaluation, teachers noted how pleased they are to have this valuable resource, and that they find it clear, informative, culturally-sensitive, and tailored to the children’s age levels. The teachers further indicated that they too are learning from this curriculum.

“I gained a lot from these materials. I was ignorant about Christian and Muslim holidays and these materials gave me fascinating new information on holidays that I have never celebrated before. With respect to Jewish holidays, the materials offered me a new perspective and a way to present the stories and symbols so that a child could understand and appreciate them.”

— Hand in Hand teacher

Hand in Hand’s bilingual curricula now available to all Israeli public schools

The Ministry of Education has recently endorsed the shared holidays curriculum, and added it to their online portal, where it is now available to all public schools. The Ministry even recommended that all teachers use this curriculum, as they recognize the important benefit it can have on the wider Israeli public school system by advancing pluralism and improving Jewish-Arab relations at large.

The shared holidays curriculum is already being used in non-Hand in Hand preschools across Jaffa and in Nof HaGalil, as part of a partnership with municipalities in providing multicultural training to public preschool teachers. In this unique collaboration with municipalities, Hand in Hand’s pedagogic advisors provide guidance and expertise to public Jewish preschools serving a significant number of Arab students.

While the student body in these preschools is very diverse, the education offered has only reflected the language and culture of Jewish students until now. Hand in Hand’s pedagogic experts are helping the teachers incorporate multicultural and bilingual elements into their day-to-day teaching. The collaboration has been a great success among teachers and students, and strengthens our resolve to continue introducing multiculturalism to more classrooms across Israel.

“This program taught me about a concept that was new for me, multiculturalism. Thanks to the well-developed materials I received from my Hand in Hand pedagogic advisor, which included songs, stories, and special activities, I was able to teach all the children about their holidays and cultural traditions. Together, we celebrated Christmas, Chanukah, the Birth of the Prophet Mohamad, and Ramadan.”

— Jaffa Preschool teacher participating in Hand in Hand’s multicultural training program

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