Towards Inner Coexistence: The Long-Term Effects of Jewish-Arab Youth Encounters in Israel
School of Humanities and Social Sciences Jacobs University Bremen Bremen, Germany
Jewish-Arab structured encounters have become the most prevalent form of peace education interventions aiming to improve relations between the two ethno-national groups in Israel. Despite the recent increase in studies on encounters' effects on participating adolescents, little attention has been paid to the long-term psychological and behavioral effects of the participation (i.e. one year or longer), and not much is known about what happens to participants after they return to their corresponding communities.
This MA thesis proposes a framework for evaluating these long-term effects and suggests several categories for examining the latter based on the literature on coexistence and its sociopsychological components. The central hypothesis behind the framework is that participation in Jewish-Arab encounters might have more modest long-term effects on participants than what is often speculated by practitioners in the field. This possibility is strengthened by recent studies (for example, Bar-Natan, 2004; Rosen, 2006), according to which changes observed in beliefs of Jewish and Arab participants immediately after interventions wore out substantially a few months afterwards. However, according to the suggested framework, even modest changes in attitudes and beliefs, such as increasing interest in and awareness of the conflict, increasing tolerance of the other's beliefs, increasing support for intergroup equality, and increasing understanding of the complexity of the conflict, can be manifested ultimately in a state of "inner coexistence" among participants, i.e. a state of mind compatible with a preliminary phase of positive (but not harmonious) intergroup relations.
This hypothesis was explored through qualitative follow-up interviews with Jewish high school students who participated in Jewish-Arab encounters. The results indicate that the encounter is perceived by former participants as a meaningful, enriching, and often positive experience amidst the conflict, and that it has left a mark on the way they perceive the relations between the groups. Since the study relies on post-encounter self-evaluations, it has only led to general conclusions about the possible application of the theoretical framework in future studies. Generally, the results of this pilot study encourage the examination of the suggested framework through a rigorous longitudinal evaluation.