Coexistence in a Polarized City– the Hand in Hand Jerusalem School

Date of Event–November 2, 2004

The Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem hosts 254 children in the kindergarten through seventh grades.  40 teachers and 5 administrative staff shepherd the school Sunday through Thursday from 8:15 AM until 3:30 PM. I entered a third grade mathematics class and witnessed two teachers at the board, one explaining a problem in Arabic, the other in Hebrew, surrounded by twenty engaged children, free to answer the teachers in either language.  Walking through the halls, I saw a bulletin board with a display about the observance of Ramadan; nearby, another bulletin board commemorated the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

Hand in Hand now operates three schools: in Jerusalem with pre-kindergarten through sixth grade classes; in the Misgav area of northern Israel, with first through seventh grade classes; and the newest school, which opened in September 2004, in the Wadi Ara region with kindergarten through third grades. In all of the schools Hand in Hand plans to grow through the high school level, adding a new grade each year and enrolling new pupils on the younger age levels. In total, 530 children are currently enrolled.

The children come from a mixture of middle class and working class backgrounds. Some of their parents have college educations, others do not. Most of the Arab children come from Muslim families, but Christian Arabs attend the school in Jerusalem as well. While the families are not orthodox, the school does have families with certain levels of religious observance.

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