Meet Nour, an 11th grade student at Hand in Hand. She’s an athlete, a Model UN participant, and a trailblazer.
What’s your name? Where are you from? What brought you to Hand in Hand? What sorts of things do you like to do?
Nour: My name is Nour and I am 16 years old, living in Jerusalem. My parents are from the North. I attended the YMCA kindergarten, then I went to the English school in Beit Hanina until high school.
I came to Hand in Hand in 9th grade, the same year I participated in a program called Seeds of Peace … and that was a big turning point in my life actually, Seeds of Peace and Hand in Hand. This school changed my personality, it was a really big turning point. It’s also the years and the age as well, but this school gave me a lot of opportunities other than just studying. I started a soccer team at the school here and I also participate in the Model UN. I am also part of the feminist group here in the school. We gave lessons to classes and had a ceremony on International Women’s Day last year and I gave a speech. I enjoy playing sports in general. And I love helping others, I’m always there to help others. I also aim for high grades and I help my friends do the same. I am thinking about studying either medicine or law.
What sorts of things are you passionate about?
Nour: Things I’m currently passionate about are empowering women in general and freeing Arab women in the world, also embracing my Palestinian identity. Hand in Hand has given me the opportunity to discuss it and learn about myself more deeply. But also Hand in Hand taught me how to listen, not just speak. I’m really passionate about freedom, for every individual in this world. When I say freedom, first of all I mean freedom of the mind. The first step for a human to be free, in my opinion, is when they exit the things that are holding them inside their mind and when they open up to new things in general. Freedom also means the ability to express yourself and move freely and nobody stops you from doing it. To the limit of not harming or hurting others’ freedom.
How do you think this school is different from other places? What have you learned here?
Nour: Here in this school, I feel like it’s a different community, a different world. We are in a different world here. When I leave the gates of the school, I feel like I am going out to a different world. Not everyone understands me, not everyone’s like me, I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself. But here in school, I can wear anything that defines me, I take my identity out proudly. Also on the national holidays, like the Naqba, I have the opportunity to speak freely and express myself, and I feel like the other person in front of me, they listen and hear. They don’t all agree but at least they listen. And they’re willing to listen. And I listen too. And it’s not like that everywhere, people are not always willing to listen. Every individual in this world believes they’re right and the other person is wrong.
How do you think you’ve changed since coming here? How do you think you’re being at this school has influenced your family and friends?
Nour: Being here in this school, I found myself, I understand my identity more than I ever had before. So I discuss these things more at home and I influence my family. I discuss everything that happens around me with them. And I think I also help them be more aware. If I see something that’s not right, I raise the topic. Sometimes, my friends from different places have a hard time trying to understand how I am able to go to school with Jewish people. Because people living in the West Bank, the other side is the enemy. And so I explain to them what’s actually going on and how I see it. I explain that not everything is peaceful, but we discuss problems and politics. And these people I spend my days with are human beings, they’re like us, we are all human beings.
What do you want people to know about Hand in Hand?
Nour: It’s a world everyone would like to live in, it’s actually a world everyone could live in. People here are understanding, they’re peaceful, they’re willing to listen and hear. You don’t feel in any way attacked or an outsider. I really feel very comfortable here. I enjoy coming to school, even when I’m feeling down and sad, I want to come to school. Also the teachers, at other schools, teachers are just teachers, it’s a student-teacher relationship. But here, teachers are also your friends and they help you outside school hours. It’s a school that supports you in any project or idea. They’re always willing to help. It works on the personality sometimes even more than the studies. People here go out ready for the outside world.
Hand in Hand is my second home, it’s a place where I actually feel welcome and safe. I always feel wanted and it’s a happy place. It’s unlike anything else. It’s a different kind of society. And it’s impossible to know exactly what it’s like until you come and have the same experience.