Founded in 1997 by educators Amin Khalaf and Lee Gordon, Hand in Hand: The Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel started with the basic observation that Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel operate separately in virtually all aspects of life, and that this separation is especially notable (and influential) in the country’s K–12 public-education system. Khalaf and Gordon wanted to start a school that would bridge that separation.
Hand in Hand’s curriculum is bilingual—Hebrew and Arabic—with two teachers in every classroom, and English is taught beginning in third grade. As of this writing, there are six campuses around the country, where more than 1,300 students are educated every year. Over the coming decade, administrators hope to build ten to fifteen more Hand in Hand schools throughout the country. Though funding is never easy—not everyone believes that such schools should exist—Hand in Hand does receive some support from the state, supplemented with tuition and backing from individual donors, private philanthropies like the Jerusalem Foundation, and the U.S. government (which in 2012 gave Hand in Hand a million-dollar grant to help launch three new campuses).
Hand in Hand’s K–12 school in Jerusalem is located in the southern part of the city, between the Arab community of Beit Safafa and the Jewish neighborhood of Patt. Its campus is made up of handsome stone buildings, with halls hung with colorful murals of handprints, as well as paintings and photographs by students.
Yaffa Grossberg, a teacher at Hand in Hand, succinctly reminds us of the school’s mission: “In this city fraught with tension and conflict, we are bringing hope, success, dialogue, understanding and the ability to live together to a new generation.”