On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference (which is where I’m at right now, sneakily typing this blog post in the VIP lounge — more on that in another post). Before the conference began, President Peres and Shakira spoke to the press about the importance of education.
Here’s more info on the presser with Shakira — http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Video/Article.aspx?id=226014
It was printed on the second page of the JPost. One day I’ll work my way up to the front page…maybe.
Anyhoooo, Shakira repeatedly said that education is “the best strategy for global peace and stability.” During my time at Smith, that has been a recurring theme. The required summer reading when I went through orientation was “Half the Sky,” which discussed the importance of women’s education. This spring, I attended a conference in Dubai where I delivered a speech highlighting the necessity of access of education to diminish global human trafficking. Needless to say, there’s clearly something to this whole education thing…
During her visit to Israel, Shakira visited a bilingual school that was half-Palestinian and half-Jewish. She said she was particularly inspired by the way these children studied and played together, not caring about the conflict that pervades their lives.
Moreover, she said, a child who lives in poverty, without education, is ten times more likely to be recruited by a militant group than a child who has access to education. She also noted that children who received early childhood education were less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior later in life.
I wrote last week about the Bedouin communities whose children lack reliable access to education. It’s easy to look at a country like Israel — or even the United States — and assume that most have access to decent education. But when minorities and the poor are allowed to slip through the cracks, the cycle of poverty and conflict are destined to continue for another generation.
Shakira, who had never been to Israel before, was actually urged by many of her fans to boycott the Presidential Conference as a show of solidarity with Palestinians. But that type of avoidance is what helps to perpetuate the sense of conflict and keeps real progress from being made. Sure, her boycott would have made headlines, but her message wouldn’t have been heard by Israelis. In fact, many would likely discredit her message altogether, making it even more difficult to speak out. Instead, the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador was able to use the IPC platform to tailor her message specifically to Israel.
She said Israel is the perfect place to have this discussion. “Israel has been a melting pot of cultures for many centuries. We are all inheritors of an Abrahamic culture that has been forged here; therefore we are all Israeli.”
As the center of the Middle East conflict, Israel has the unique ability to cause real change in this area. By making equal access to quality early childhood education a priority, Israel can lead the charge for a more peaceful future for the region and the world.