For the past six months, a group of Jewish and Arab students at the Western Galilee Academic College participated in a one-of-a-kind course on the subject of Jewish-Arab relations in mixed cities led jointly by Gabriel Freund of the Akko Educators’ Kibbutz and Yuval Achouch, a professor of sociology and college faculty member. The course, run for the first time ever in 2019, engaged students with the dilemmas and challenges of overcoming conflict in mixed societies all over the world and in Israel, and Akko, in particular.
“We spent the first half of the course in the classroom, and then Gabe and Yuval took us outside the college to meet all kinds of organizations working towards shared society in Akko. They divided us into four groups and each group joined a different organization to experience first-hand what it’s like working on the ground. It was an eye-opening experience,” Eden, 25.
“Our group teamed up with the Akko Educators’ Kibbutz and the Akko Women’s Peace Center and developed an artistic project where we brought women together from all over the city, Jews, Arabs, Israeli-born, new immigrants, and each woman painted a mandala and shared with everyone else a bit about herself and what she painted and why. At the end we hung them up all together in a classroom in the kibbutz building and revealed the joint effort at a festive event where the whole community was invited. Now it makes for a beautiful, colorful symbol of what makes this city so special. All sorts of people from lots of different backgrounds working together can create something beautiful,” Noam, 29.
The Shared Society in Mixed Cities course was a pilot program, a first joint effort between academia and civil society to work together to promote understanding, engagement and work towards a more cohesive society. It was the product of several years of work and preparation of kibbutz member Michal Keidar.