How do the Palestinian and Israeli (Arab and Jewish) education systems teach the history of their nations? This Is My Land follows several Israeli and Palestinian teachers over one academic year. Through observing their exchanges and confrontations with students, debates with the ministries curriculum, and its restrictions, the viewers obtain an intimate glimpse into the profound and long lasting effect that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict transmits onto the next generation.
Through intimate portraits of history teachers and close observations of their pupils, the film reveals the different approach of the two public education systems to teach the complex and charged narrative of their country’s history. The chosen schools are set in locations that emphasize the changing daily life of the conflict – in Jerusalem, The North of Israel, Nablus, Ramallah and a colony.
The film interweaves the stories of the teachers and their classes in parallel, constructing for the viewer the different and sometimes opposing universes of the teachers and their schools. We film the teachers sharing their beliefs, motivations, and dreams, in dialogue with students in and outside the classroom, at national ceremonies, at special school events and on school trips.
We’ve been following these teachers and their students for one academic year, which enables us to authentically capture their questions and dilemmas both inside and outside the class. Some examples include:
– On the Memorial Day in the mixed school, students begin to realize that the Arab and the Jewish youth can’t live together as easily as they might have been thinking, as this day of ‘Memorial’ has very different significance for these two nationalities.
– During an Israeli public school trip to concentration camps in Poland, some Jewish students discuss the changes in their thinking during the journey – “I came here thinking about the Jewish nation and how important it is to protect our nation… And now I start thinking that of main importance, is what it means to be a human being, without difference of religion or nation. This is what should be important for us. It confuses me now, to have this changes of perspectives.”
– In a class in an Arab school in Ramallah, the students are asked to “confess” their sins, especially in regards to understanding the differences between Israelis, Jews, Zionists. For the first time, some students are confronted and understand the critical difference between these terms. A few days later it is one of these students who reminds his teacher about this differentiation, proving to what extent the teacher’s role and influence are crucial when coming to these delicate themes.
Critical is what is said and what is left unsaid. What are the teachers’ dilemmas, every one from his/her side and belief, when coming to teach the history of the on-going conflict? What is the relation between the ministry of educations’ regulations and the teachers’ own choices; how much freedom exists or doesn’t? What are the pupils’ approaches to these topics in classes?
Dealing with themes and dilemmas sometimes “bigger” then their age and stage – Holocaust, Nakba, colonies, heritages, refugees, the camera reveals the surprising and fascinating way these young people interpret and approach the complex reality in which they are living.
Teaching a nation’s history, especially teaching about its often controversial and sometimes painful historical events, is difficult. History is forever a subject of interpretations, deformations and selective choices. When it comes to teaching it, those questions are even more present. Then, if we look at a situation in which two nation’s histories are still being created, written, everyday, in which the teachers and pupils are living under occupation or in existential fear, where the conflict is still in its midst, these questions and dilemmas are even more problematic.
For some of the teachers it is a living dilemma, while for others it remains a profession, clear facts to teach from a book. This film follows teachers who are conscious of the role of history in the construction of individual and national identity, and who, each from their own side, and in their own style, ask difficult questions about “ the history” they should teach, and their choices around it.
In one component there seems to be an over-all agreement among the teachers from all sides – The ability of a teacher to shape and determine the pupil’s mind and opinions, is profound and infinite. And thus the leading question – Does education in those two states serve as a peace motor, or is it a tool used by the governments to oil the wheels of war? Every school and teacher may present for the viewers a different answer.
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