Can we learn from our children? It is always wonderful to see children playing with each other, irrespective of their background, religion or ethnicity. This is exactly what you will see if you visit one of the Hand-in-Hand schools in Israel-Palestine. 

Two amazing women, one Jewish-Israeli and one Arab-Palestinian, are promoting the schools which commenced in 1998.

“Our school is a model for learning about each other, each other’s cultures and to be a model for what a shared life and community can look like” said Noa Yammer, an American born Israeli who is their engagement director and who has been living in Jerusalem since 2003.

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“The schools are bilingual so the kids learn Hebrew and Arabic. We also teach history from both the Israeli and Palestinian narrative,” she added.

“I believe this is the best way to live and learn in Israel/Palestine, together in shared communities and shared spaces,” commented Shada Mansour, the community organiser in their new Kfar Saba school.

“When children relax with each other and prejudices do not exist, this can become the foundation of being a caring society where violence and intolerance currently prevails,” she said.

Shada has her 5 year old daughter enrolled at one of the schools.

Hand-in-Hand was founded with a new approach to education where Muslim, Jewish and Christian children are brought together in a bilingual, multicultural and interfaith system of schooling.

After starting schools in the Galilee region and Jerusalem, Hand-in-Hand began to grow, despite a difficult battle to win recognition from the Minister of Education.

A third school started in the Wadi Ara region followed by others in Haifa, Jaffa and the Arab village of Beit Safafa. The trend for opening more new schools is continuing.

Currently there are 2,000 students attending Hand-in-Hand schools with another thousand children on the waiting list.

“We teach children how to live in harmony and not to wait for politicians to create peace” Noa and Shada both stated.

They also expressed their appreciation to the New Israel Fund for bringing them to Australia.

Liam Getreu, Executive Director of NIF, New Israel Fund, said, “NIF’s primary focus is protecting Israel’s liberal democracy and making sure it remains an inclusive, shared and tolerant society for all its citizens. For this reason we support Hand-in-Hand  –  NIF has been doing this work for 40 years and today it is more important than ever.”

More information on https://www.nif.org.au/

Radio National Breakfast Radio Show interviewed both Noa Yammer & Shada Mansour  –  the interview can be accessed via https://www.facebook.com/NIFAustralia/videos/732888233815699/

FOOTNOTE: When I was teaching children at the Villawood Detention Centre prior to the end of that era, I learned a lot by watching these children from many parts of the world interact  –  this was an amazing sight that I will never forget.