"This is not only a day that sums up four years of a process; it is also a day of celebration for the entire school community", said Sharon Sadeh, principal of the Beit Yare'ach High School, whose school was awarded the Prize for Excellence in Jewish, Zionist and Civic Education along with the Amirim School in Ashdod, the Leah Goldberg School in Netanya, and the School for Arts in Rishon Le'Zion.
The Prize for Excellence in Jewish, Zionist and Civic Education was awarded for the 13th year to schools throughout Israel that have successfully completed the Ma'arag – Kol Israel Haverim program. These schools undergo a four-year process to deepen their community, Jewish, Zionist and civic-democratic identity. As part of the process schools derive their vision and its fundamental values, construct seven unique study programs or products, and implement them in their daily routine. It is a deep and complex processes that builds an essential organizational infrastructure through which schools may become inviting spaces for the discourse on identity. After four years, schools present their story and the journey they have travelled on a special Visitors' Day to an external committee composed of representatives from the Ministry of Education, various municipalities and prominent individuals from academic and social spheres.
This month we celebrated with four schools that applied to the prize committee: The Beit Yare'ach High School in the Jordan Valley, The Amirim School in Ashdod, the Leah Goldberg School in Netanya and the School for Arts in Rishon Le'Zion. This year's prize committee was headed by Mr. Daniel Braunschwig, a member of the Kol Israel Haverim Board of Directors.
Beit Yare'ach High School, Jordan Valley – In the Paths of Humankind and in the Paths of Knowledge
"The Yare'ach School has undergone a revolution!" is how Eitan Altbauer, a member of the school's management, presented the process undergone by the high school during its four years in the program. During the visit the school presented the its shift in awareness from transmitting information to becoming a training field for identity clarification, through the presentation of the place held by the identity discourse in excursions, ceremonies, diverse lessons and in the life tools pupils receive. In addition, the fascinating process undergone by the Beit Yare'ach community since its instilment of the discourse on Jewish identity was presented. A member of the parents' leadership group summed things up: "I was raised in a religious home and today I live a totally secular life. Today I was moved to see my daughter holding a page of Talmud during a psychology class and capable of seeing it as part of her identity-building process."
To the school's webpage in the Prize Committees website
The Amirim High School, Ashdod – Deepening Roots, Growing towards the Summit
"We succeeded in creating a deep and challenging infrastructure for our pupils that helps us deepen their identities", said Michal Shoham, school principal, describing the process undergone by the Amirim School during the program. During the visit, the school faculty and pupils introduced us to the way they instil the content approach chosen by the school: "Deepening roots, growing towards the summit", in classes and in excursions, through Jewish civic discourse applied to Shabbat, through deepening local identity – the city of Ashdod, and so on. The profound and uncompromising in-depth study through school programs and products, as spaces that invite an ongoing discourse on identity between pupils and themselves, with classmates, their class and school, their city and nation, their country and entire world, creates a unique and fascinating educational expanse that sets a leading example.
The Leah Goldberg School, Netanya –Heritage Cultivates Future Growth (A.T.I.D. - Hebrew acronyms of Values, Culture, Uniquness and Wisdom)
"This is unique school activity and outstanding work in Jewish heritage and culture, and its leaders and values", wrote Dr. Avital Laufer, the Vice-Mayor of Netanya who holds the city's education portfolio, following her visit to the school. "We found that through in-depth work on the Jewish, Zionist and civic-democratic heritage we raise graduates, citizens to be, to become the improved future leadership of Israel's society," said Ditti Praver, the school principal, in her opening remarks on the Prize Committee's Visitors Day. The school showed us the connections between Leah Goldberg's thought and poetry and student life, the deep and special way that pupils confront dilemmas and the way the school views the connection between the past's heritage and the future of its pupils, the community, the nation, the country and the world.
The School for Arts, Rishon Le'Zion
"We are succeeding in creating opportunities for pupils to deal with their respective identities, and with national identity and heritage, through art as well," said Maayan Ben Attiah in her opening remarks on the Prize Committee's Visitors Day at the school. During the visit, the school presented its worldview which considers creativity and art to be tools for pupils' discourse with themselves, their communities and their nation. The school chose to exhibit this through work on collective memory, the uniqueness of the Shabbat, the complexity and holiness of the city of Jerusalem, and even through the influence of Hebrew song and folkdance on pupils' identity and essence.
The Prize Committee Visitor Days are now behind us, and we wish the schools much success in continuing their work and in instilling the process in their daily lives. We, at Ma'arag – Kol Israel Haverim are preparing the annual conference, to be held on the theme of "Identity, how do you do it?", so as to assist and deepen the way that the educational community instils the discourse on Jewish, Zionist and civic identity in all its domains of welcome activity.