Fourth Meeting of the Advisory Council

Members of the bilateral advisory council exchange on pedagogical challenges and chances in migration societies

The fourth meeting of the advisory council in the project ‘Living Diversity in Germany and Israel – Challenges and Perspectives on Education and Youth Exchange’ on May 30 and 31 in Berlin focused on the new key subject of ‘German-Israeli youth exchange in migration societies’. In the previous days the professional seminar ‘German-Israeli youth exchange – encounters of young people in migration societies’ revolved around the question how we can raise awareness for the broad diversity of migration stories within the field of youth exchange.

The perception of Germany as a migration society has risen in the past years. The conclusion that we can learn a lot from each other with regard to the phenomena in Israel and Germany is a gradually prevailing opinion. In the German society discourses on belonging are quite often framed as an obligation of a minority (e. g. ‘the Muslims’), thus frequently suppressing self-critical discourses on conservative values and views within minority groups. The experiences of social exclusion that come along with it can lead to a potentially counterproductive identification with the origins of certain communities. At the same time we can notice a continuity of deep-rooted fears and resentments towards everyone who is not perceived as German. As a result of that experiences of social marginalization multiply. What does it mean for young people with migration histories in both countries?

The experts in the council point out several necessities:

  1. A framework needs to be established in which also painful experiences and mutual resentments can be addressed without making them a primary topic. Overriding subjects of shared interest can bridge various groups safely.
  2. A positive identification with the own origin is important as a precondition to open up for ‘the other’ without seeing the self-concept at threat.
  3. Individual differences and characteristics of identities need to be recognized and collectively valued and appreciated.
  4. We need solutions to connect those particular identities with our modern, liberal socities – which means that a joint frame and point of reference has to be defined.

In practice it means for instance that in the Israeli-Jewish migration society the traumas of cultural uprooting have to be brought up. Youth policy has to refer to the different origins of identities. Sometimes this can trigger conflict or dispute as can be seen with regard to clearly differing stances of how to deal with and how to remember the Shoah.

The existence of hybrid identities in Germany and Israel must acknowledged. Positions of power must be self-critically examined and shared or given up to enable equal participation in our societies regardless of the origin. The creation of such spaces can happen within the frame of educational work with youth, but it must not be limited to that sphere – in the long run the discourses in the whole of society have to change.

The project “Living Diversity in Germany and Israel – Challenges and Perspectives for Education and Youth Exchange” was developed by ConAct – Coordination Center German-Israeli Youth Exchange and the Israel Youth Exchange Authority in close cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. It is conceptualized as a supportive project in the German federal program “Live Democracy!”

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