This Curriculum was born within the walls of the Jerusalem School in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is part of the students’ day-to-day reality. In both the Arab and Jewish traditions, hospitality is considered one of the highest virtues. “Ahlan wa Sahlan,” we say in Arabic – come in, feel at home, you are one of the family; “Bruchim Habaim,” we say in Hebrew – blessed are you, as you come. This is the tradition from which our Curriculum draws its strength. We wanted to create a space of welcome in the minds and hearts of our students, teaching them to extend that age-old “Ahlan wa Sahlan” to the world around them, even (and especially) towards those who are different from them.
At the Jerusalem School, we used the social sciences as our platform, choosing to teach history through the lens of peace rather than war. Using Peace Heroes seemed like a viable way to make this kind of history accessible to our students. Knowing that images of who is a hero are formed at a very young age, we decided to provide our elementary school students with a new and exciting heroic model by using real-life people who have been champions of peace and whose lives cannot but stir in all of us a sense of awe and respect. We hoped that using narrative, or stories, to engage the students’ imaginations would help them see the world around them with a little more compassion. We strongly believe that such a holistic approach, grounded in solid ideals, is invaluable in the formation of our students’ character and worldview.
Since implementing the Curriculum in 2013, we have watched our students’ conception of the heroic reshape itself as they engage with the lives of these remarkable men and women and are inspired to emulate their newfound champions. We have worked hard to integrate an ethos of welcome in the classrooms, challenging our teachers to find ways to create a culture of peace within the school community. Through the Peace Heroes Curriculum, we have been able to take the school’s logo – Peace Begins With Me – and embed it into the academic and social structures of our community.