With funding from a U.S. government grant, Hand in Hand has embarked on an ambitious program to create three new Jewish-Arab "shared communities" with integrated schools as their focus.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a $1 million grant for this "shared communities" program to be distributed over the next three years. Funding began this spring.
After an extensive search, Hand in Hand hired two staff members, Amir Starnes and Maha el-Taji, to coordinate the program. They, in turn, have hired four part-time community workers to begin strengthening the existing school communities. One of their focuses is to create a framework for adults, even those without children in the schools, to become part of the shared Jewish-Arab communities.
Haifa and Tel Aviv have long been target areas for starting new integrated schools, and in these two cities, the new staff has brought together more than 100 Jewish and Arab families now meeting regularly, organizing Jewish-Arab events and programs, and working diligently toward the creation of new educational frameworks.
We've only just begun, and there's a long way to go, but through the "shared communities" program, Hand in Hand will expand its impact to a much wider segment of Israeli society.