Vision for the Future– Hand in Hand as a Center of Excellence for Bilingual Jewish-Arab Education

Over 6 million people currently live in Israel and are full Israeli citizens– 20% of them are Arabs. This excludes approximately 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Many Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew but few Jews speak Arabic. If there is to be any lasting, peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, the socio-economic gap between Arabs and Jews must be bridged. Fear, suspicion, and mistrust must give way to mutual respect for each other’s faiths and cultural traditions in order for friendship and cooperation to define Arab-Israeli relations. Hand in Hand is making this happen at the grassroots level and working class Arab and Jewish families are paying 4,750 NIS a year ($1,083) for the privilege to learn as equals.

After school, Hand in Hand offers Arabic language education classes to the parents of the children who attend the schools and opens these classes up to anyone in the community who wishes to attend.

Hand in Hand is literally writing the book on bilingual Jewish Arab education. This organization has developed elements of a new bilingual and multicultural curriculum that are currently being implemented in the Hand in Hand schools. Part of Hand in Hand’s vision is for these materials to be used in other schools outside of Hand in Hand. With seven years of experience in pioneering this field, Hand in Hand’s school principals can now train other teachers across Israel in bilingual and multicultural education. It is the goal of Hand in Hand to do this across Israel.
As recently as last week, Ministry of Education specialists from Tel Aviv visited the Jerusalem school and are exploring opening a Hand in Hand school in Tel Aviv near the Arab city of Jaffa. Hand in Hand continues to receive numerous inquiries from groups of parents and educators in other communities (such as Haifa and Beersheba) to open Hand in Hand schools there.

The Hand in Hand total operating budget for the 2004-2005 school year is $1.6 million to serve three locations and over 500 students. Separate from this operating budget, the Israeli Ministry of Education funds approximately 50% of teachers’ salaries, and local municipal governments provide the schools with physical plant infrastructure. In total, approximately 40% of overall operating costs are covered by local and national government sources along with student fees borne by their families. In calendar year 2005 Hand in Hand needs to raise $1.6 million and in 2006 at least $1.9 million to sustain its growth.

The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco has supported Hand in Hand since 1998. Other prominent groups across the globe that support Hand in Hand include numerous Jewish community federations (such as Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York), the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation in Washington DC, the Blaustein Foundation in Baltimore, the Fohs Foundation in Oregon, the Weaver Foundation in Colorado, the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund of Los Angeles, the Gores Family of Los Angeles, and in Europe the German and Swiss governments and the Van Leer Foundation of Holland.

The real power of Hand in Hand is the ripple or network effect that each family who enrolls has on their community. If the kindergarten class had not visited the Arab grandmother, according to the Arab principal of Kfar Kara, it is unlikely that those children would come into direct contact with an Arab until they attended college. That seems a little late for me.

Hand in Hand is fundamentally changing the rules of the game for early childhood education in Israel and stands to revolutionize social relations in the country as the number of students reaches critical mass. Is that at 5,000 students or 50,000 or 500,000? I don’t know, but it isn’t at 500 or at 1,000 students. We need to help Hand in Hand thrive and grow. The rest is up to the children—and their parents.


Learning together from the Torah and the Koran


This makes sense to me…..


Does this look like it could be your child’s pre-school classroom?


Josie Mendelson, Amin Khalaf, Pascal, and Noha Khatib at Kfar Kara

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