20 Years of Co-Existence a blueprint for peace Hand in Hand, Israel
The Hand in Hand educational concept was given birth in 1997 by Amin Khalaf, an Arab teacher and lecturer, and Lee Gordon, a Jewish-American social activist, after they met while working in their respective fields promoting Arab-Jewish dialogue in Israel. The schools they pioneered and opened first in Jerusalem in 1998 host an equal number of Jewish and Arab students respectively, two teachers simultaneously in both Arabic and Hebrew hold the lessons. Judaism, Islam and also Christianity are taught with equal weight to all students, and each faith’s respective religious holidays are also observed. Emphasis is given not only to one’s own culture and language but also to those of the "other". The children study two accounts of history: the creation of the "Jewish homeland" as well as the narrative of the Palestinian struggle. The successes of this academic formula are still reassuringly apparent as students regularly outscore their peers in Israel’s matriculation exams and also attain a higher rate of college attendance. It is nothing short of a revolutionary approach within the tight confines of the Israeli Educational System. Almost every other school that teaches the one million children of Israel is segregated along racial and religious lines – not by law but by the tradition that can trace its roots back to times before the establishment of the State of Israel of 1948, when Palestine was under the British Mandate. Arabs go to Arab schools and Jews to Jewish, they always have. This isolation, the lack of contact and communication between the two communities that both inhabit the "Holy Land" is established from an early age. Hand in Hand's mission is to overcome this.
Director of the Educational Department for Hand in Hand is Dr Inas Deeb. Dr Deeb has researched for her PHD on "Seeing Isn’t Believing: The Effect of Intergroup Exposure on Children’s Essentialist Beliefs About Ethnic Categories." Her research concluded that it’s not just enough to put two groups of children together to learn and play in order to break down differences. It has to be in the structured environment of "a shared bi-lingual education with equality of status amongst pupils, shared goals and institutional support to give the most effective form of education for reducing intergroup biases." In essence this is the best approach to reduce racism and is the ground of which Hand in Handoperates. Hand in Hands vision is to extend its base of 6 schools with 1320 Jewish and Arab students, which presently involve about 6000 community members of parents and staff, to further 10-15 schools with supported and enhanced community activities which will involve altogether some 20,000 Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens.