Dr. Delia Padilla, Head of the Al-Qasemi College of Engineering and Science in Baka Al-grbiih, who also founded and runs the Tira-based Q Schools, an institution for teaching and learning English, told The Marker she wants to raise a post-Nakba generation of Arab children in Israel. Nakba, Catastrophe in Arabic, is the Arabs’ inverse term for Israel’s War of Independence, for obvious reasons—one day they were the majority in British-ruled Palestine, and one badly conceived UN vote on partition later, followed by civil war, and they became a minority in someone else’s country, and have been trapped ever since in a narrative that blames all their losses on the Jews. Well, Dr. Padilla wants it to stop.
“It’s important to me that we develop in the younger generation a sense of vision,” she told The Marker. “Let our children grow up with the sense that they are capable of dreaming, because if they were able to dream, they could also make dreams come true. I want to raise a generation of leaders that doesn’t want to go backwards. I call them ‘the new Arabs.'”
According to their website, Q Schools is “constituted on the values of empowerment, acquiring and producing knowledge, and the rights of development for all people.” Q Schools’ unique approach utilizes language learning as an integral component of the process of human resource development. Having educated more than 2000 students, Q Schools aims to fulfill students’ potential for being leaders and life-long learners.
Padilla says her own generation was raised with the notion that “there’s no point in dreaming, what’s the best you’ll become? At most you’ll be a school teacher.” The Nakba narrative, rather than be a liberating sentiment, repressed Israeli Arabs, including the later generations who hadn’t experienced the cataclysmic change personally. They grew up defeated, Padilla says, which is why she believes a post-Nakba dialogue is critical for the future of Israeli Arabs. She also teaches that Arabs must accept responsibility for their own lives.
“I call it the Halas Theory,” she says. Halas means, literally, Enough in Arabic. “Halas, maspik (same word in Hebrew), grow up and start investing. Budgetary shortages, structural discrimination — fine, it’s all there, but it does not absolve us from investing in our own society.”
Dr. Padilla says Israeli Arabs will do well to learn from American Jews, whose major success was in establishing a competent and strong leadership which manages to accomplish a great deal in the political arena, despite the relatively small size of their constituency.
“It’s a simple formula,” she says. “The Jews said to themselves, We are Jewish, but American, and it’s not a contradiction in terms, but a common interest, and to get a strong community we must do very strong internal work and neutralize the pitfalls.’ Here, because of all the tension and the tough speech by government officials, we don’t manage to achieve this kind of dialogue in the Israeli Arab society. But someone among us should have the courage to say, ‘It makes no difference what Bibi is saying — we owe this to ourselves.'”
Back in 2011, Dr. Padilla described the plight of the Israeli Arab woman in an eloquent essay in an Israeli-Arab Journal. She described how “on the one hand, she wants to belong to her own society, her own tradition, to be the mother, the daughter and the partner. She is also aware, however, that this indigenous culture, with its heavily suffocating tradition, places variable rings around her neck, her mind, her body and her future. She is ambivalent. On the other hand, we look to the other side, to Israeli society and admire its liberal lifestyle. We envy our Jewish sisters who are in an advanced position toward liberalism and self-fulfillment. Yet we are aware that this society is the same one that hinders our integration into the liberal community; it visibly and invisibly places obstacles in the way of our acceptance.