Dorset ‘A’ level students explore Israel/Palestine with maker of The Promise
News, Diocese of Salisbury
300 sixth-formers in Sherborne, Dorset, tackled one of the thorniest international issues in a study day on 28 November 2011, based on an acclaimed Channel 4 series.
Here’s a clip of the event
The Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, chaired discussions on the ground-breaking TV series The Promise with filmmaker Peter Kosminsky. The story interweaves the history of Britain’s involvement in the founding of the State of Israel with current events, seen through the eyes of Erin, an 18-year-old girl retracing events in her grandfather’s diary.
The film, aired over four 100-minute episodes in the spring, explores the little-known experiences of British soldiers serving in Palestine in 1947-48 and confronts the troubled present-day reality in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Gryphon Church of England School hosted 300 A-Level students, including visitors from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls’ School and the Catholic Independent girls’ school, Leweston.
In the afternoon, Dr Kings was joined by Rabbi Danny Rich, the UK’s Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, and Dr Hammadi Nait-Charif, Senior Lecturer in Computer Animations, Bournemouth University.
Students explored issues around the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam; heard the Palestinian Christian perspective; questioned human rights monitors working on a World Council of Churches project in Israeli-occupied Palestine; and spoke with Jews whose ethical beliefs led them to work for human rights and equality, despite conflict with Israeli government policies.
The day culminated in an Advent Carol service at Sherborne Abbey, which was open to all. Dr Kings led the service, which included readings by Rabbi Rich, Dr Nait-Charif and Peter Kosminsky. The congregation sang traditional carols, alternating with modern lyrics reflecting the reality of Bethlehem today, and Jewish soprano Debbie Fink sang a well-known passage from The Messiah.
Mr Kosminsky said during the day, ‘I was incredibly surprised and honoured that you would invite me to spend the best part of a day discussing a programme I’ve made – that’s never happened to me before – and I’m very touched and flattered that you would not only do that, but that you would devote so many hours of your day to thinking carefully about the issues that we tried to raise.’
Dr Kings commented, ‘I am deeply impressed by the profound engagement and sharp questions of the students. It has been an extraordinary day of innovative, animated learning for us all and a joy to share with Peter, Danny and Hammadi.’
Rabbi Rich said, ‘The situation in Israel-Palestine, past and present, is a complex one and it was a privilege to work with sixth-formers who were attempting to understand the dilemmas which follow from history.’
Rowan MacNeary head of Sixth Form at Sherborne Girls, said working on The Promise had opened students’ minds.
‘This was an extraordinary day that has helped illuminate the challenge that Israelis and Palestinians face on a daily basis. The contextualisation of the issues – the British involvement in Palestine that as a nation we are so very ignorant of, and the responsibilities we all have in understanding these issues that so profoundly affect world politics – has made an impact on all those in attendance: an impact that can only be positive.’
Further information contacts
The Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings
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Dr Graham Kings has been Bishop of Sherborne, in the Diocese of Salisbury, since 2009. Previously, he was Vicar of Islington, lecturer in Cambridge, and lecturer in Kabare, Kenya. Bio here
Rabbi Danny Rich was appointed in December 2004 as the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, a grouping of nearly 10,000 Jews in 34 communities from Edinburgh to Bristol and from Norwich to Dublin, formerly known as the Union of Liberal & Progressive Synagogues. Bio here
Dr Hammadi Nait-Charif is a Senior Lecturer at the National Centre for Computer Animation, Bournemouth University. Bio here
Sherborne Abbey was founded by the first Bishop of Sherborne, St Aldhelm, in AD 705. It developed from a Saxon cathedral into a monastic community, and then became one of the most beautiful parish churches in England. Visit the website
The participating schools were The Gryphon Church of England Secondary School, Sherborne School,Sherborne Girls and Leweston School, a Catholic Independent School.
Organisers included members of Friends of Sabeel and Jews for Justice for Palestinians