COVID-19 has swept through Israel and is causing havoc with many of our most treasured institutions, starting with the school system. Very early on in the crisis the schools were closed and 2.3 million students were sent home to manage as best they could with online classes, and homeschooling where possible.
An interesting project that has flourished under these circumstances is "Bridging for China" that was set up in a selection of Israeli high schools just as the pandemic was starting in China. This is a unique Israeli project under the umbrella of the "Education Cities" https://www.education-cities.com/?lang=en project which connects classes in Israel and the rest of the world to online conversations and lessons with school children in China.
The meetings are held in small groups facilitated by Zoom technology and have proven to be an enormous success. Although the two groups are separated by thousands of kilometers, with each coming from such different cultures, they can nevertheless share their experiences, learn about their different cultures, and help each other to deal with the same difficult circumstances that the coronavirus has imposed on their lives.
One of the schools that is taking part in the project is the Givat Brenner High School. The following is how Einav, one of the students in the 11th grade, described the experience of meeting up with Chinese students.
"We started our project with China a few weeks before the coronavirus exploded in Israel. Back then it wasn't a threat but a far far issue that we could help with. Our teacher arranged a video conference through our diplomacy class and we sat down together and talked to those small children who didn't get to go out of their houses for two months, and we felt really bad for them.
In the next session a week later we were already in isolation.
We are students from Brenner High School and we were the first big isolation before everything started to get worse in Israel. But even then talking with those kids gave me a better perspective and optimism.
This week, in our 4th session we finally had a breakthrough. We split into smaller groups of six and talked with the kids. They taught us the song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in Chinese and then were so excited to hear we have the same song in Hebrew and we taught it to them. Those kids are so sweet, each week they make us "presents", small paintings or songs they make up (the paintings are usually of knights or heroes fighting viruses).
So we started in opposite conditions and now they are getting better and we are getting worse but those conversations helped both sides who found themselves in similar situations to feel better and laugh a little."
The following video clip gives a brief insight into the background and online exchanges between the Israeli and the Chinese groups. The pleasure and excitement that both groups experienced during their discussions, leads one to hope that even after the danger has passed, there will be a lasting connection and understanding between the two so very different groups.
The video is courtesy of the Education Cities Project