During my assembly at school two weeks ago, two girls came in to speak about Hand in Hand, their school in Israel/Palestine. They described their experience at Hand and Hand, how they got to be there, and what they thought of the school. One was from Israel, and the other was from Palestine, and they went to school together because Hand in Hand has Arab and Jewish students learning together. Hand in Hand is a bilingual school where each and every student learns Hebrew and Arabic; it doesn’t matter if you are Arab or Jewish. Starting in third grade you learn English. The Hand in Hand school was made to bring Arabs and Jews in Israel/Palestine together from a young age, and for them to learn not to fight and learn that they are a lot more similar than they think.
After the Holocaust, the United Nations created the country of Israel as a home for the Jews because Jews wanted a safe place to live after so many of them were killed during the Holocaust. Palestinians became angry because their homeland was taken away, and many of them fled or were kicked out. As a result, there is now a war between Israelis and Palestinians, and they can’t decide on how to split up their land.
Both Israel and Palestine seem to want everything and all the land, which makes it very hard to compromise with each other. Palestinians mostly live in the West Bank and Gaza. Right now, some Israelis are encouraged to move to the West Bank by the Israeli government, and that angers the Palestinians even more because they think the Israelis are occupying their land more than before. However, Israel says they are occupying the West Bank to prevent the Palestinians from bombing them, like they did when Israel left Gaza. As a result, they have fought multiple wars with each other, and thousands of people have died on each side over the last fifty years, which makes it hard to negotiate with and trust each other.
This is the very reason why Amin Khalaf (an Arab) and Lee Gordon (a Jew) founded the Hand in Hand School in 1997, and their mission was for Jews and Arabs to live, learn, and work together. They wanted Jews and Arabs to learn to trust each other, have peace between each other, and not be hostile towards each other. There are now four Hand in Hand schools in Jerusalem, Galili, Wadi Ara, and Haifa, and there are now about 1,000 students attending Hand in Hand total. They want more kids to join their schools and the movement to bring together Arabs and Jews and to have peace.
There was a time before Israel was established when the Jews and Arabs in the region got along and there wasn’t so much war. There were Jews who lived in modern-day Israel before it was even established. The establishment of Israel as a Jewish state was what started the conflict. What I don’t understand is if Jews and Arabs got along back then, why can’t they get along now?
I don’t understand why schools like Hand in Hand aren’t everywhere in Israel and why they are so rare. Schools like Hand in Hand should be everywhere and should be a normal thing. I know that Israelis and Palestinians don’t like each other, and that they’ve been at war with each other for over 50 years and have killed thousands of people, but maybe they should at least try to compromise and make some negotiations with each other so even more people won’t die.
Do you know of any other cool projects investing in youth in the MENA region?