Ala Khatib Visits San Francisco




Ala Khatib is a modest hero.  Born in the town of Tira, in northern Israel, Ala is an Arab  Muslim who grew up among Jews and made friendships in college that would change his life.

At the time of the first intifada in 1987, Ala was studying for his Master’s Degree in genetics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Responding to first hand experiences witnessing injustice to civilians by the military, he, along with his Jewish friends, became a social activist and vocal advocate for the rights of military conflict victims.

I asked Ala what his first impressions were of the Jewish friends he made in college.  He responded, “I was surprised, they were nice people, they were like me.” The first intifada would change Ala’s life irrevocably, as he chose to give up a lucrative future in the biotechnology field to dedicate his efforts to education. Ala’s fundamental commitment is to promote Jews and Arabs “getting along” in Israel.

“In English”, he said, “you call this co-existence.  We don’t think of it as co-existence, we think of having people really getting along, which is much more than co-existence.”  Ala readily acknowledges that Arabs and Jews will not agree on everything, but he asserts convincingly that people can disagree while maintaining respect for each other. 

Today, he is the co-principal of the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem and has been an important part of this ambitious program for the past three years.  He is a father with two young daughters, and his family still lives in Tira.

I hosted Ala and Lee Gordon, the co-founder of Hand in Hand, at my offices this week for an informational gathering to discuss the vision of Hand in Hand, a vision of Jews and Arabs “getting along” as peers beginning in pre-school and continuing through high school.  We had 30 guests, including Muslims, Christians, and Jews. 

Ala Khatib had never visited San Francisco until this week.  I look forward to seeing him in IsHand_in_hand_003rael on my next visit this June and to having him back in San Francisco soon to speak to many more people about a simple and powerful concept: “Getting Along”.

Ala Khatib and Judy Montell

Hand_in_hand_001Ala, Pascal and friends of Hand in Hand

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