Noa Friedman-Epstein, director of the Dallas – Western Galilee Partnership

Greetings and opening remarks from Dr. Iris Zudik – director of the Mitzraf program – upon the opening of the conference

The seventh Mitzraf Formative Learning Conference is one of the ten projects chosen by the Dallas – Western Galilee partnership to support this year.

One of the Partnership's goals is to support projects that advance innovation and entrepreneurships in Western Galilee. The Partnership's Steering Committee decided that the Conference organized and run by the Mitzraf Association meets the criteria we seek for our activity in the domain of education.

Mitzraf (formerly the Kadar Center) was established in 2012 by the Manor-Kabri Association in cooperation with the Naomi Foundation. Mitzraf is managed by Dr. Iris Zudick of the faculty for education, science, & technology at the Technion Institute. This is a unique grassroots program that began its path at Manor-Kabri Middle School in Western Galilee. At first the program operated under the name of the Kadar Center, named for the Kadar family which extended its support for the first six years of the program's operation and made it possible for this project to materialize.

The name of the program was changed in 2018. Throughout its years of operation it was funded by the Ministry of Education along with participating schools and donations. The program trains school teachers and principals to incorporate innovative educational methods and alternative learning into the existing curriculum. This presents a tremendous challenge given that changing decades-long habits is not a simple matter. >Nevertheless, everyone who has benefited from the program's service reports that the change process, which lasts about three years, has been well worth the investment and efforts involved. Nowadays the program operates each year in more than 20 schools, most of them in Israel's northern region and schools associated with the Local Education Administration and the Haifa district.

When Dr. Zudik leafed through her calendar and decided on the date of the annual conference for the association she manages, she never imagined that a pandemic would stop it in its tracks. She had circled the date in red, April 1st, for the Seventh Mitzraf Formative Learning Conference.

The days of planning the conference were intensive and filled with excitement. The invited lecturers planned for the event, invitees confirmed their attendance, and a timetable for the conference was finalized. More than 150 participants sent in their early registration. But like the rest of the world, in Israel, too, the best laid plans were disrupted by the virus. But to the good fortune of the conference's participants, educators are a special brand of people who dedicate their lives to educating young people—and hindering their efforts is a difficult task. Iris and her team would not compromise on keeping the tradition alive, and the entire conference was held virtually with participants connecting online from their homes.

"When we decided on the title of the conference, "Formative Learning Culture” we didn't know just how appropriate it would be for this current period. The entire education system has transitioned to teaching Israel's children remotely in their homes. Within just a couple of days all of us – both teachers and students – learned how to utilize alternative systems and overcome the challenge of maintaining the continuity of education. No special course in the world could have taught us so quickly to adjust. We all jumped into the water and found our way to continue moving forward. This is part of our Israeli culture: to find ways of continuing and not giving up." 

~ Dr. Iris Zudik

The conference opened with a lecture delivered by Dr. Daniel Naveh entitled "Children, Education, and Learning from an Anthropological Perspective." Naveh is an anthropologist who has researched hunter-gatherer societies in the forests of southern India. In his lecture he talked about children's learning based on trial and error and driven by need. His findings shed light on the method in which our brains, after tens of millions of years in which humans lived as hunter-gatherers, adjusted to learning and how important it is to employ what we've learned from tribal children and adapt it to 21st century learning. This involves a learning style that generates problem solving ability and creativity, a multidimensional commodity for our modern age.

The second lecture was delivered by Dr. Shamir Yagar, who imported Bill Gates's Big History Project to Israel. The project is a groundbreaking 'extracurricular' course aimed at teaching students human history, from the Big Bank to modern times. Learning is adapted to the period in which we live and is tailored to the entire target audience of learners. Thus the learning program succeeds in sparking the curiosity of students, from elementary school to high school

The third and final lecture of the conference was given by Dr. Orit Parnafes, who outdid herself in leading the conference's participants in a workshop from their homes. Her workshop returned participants to their childhoods and illustrated the concept of 'natural learning' founded on our most basic needs and in harmony with the movement of life.


Noa Friedman-Epstein, director of the Dallas – Western Galilee Partnership, greets the conference's participants. She described the Partnership's activity in Western Galilee and talked about the Jewish community of Dallas, which for years has supported the Partnership and rightfully feels an integral part of the region.

Our world is changing constantly as is the field of education. Our children need to receive the most effective tools to deal with the complex tasks that the 21st century places before us. The Mitzraf program ushers in a new spirit of education and spearheads genuine and highly relevant changes in the system. Although the fruits of this endeavor will be felt in the future, even now we all benefit from this exciting new direction.




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03 May 2020 / 9 Iyar 5780 0