“Our goal is to establish and operate fully fledged bilingual, integrated Hand in Hand schools in every mixed Jewish-Arab area in Israel.”

On our recent Israel adventure with the Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Motor City Mission, JN Editorial Director Jackie Headapohl and I took a diversity excursion in Jerusalem. It was a most enlightening experience.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

Our first stop was the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education. In short, this is a school where Jewish, Arabic, Druze and Christian children learn together. As the Hand in Hand website states: “Our goal is to establish and operate fully fledged bilingual, integrated Hand in Hand schools in every mixed Jewish-Arab area in Israel.”

Moreover, it declares that “the future of our children is at stake, and we therefore must continue to fight and advocate for equality and freedom in this land for those of all religions and backgrounds.” It is a noble mission, and we wish them every success.

At the school, we met three students, two Arab Israeli and one Christian, and two administrators. Their presentations and comradery gave us a great deal of hope and reinforced the school’s mission. Another good omen for Hand in Hand’s continuing success is that it opened its first bilingual seventh-grade class in Haifa, its second middle school in Israel, last fall.

So, when I returned from Israel, I dove right into the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History to see if the JN had written about Hand in Hand. Yes, it had. There are two JN articles about the Hand in Hand program, which was founded in 1997. Its first school, a kindergarten, opened the following year.

First-graders at the Hand in Hand School.
First-graders at the Hand in Hand School. DJN Archive

Sidebar: At the risk of sounding a bit biased (well, I am the archivist for the Davidson Digital Archive!), I am always amazed, every time I enter the Davidson Archive, at the comprehensive coverage of Israel over the last 100+ years.

Regarding Hand in Hand, see “Optimism in Israel” in the Jan. 7, 2010, JN. This is a report about Amin Khalaf’s and Lee Gordon’s visit to Congregation Beth Israel in Ann Arbor. Khalaf is the co-founder and former president of Hand in Hand. Gordon is the other co-founder and current director of the American Friends of Hand in Hand organization.

DJN Archive

Khalaf made some important points. First, the schools are recognized by Israel’s Ministry of Education. Second, of salient importance, the students at the school work to master both Hebrew and Arabic to foster greater understanding of each other’s culture through its language. This facet of the school’s curriculum continues to this day.

Five years later, the JN published “Learning Together: Israel’s Hand in Hand Schools Show Coexistence is a Real Possibility” (Dec. 3, 2015). This is a report on Gordon’s whirlwind tour of Detroit, when he visited both synagogues and a Muslim center in Metro Detroit.

Today, Hand in Hand is still growing and highly successful. More than 2,000 students, ages 3-18, study together in seven schools across Israel.

I’ll let the words of Ann Arbor resident Susan Greenberg conclude this column. In 2010, Greenberg had two grandchildren enrolled in the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem. She said, “The impact on the children is unmistakable. They bond, they genuinely care for each other.”

Yes, indeed, when Jackie and I visited the school, hope for the future was there in front of our eyes.

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

Previous articleAstrolojew Horoscopes: IYAR 5783: Sign of the Times
Next articleA Word of Torah: Words That Heal