After four incredible years developing and leading Beit Berl's Center for the Advancement of Shared Society, Dr. Wurud Jayusi is leaving the Center to become Head of the College’s Arab Academic Institute of Education beginning this academic year. To run the national center advancing shared society education, the College selected a Jewish-Arab power team in Dr. Merav Nakar-Sadi and Dr. Sameer Kadan. Merav and Sameer are no strangers to shared society education; together and individually, they have been working in the field and on a number of initiatives over the past years.
Merav has taught the core Shared Society course and run the shared society leadership certification program in its various compositions over the past three years. A sociologist and anthropologist by profession, Merav previously served as Head of Informal Education in Beit Berl's Faculty of Education. She is an award-winning lecturer, having won the Excellence in Teaching Award and the Pedagogical Innovation Award. She is also engaged in literary writing, and has published three books of prose: Oxana (winner of the Sapir Prize for debut books); S'madar (winner of the Prime Minister's Prize for Hebrew Writers; nominee for the Sapir Prize on the short list); and Never Happened.
With a Ph.D. in Social Work and an M.A. in Education from Hebrew University, Sameer is a seasoned group facilitator and educational counselor with extensive experience in the field of cross-cultural group facilitation. He served as Head of the Early Childhood Education track at Beit Berl’s Arab Academic institute and lecturer in the Masters in Educational Counseling program. Sameer is a graduate of the School Principals' Training at Avnei Rosha Institute and Fellow of the Mandel School of Educational Leadership. I asked Sameer about his vision for a shared society.
I asked Merav and Sameer about the challenges and opportunities in this period post national, political and social turmoil.
Q: How do you define a shared society?
S: I was shaped by, grew up, educated, and breathed in the experience of Israeli society: the Palestinian Arab and the Jewish Israeli, in "border areas" in the words of Gloria Anzaldúa. From a young age, I understood I was part of a group that lived opposite another group - and in the background, there is a conflict. As I grew older, I decided that these border areas could be fertile, a fusion, something hybrid, that does not exist in either group.
My vision is for an Israeli society, egalitarian, that respects diversity, tolerance, a respectful attitude and respect between the Jewish and Arab citizens of the country, through getting to know each other, listening, openness, willingness to talk, and dealing with fear. I believe that through education, it is possible to change and influence Israeli society.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge in advancing shared society in Israel today?
M: In recent years, shared life in the State of Israel has faced both unprecedented dangers and challenges, as well as great possibilities for change and creation. On the one hand, the polarization between different population groups - Arabs/Jews, secular/ultra-Orthodox, liberals/conservatives - has grown and deepened, and the consensus around Israeli society's core values is in constant danger. On the other hand, groups that previously had no voice are expressing themselves in new ways; and the public sphere allows criticism and a more egalitarian discourse.
Q: How can a shared society be achieved in Israel in the field of education?
S: Israel's future educators must be trained to promote education for a shared society. The partnership between educators from different communities must be deepened on the basis of common values: education for complexity and the inclusion of difference. This is the society to which I aspire; and this is the image of the graduate, the adult that I, as an educator, seek to educate.
Q: What is the greatest challenge of the Center?
M: The challenge of the National Center for Shared Society Education at Beit Berl is to bring to center stage the criticism, fears, and frustrations of the various groups and channel these into paths of joint creation, renewed thinking about the desired future of the country, and belief in a sustainable shared life.
Q: And what opportunities exist?
M: As an institution of higher education, Beit Berl enables a meeting place among different populations in Israel. This carries the potential to leverage this new spirit of critical and open discourse regarding injustices and inequality, enabling joint creation and joint thinking about a shared life that fits the spirit of contemporary Israel. We must strive for as much inclusion as possible of the various voices in Israeli society, including marginalized groups as well as illiberal groups. We believe that the more multifaceted the discourse on shared life promoted by the Center, the greater the chance that it will translate into the real lives of students and the teaching work they will promote after their training at Beit Berl College.
We wish Merav and Sameer good luck in taking the Center for the Advancement of Shared Society to the national level!