Israel is a diverse country made up of many religions, ethnicities, nationalities, and identities. As is often the case, people are attracted to the familiar and tend to live in insular communities. The result is that most Jewish and Arab children grow up in separate communities, rarely interact, and can fall prey to suspicion, fear and even hatred.
We know that children who grow up in diverse communities are more likely to learn the value of tolerance and accept the differences of others. Peoples’ interactions with different peers, at any age, are crucially important for learning about acceptance and valuing that quality throughout their lives.
Recognizing this truth, the founders of Hand in Hand Schools created a series of integrated Arab-Jewish schools across Israel. Hand in Hand Schools give children the opportunity to meet and play together starting in pre-school and, in some cases, continue learning together through high school. The benefits of this approach spill over into the broader community, as parents and teachers also interact with each other. The program aims to lay the groundwork for a shared society in Israel, creating a platform for children to learn understanding and respect, and value equality.
Hand in Hand schools can be found in Jerusalem, the Galilee, Wadi Ara, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, and Kfar Saba. In each classroom, two co-teachers work as a team, one who speaks Arabic and one speaks Hebrew. Together, they focus on teaching about the values, histories, and heritage of each population in the classroom.
Boston Partners for Peace was created to give a voice to those who are working to create a more peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis. Hand in Hand fulfills this mission through their dedication to organizing shared communities of students and parents to replace the divisiveness, fear, and mistrust that often defines relationships between Arabs and Jews. They are creating the conditions on the ground to advance the cause of peace.
As Fatima Yahia, 2009 alumnus of Wadi Ara School explained, “From a young age, I learned how to listen and how to hold a lot of different perspectives, even when it was hard. I also see this in the other alumni when I meet them in other places - we know how to listen to people who are different without it shaking our resolve. We can listen because we know who we are.”
Each person that joins our Boston Partners for Peace community amplifies the voices of people like Fatima who are working toward a more hopeful future. I hope you will join us.
For more information about Hand in Hand, you can visit their website, follow them on Facebook, or make a donation.