Public schools in Israel are divided into four separate systems: Secular/Public, National Religious, Ultra-Orthodox, and Arab. Unfortunately, this division doesn’t leave a lot of room for person-to-person interaction or shared dialogue between the many groups of students that go to school in the country. This lack of contact leads to broader social issues and contributes to the deep divisions between populations.
Last Friday, I got to meet the people behind a groundbreaking solution to this issue. Hand in Hand is a network of integrated schools between Arab and Jewish students with over 1,850 students in six schools from Jerusalem to the Galilee. Their model of shared education features Arab and Jewish students taught side-by-side daily, learning Hebrew and Arabic, celebrating Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays, and learning both Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives. It’s a model of what a shared society and a diverse, integrated Israel can look like.
I took my first trip to Israel at age four to visit the kibbutz that my grandparents helped to found as part of the HaShomer Hatzair Zionist youth movement, and where my mother was born. The most salient details I remembered were the taste of popsicles and the feeling of mosquito bites, and until last week I hadn’t been back since then. On this recent trip, I hoped to grasp a better, more tangible understanding of why Israel was so vital for people like my grandparents, and to hear directly from Palestinians what it was like for them to live there.
I spend a lot of time thinking about Israel, but up until two weeks ago, I didn’t have any sense of what the country was like, only a conceptual understanding. When I heard that my childhood synagogue in Palo Alto, California, was leading a multi-narrative tour of Israel, I asked to go with my parents. Over the course of ten days, we toured Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Galilee, and the West Bank, hearing from Israeli and Palestinian speakers from...