Hand in Hand is transforming Arab-Jewish relations in Israel through the power of the shared living. When people live and learn together every day in Hand in Hand schools and communities – it creates a daily practice of a shared society. We see this in our students, alumni, families, communities, government officials, and media. Each one of these groups on its own makes a difference – and the sum total starts to show Israeli society that it is possible to live together as equals.
We are growing. The more we continue to meet the high demand and expand to more locations, taking in more students and building more communities, the more we will leverage a shift from conflict to cooperation for all of Israeli society.
Israeli children go to separate schools and rarely interact with each other, contributing to deep-rooted divisions and intergenerational hatred. In this society, Hand in Hand students are unique. In 2019-20, over 1,850 Arab and Jewish students from ages 3-18 are learning together in six bilingual, multicultural schools. They study together in a values-infused environment where equality, tolerance and togetherness are the norm – day after day, and year after year. They are equipped with a strong sense of mutual respect and are empowered to go out and change society.
Hand in Hand’s award-winning schools are in high demand. With over 1,200 children on waiting lists, and requests to build new Hand in Hand schools in over 10 locations, we know that growing numbers of Israelis across the country are seeking an alternative for their children. We plan to continue our growth until there is a Hand in Hand school in every mixed region in Israel, offering this alternative way of life and learning to thousands more across the country.
Over 500 incredible young women and men have graduated Hand in Hand schools. Our students graduate with a passionate commitment to social action alongside a finely honed sense of empathy, a nuanced understanding of society, and the uncommon experience of having already lived the values of mutual respect and equality. They are our best ambassadors for shared living, and are equipped to advance their beliefs in the world around them, bringing change to their universities, service institutions, and work places.
Behind every Hand in Hand student is a family making the remarkable choice to educate their children in a mixed Jewish-Arab school. The collective force of thousands of these families, living their values of equality despite the conflict, creates a new way of life in Israel. This new way of life plays out to their homes, with their friends, family, local communities and places of work. Parents at the school are politicians, judges, lawyers, policy makers, academics, artists, and much more. And they take the transformation they experience at Hand in Hand wherever they go, changing the norms in the world around them to be more inclusive and equal.
We cannot rest of all of our hopes for the future on the shoulders of our children. We have established flourishing adult communities around each of our schools that live, learn and celebrate together throughout the year. Hand in Hand’s communities are having an outsize effect on the cities where we operate, and the country as a whole. In our host cities throughout Israel, bilingual children’s programming has spread to other institutions like libraries and day care centers. Community centers are partnering with us to create programming for integrated Arab-Jewish audiences. Hand in Hand communities are active together – bringing the voice of equality to local neighborhoods and all of Israeli society. These communities are making change today, so they can build a more equal society for the next generation.
Hand in Hand staff and community members work closely with city administrators and Ministry of Education officials in every location where we open and operate schools. Our staff members present the Hand in Hand story at professional conferences countrywide and beyond, and advise municipalities on how to bring values of pluralism, tolerance and Jewish-Arab understanding into other schools in the city. Many public officials are impacted by their engagement with Hand in Hand, and have gone on to enact policies like offering forms in two languages and encouraging local businesses to offer Arabic translations. Each year this impact widens, furthering new developments toward greater inclusion in society.
“I take my hat off to you, you have changed Jaffa. There has never been such a massive demand for one kindergarten. Something real has taken place here.” -Senior Tel Aviv-Jaffa Education Official