Mounia, Our Jerusalem Alumni Coordinator
Mounia, a Hand in Hand alum and Jerusalem Alumni coordinator, spoke beautifully at this year’s community activist retreat in February. She talked about meaningful events she has planned since graduating, what it means to be a graduate, and the unique mindset she and other alumni have because of the education they received at Hand in Hand. Here is her full speech, translated:
I attended the “Bridge over the Wadi” Hand in Hand school in Wadi Ara, which is a long name, but I just understood the meaning of the name. When I started my studying at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I made Jewish and Arab friends who, when they met, were a little nervous. They wanted to talk and ask questions but it was uncomfortable. What I saw was that once I arrived, the conversation flowed. Why? Because I was the bridge.
During my time at Hand in Hand, my classmates and I learned a great deal about partnership and how to do things together. We are proof that living together works. And this is one of the main reasons I decided to lead the Jerusalem alumni group. This message must be preserved, in order to continue the 6, 9, or 12 years we spent learning together. As alumni, we show people what a rare and amazing thing we created then, in the hopes that someday peace will be common, widespread, and self-evident.
We, Hand in Hand alumni from all over the country, have established two leading groups in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with the aim of bringing together alumni and organizing cultural events designed for young people, and encouraging fun Jewish-Arab meetings that do not sweep issues under the rug. Our goal is to create a movement of people who believe in partnership and practice it and enjoy cultural exchange together. We started this year in Jerusalem in a meeting only for graduates who live in Jerusalem, to hear from them and join them in our group, and from there we embarked on other wonderful meetings.
We hosted an event where we asked the audience to write down questions and heard answers from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives from Hand in Hand alumni. And it was here for the first time that I really felt that we were breaking a barrier and making progress. Change starts when we ask hard questions of each other, and when we dare to listen, understand, and hear the answers. And this is what actually happened! People opened up and spoke to each other. And we, the Hand in Hand alumni, knew how to provide this safe space to make this happen. When the event ended, I realized how much we were missing before.
Oh and I almost forgot! We prepared delicious Israeli and Palestinian food because it is also important to know the culture and foods of the other side.
When I say this out loud, it feels so easy, but it’s not: reaching people, thinking of an event that interests them and that will be fun and purposeful, that will touch people and make a difference is difficult. But we are lucky, we got the right tools thanks to the school we grew up in.
Of course, we don’t stop here, we hope to expand the active alumni group and the number of events, and to create collaborations aimed at reaching more and more young people. We are working to offer culture and content to people who believe in a shared and equitable life in this country, and to grow these circles.
Thank you, Mounia, for the work you continue to do as a Hand in Hand graduate!