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Why Teaching Palestinian Students Is A Tremendous Challenge

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by Christine Kluger, Teacher

Sensitive Subjects

This last week we began teacher training and curriculum planning. I will be coordinating with a local Christian Palestinian teacher who will be presenting the Palestinian Authority’s social studies lessons while I’ll be teaching from an American textbook.

I asked her to translate the lesson subjects from Arabic into English so I could understand how to organize our lessons. The lessons are mostly about family values, civil responsibility, and religious tolerance.

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There is very little about Palestinian history, which is probably for the better so we don’t have to worry about factual information and opinions. However, I did notice some potential shortcomings. 

A section about the holy sites in Israel and the importance of Jerusalem only mentioned the significance to Muslims and Christians. There was absolutely no mention of the Jewish people or the state of Israel.

Although, I understand that deep wounds have occurred to both people, not saying anything at all, isn’t giving students balanced information or a chance to form their own ideas.

When I mentioned this omission, the local teachers were worried that parents would be very angry if we even mention Israel.

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TEACHING AMERICAN HISTORY TO PALESTINIANS SHOULDN'T BE TOO BAD

I thought, “At least I will be teaching American history and won’t have to worry about offending anyone!” Then I realized this wasn’t neutral ground either.

As I reviewed the chapters I will be teaching for 3rd-6th grade American history, I began to wonder how I might be able to creatively present the topics in a way that is sensitive to the challenges facing Palestinian children.

America was founded on the system of colonization by both the British, French and Dutch. Later, the violence of the American Revolution gave freedom to the European settlers, but African slaves remained under oppression.

As America grew, the idea of “Manifest Destiny” fueled settlers to take land from coast to coast at the expense of the native American Indians who were displaced onto barren land reservations with few natural resources.

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THEIR STRUGGLE PARALLELS THAT OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS

I couldn’t help but see the unfortunate parallels to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. I decided the only way I can responsibly teach on these topics is to approach them from the viewpoint of how the lessons Americans learned from the mistakes made in the past eventually led to a social system based upon civil rights, equal opportunity and religious freedom.

I couldn’t help but see the unfortunate parallels to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
— Christine Kluger

Fortunately, I have some time to think about how to approach this, develop relationships with the local teachers and try to gain wisdom on what I can and cannot say without causing problems.

EVERYTHING IN GOOD TIME

We can save the history portion of the curriculum for later in the year and begin with geography, economics, culture and civil duties. In the meanwhile, I will take time to understand the political sensitivities of both Israel and Palestine so that I gain friends and not rivals.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NIV)


Note from the editor:

This is the second post in a series from our guest blogger, Christine Kluger, serving as a teacher to Palestinian students in The Middle East.  Please be sure to subscribe to our blog to get every post from Ms. Kluger.  She is a brave soul and knowing we are reading, listening and commenting will lighten her load.  Please share this with your students, teachers and parents.  Write to me for re-posting permission.

Want To Learn More About Christine Kluger?  Read This Blog Post