Harmony through the Arts by Ping Ho

Givat Haviva International School is an innovative high school in Israel where students from conflict ridden nations learn to care about one another and learn conflict management skills. Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis, and students from other parts of the world live and learn together on a need-blind admission basis. They are intentionally placed in the same dorm rooms with students from conflicting and diverse backgrounds.

It is not uncommon for students to have come from environments where the “other” was denigrated and families forbade setting foot in – let alone befriending someone from – those “other” neighborhoods.

I was deeply moved by the social media posting of one such Arab Israeli student, after 18 months at the school.  Underneath an image of Holocaust Memorial Day was the caption: Never again. This young man had moved beyond tolerance to advocacy in a matter of months.

There is no better way to develop connection with and empathy for another than to share an experience with them. Renowned 20th century educator, Paolo Freire, believed that shared creative experiences in particular could facilitate meaningful dialogue and social action. This is one of the ways in which the arts are a powerful medium for healing relationships. They offer an organic way for voices to be heard – even nonverbally – and for connection to occur in a way that both embraces and transcends culture.

Let us remember on social emotional learning day, that we can bring people together in harmony through the arts.