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Sowing Seeds of Change? Education for Partnership Between Jews and Palestinians in Israel

Global Education Colloquium

November 18, 2014
Karen Ross, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts--Boston

Sixty years after Israel’s establishment, tensions between Jewish and Palestinian citizens continue to simmer. The instability caused by these tension looms over Israeli society, creating an ongoing threat of violent conflict. To counter these tensions, bi-national encounter programs have brought together Palestinian and Jewish citizens to for decades. While they have been the subject of much academic research, it is still unclear whether or how these programs might play a role in reducing tensions and preventing future violence. My research addresses this gap in knowledge by drawing on case studies of Sadaka Reut and Peace Child Israel, two veteran organizations implementing bi-national encounter programs. I examine the link between participation in Sadaka Reut and Peace Child activities and the way that participation shape the long-term worldviews and identity claims of alumni as well as subsequent engagement in activities aimed at challenging structural inequalities in Israeli society. My research suggests that bi-national encounters can significantly shape participants’ ethno-national and activist identity claims, and can prime them for continued participation in activities aimed at large-scale social change. However, pedagogical approaches utilized in encounter programs, personal experiences, and events in the socio-political context all play a role in shaping the beliefs and actions of program alumni. Ultimately, this research indicates that broader approaches to conceptualizing and measuring “impact” are important for providing meaningful knowledge about the consequences of encounter program participation – knowledge with significant implications for the future of Israeli society.

About the Speaker

Karen Ross is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy & Development at UMASS-Boston and will be an Assistant Professor in UMASS-Boston’s Conflict Resolution program as of January 2015.  Karen’s research focuses on the methodological and conceptual intersection between peace building, education, and social change, with a geographic focus on Israel/Palestine.  She is particularly interested in approaches utilized to conceptualize and measure “impact” in relation to value-focused educational programs in both formal and non-formal contexts.  Outside of academia, Karen is a dialogue facilitator and facilitator trainer, and has worked as a consultant for UNESCO, GPPAC, and the American Friends Service Committee.  She earned her PhD from Indiana University, with a dual concentration in Inquiry Methodology and Comparative & International Education, and holds a M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a B.A. in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures from Columbia University.