Children Create Mideast Peace Through Education at Hand in Hand
Categorized as: Education, Middle East, Our Partners, Stories, Youth & Tagged as: Bilingual, Hand in Hand, Middle East conflict, Peace on March 19, 2016. Related Grantees: Dayton International Peace Museum, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Teach North Korean Refugees, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, Wahat al-Salam–Neve Shalom through American Friends of Wahat al-Salam–Neve Shalom.
By Suzanne Skees
Read the latest updates on our Board Collaborative Partner, or scroll down to view the videos below.
If you want peace, put your country’s future in the hands of children. That’s what a group of Israeli and Palestinian parents did nearly two decades ago when they tried an experimental bilingual, bicultural school that became Hand in Hand. Living in a sharply segregated country, where Jews and Arabs live on two sides of the Green Line and never really get to know one another, they believed that if kids had a chance to study together, they would learn to live in peace. It’s working.
They’re growing like wildflowers in the warm spring sun. Just this year, they have:
- Enrolled 1,320 Jewish and Arab children who interact daily, learning each other’s language, culture, and history–and becoming friends.
- Expanded their network to 6 locations: Jerusalem, Galilee, Wadi Ara, Haifa, Jaffa and, their newest location, Beit Berl for Tira and Kfar Saba families.
- The Jaffa Preschool that opened only three years ago has grown from 35 preschool children to 168 Jewish and Arab children: 121 in the preschool and an additional 47 children in 2 sections of 1st grade.
- The Haifa Preschool that opened three years ago in a garage with 13 infants, now has 83 children in 5 age groups.
- Ongoing sharing their impact country-wide, with thousands participating in our inclusive community-building activities.
- Received requests from 13 more communities to open a bilingual school in their area.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, recently toured Hand in Hand. She spoke with students — Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—and praised them:
“This school is so amazingly important… Sometimes we all live in echo chambers where we only hear people who agree with us, without ever having our views challenged… We hope that you carry the flame forward as you graduate. You are the best ambassadors peace can possibly have.”
Check out this video from a local-news feature in Israel (in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles) that shows their impact:
One of their classrooms was a victim of an arson attack last year. The next day, “98 percent of the students showed up,” says one teacher. Alumni, parents, and neighbors gathered for a demonstration in support of Hand in Hand.
They may have created a haven inside Hand in Hand, but “We are not disconnected from what is happening around us. It affects us and we have to deal with it,” says Nadia Kinani, one of the founders of Hand in Hand and the headmaster of the Jerusalem school. As violence erupts outside their classroom doors, she tells Al Jazeera, “What we are seeing is that because of it, more and more people are coming to us – because we give hope, we give an alternative, and they want to be a part of that. Now we have an even longer waiting list than did in the past, because people want to choose this.”
“Our message of inclusiveness and equality is being heard and our presence is being felt,” Director of Strategy Rebecca Bardach told us in a recent email. “Despite the growing tensions and extremism, we have more people ready to join our schools and communities than we can accommodate. Hand in Hand plans to continue its three-pronged approach of integrated schools, shared communities, and amplification, to build support for social inclusion and civic equality in Israeli society.”
This video shows more on the background of Hand in Hand:
Photographs courtesy of Hand in Hand and Al Jazeera; videos courtesy of Hand in Hand and Channel 2 Israel News.
LEARN more about Hand in Hand here.
DONATE to Hand in Hand’s efforts to build peace through quality bilingual, bicultural education, by clicking here.