Civil and Human Rights

Racism: Not in Our School

03 April 2014 By New Israel Fund

"As a teacher, I teach my students the subjects they need to learn. As a human being, I educate them towards acceptance, compassion, and tolerance – not just for the other but for themselves and for the diverse society in which they live." -SHATIL anti-racism campaign poster.

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st, SHATIL and eight partnering civil society organizations collaborated on an online campaign that reached thousands of Israelis. Premised on the power of education to create change, the campaign focused on raising awareness and encouraging teachers throughout the country to tackle the issue of racism in their classrooms.

According to a recent SHATIL-commissioned survey, 95% of Israelis see racism as a problem; 80% believe there is racism toward Ethiopian immigrants, and more than two thirds say there is racism towards Arabs. Seventy percent feel the government doesn't do enough to combat racism.  And 19% said the government encourages racism. Most respondents said that education is the way to address the problem, and that the Ministry of Education should take the lead.

Materials distributed by the campaign included ideas for activities for students from kindergarten through high school, items for classroom use, background articles, and posters telling the stories of eight different communities' experiences of racism. Additionally, a website with tools and materials for teachers to use (which remains online for teachers' use) was posted in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and Amharic.

One of our partners, the Coalition against Racism, coordinated the advocacy elements of the campaign, including a Knesset conference about the role of education in reducing racism.

The campaign was initiated by SHATIL and eight organizations that work against racism and in education, but which had not previously collaborated.

"The joint campaign against racism is a fine example of the power of professional collaboration between social change organizations," said SHATIL Program Director, Avi Dabush.

The survey received wide media coverage both within Israel and abroad.

Our committed partners in this effort: Tebeka, Achoti, the Israeli Democratic Rainbow, the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI); Morashteinu; Tag Meir; the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Coalition against Racism.

The Racism Day campaign launched SHATIL's renewed efforts to reduce racism in Israel, including a training on leadership and countering racism for Ethiopian-Israeli activists, providing newly elected Ethiopian municipal officials with the tools and skills needed to work effectively on issues of prime importance to their community, and intensive guidance to anti-racism groups such as the NIF-supported Tag Meir coalition, and others.