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Kamrat : The Story of a Virtual Multicultural Learning Community in Israel

by Prof. Edna Aphek

Israel is a multicultural country, a country made up of different ethnic groups: many having their own culture, language and even religion.
There isn't much contact between some of the groups, especially between the secular Jews and the ultra orthodox Jews and between the Jewish population and the Arab population which comprises about 1/6th of Israel's population.
The new technologies and especially the technology of on-line computer telecommunication endow us with new tools and possibilities for on-going multi-cultural and multi-age communication between different ethnical groups.
The new technologies know no stigma and no prejudice and as such easify and make possible neutral, less biased communication between groups, which are much apart.

This paper is about the creation of an ongoing learning community Kamrat, a multicultural on-line learning community, between two schools, in Israel, in 2000:
one Israeli Arab school (A) and the other Israeli Jewish school (J).
The tools used for the creation of this community were two: a closed network in Hebrew and the internet. Participants were learners in 7-9 grade.
The project was conducted between Jan- May 2000 (with one introductory meeting in November 1999)
The communities participating in the project, master two different languages: the language of the Jewish Israeli community is Hebrew, where as the language of the Arab community is Arabic.
The project was conducted in the Hebrew language, and the Arab learners were encouraged to write some of the material uploaded in Arabic in Hebrew letters.
Though both Arabic and Hebrew are Semitic languages, each has its own set of characters.

The Vision
The Kamrat project is my brainchild, it was carried out by Ithamar Aphek, (my son) from the TelHi Networks in collaboration with Ulpan Akiva, an institute famous for its struggle for coexistence.

When I first out lined the Kamrat project, my vision was to have people from different backgrounds conduct an ongoing dialog and to learn that people are people, no matter where they come from, and what language they use or religion they hold.
It was as simple as that.
I wanted to avoid the political issue, which is very intensive and stormy in Israel, and therefore, I was looking for neutral content, to be researched, collected and uploaded by all the participants in the Kamrat project.

The Kamrat project centered around, "simple", "little", ordinary human themes, objects , items, proverbs and sayings passed from parents to children in their families and common in each of the participating community.

A. The Process
Starting the project
The first step was to choose two schools to participate in the project.
We didn't have too many to choose from as schools in Israel and I guess in other countries as well, are over burdened with projects. Starting an additional project was met with some reluctance on the part of the teachers.
Finally two schools chose to participate in the Kamrat experiment: Mushreife an Arab ( A)Israeli village in the east of Israel and Ort Gutman, Jewish (J) Israeli in Natanya, a city in center Israel about 100 km from Mushreife.

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