A network of Arab-Jewish bilingual schools in Israel is seeing unprecedented demand amid souring relations between the two communities, and is now campaigning to raise donations to accommodate hundreds of new students for the upcoming school year.
At Hand In Hand schools, students attend classes in Hebrew and Arabic, celebrate Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays, and engage in a weekly current events dialogue. They learn both the Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives. The schools’ goal is to set the stage for “a genuine shared society in Israel,” the group’s website says.
Despite (or perhaps because of) an arson attack on the Max Rayne Hand in Hand flagship school in Jerusalem late in 2014, as well as sometimes strained relations between Jewish and Arab Israelis fueled by a wave of Palestinian attacks and Israeli counter-measures since October, the network of bilingual schools continues to expand.
The growth of the school network has been steady since two first-grade classes opened up 1998 in Jerusalem. Currently there are six Hand in Hand schools across the country with over 1,300 students.
Each of the past two years has seen a 15% growth in the student body, and wait lists are also growing at each school. This coming year, as things stand, for every new student entering the system, two others who seek admission will have stay out due to lack of room.
For the first time in the school network’s history, therefore, it is turning to the public for support.
In 79 days from now, we are going to open our doors to 200 new Arab & Jewish students. To make this happen – we are planning to raise $250,000 over the next 6 days!Donate here: https://www.crowdrise.com/say-yesThese families are saying YES to building a shared society in Israel. #HelpUsSayYES to them! And share our campaign!
Posted by Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel on Tuesday, 14 June 2016
Hand in Hand began an online crowdfunding campaign last Tuesday to raise enough money to open classes for at least 200 students on the waiting list for the 2016-2017 school year. The target was to raise $250,000 by Sunday but only $132,874 had been raised as of this writing.
The organization therefore extended the campaign through Thursday. The Switzerland-based Dear Foundation, which supports humanitarian projects worldwide, has agreed to match all the money donated in the second week of the campaign.
Gaby Goldman, Hand in Hand’s director of communications, told The Times of Israel that the campaign was originally only meant to be a week long because the fundraising effort itself was a strain on the staff.
The Hand in Hand schools are recognized public schools, with core funding from the Education Ministry and parents’ fees and outside funding coming from the Jerusalem Foundation, USAID and other private foundations. Costs are boosted by the need for two teachers — one Arabic-speaking and one Hebrew-speaking — in each classroom, a tailored curriculum and a longer school day.
The rise in demand for places at Hand in Hand schools followed an arson attack late in November 2014, against the bilingual school in Jerusalem by three members of the far-right Lehava group, which works to prevent intermarriage and coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
“What we have seen since the arson attack two years ago is people more open to living together. They are thirsty and hungry for it,” said Goldman.
Over the next 10 years, Hand in Hand aims to create a network of 10-15 integrated bilingual schools, which will be supported and enhanced by organized community activities, altogether involving more than 20,000 Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens.