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Education

Israeli trauma expert Moshe Farchi working with children affected by the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21c

Israeli trauma expert Moshe Farchi working with children affected by the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21c

Trauma expert Moshe Farchi’s model stresses the importance of cognitive communication to shift immediate attention from emotions to actions.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

When dealing with someone in psychological trauma, most people instinctively hold, calm and soothe the person.

That may be well-intentioned but it’s not helpful, according to clinical social worker and volunteer medic Moshe Farchi, whose counterintuitive approach recently was adopted as the Israel Health Ministry’s national model for psychological first aid.

Farchi is head of Stress, Trauma & Resilience Studies at Tel-Hai College, and is teaching and using his method in several other countries as well.

While serving as a reserve mental-health officer in the Israel Defense Forces over the past decade, Farchi noticed that the approaches used to help traumatized soldiers in the field simply weren’t effective. Then he began seeing new research showing the scientific reasons for that failure.

He determined to create a new psychological first-aid model based on the latest science and easily implemented by anyone on the scene, not only by mental-health professionals who aren’t as likely to be available immediately.

“I wanted to provide something the whole community could do,” Farchi tells ISRAEL21c.

The program he devised centers on six Cs: cognitive communication, challenge, control, commitment and continuity.

The Six Cs model calls for activating the traumatized person mentally and physically. Activating might mean assigning a task, asking the person to take a walk or giving them decisions to make. Often those in trauma aren’t hurt but have witnessed or otherwise been involved in a frightening situation.

But even injured people in psychological trauma can be given small decisions in order to feel in control, says Farchi. They can be offered a drink of water or asked to direct first-responders where to stand, for instance.

The success of the Six Cs model has been documented. For example, in the summer of 2014, residents of an Israeli town on the Gaza border who were traumatized by rocket fire did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had been treated on the scene according to Farchi’s protocol.

90 seconds

The scientific underpinning of this approach is dozens of studies demonstrating that the brain’s center of emotions, the amygdala, has a seesaw relationship with the brain’s center of logical actions, the prefrontal cortex.

“Activating the amygdala by calming the person emotionally causes the prefrontal cortex to decrease its function, and vice versa,” says Farchi. “We need to reduce the dominance of the amygdala, so actually we should speak cognitively rather than emotionally.”

Emotional communication (“Of course you’re scared”) only reinforces the person’s feeling of helplessness, while cognitive communication shifts attention from emotions to actions.

“Instead of stabilizing the feeling of being scared, we activate the person. We might say, ‘Tell me how many people are around you. Can you count them? How many people are lying down?’ It takes about 90 seconds to shift the person from passiveness to a person who can be helpful to himself and others,” says Farchi, 55.

Since 2013, Farchi’s Six Cs model has been taught to every IDF soldier. In November 2013, Farchi led a delegation from his program at Tel-Hai College to work with victims of the Philippines typhoon in coordination with Israeli humanitarian organizations Brit Olam and Natan.

Moshe Farchi teaching his trauma-care model in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy

Moshe Farchi teaching his trauma-care model in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy

“People going through a traumatic event are very confused and cannot synchronize the event in logical order, and that means the endpoint of the event is also not synchronized,” says Farchi, who volunteers for the Golan Search and Rescue Unit in Israel.

“Subjectively that means the incident doesn’t end and that’s why we have flashbacks. A couple of studies showed that the window of opportunity to resynchronize the events is no more than six hours before the memory is stabilized. That’s why we should assist the person to synchronize the event and emphasize that the major threat is over.”

After a suicide bombing last May in Manchester, Farchi immediately flew over to teach community members his method and returned this summer to train first-response trainers.

He went to Argentina twice to train firefighters, and has taught his method in Haiti and in Germany as a member of Natan’s psychosocial team.

All Israeli first responders are now learning the method, and the Education Ministry will start training high school students in Farchi’s method too. “I hope in the next two or three years the whole population will know how to do this,” he says. Training takes only a couple of hours.

Family therapist and EMT Miriam Ballin, director of the United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, says that previously, training for the two-year-old voluntary unit’s 150 mental-health workers and 150 medics was based on World Health Organization (WHO) psychological first-aid protocols.

United Hatzalah psychotrauma team leader Miriam Ballin with Moshe Farchi. Photo: courtesy

United Hatzalah psychotrauma team leader Miriam Ballin with Moshe Farchi. Photo: courtesy

“We are happy to collaborate with Dr. Farchi through the Health Ministry to implement his protocol and we hope it will allow us to give a whole other level of care to the patients we meet in distressing circumstances,” Ballin told ISRAEL21c in early August.

She got an opportunity to use the Six Cs method not long afterward as part of her team’s work with  Houston flood victims in August 2017.

“We always like to advance our skill sets. We meet people on the worst day of their lives and want to do all we can to ease them through that crisis period,” she says.

Israel’s Radical New Approach to Psychological First Aid

Jewish and Arab high-school students come together to participate in  MEET. Photo courtesy MEET

Jewish and Arab high-school students come together to participate in MEET. Photo courtesy MEET

MEET is an intensive three-year program for Jewish and Arab high-school students to learn computer science and business from a team of students, graduates, and faculty from MIT. The goal of MEET, based in Jerusalem and Nazareth, is to nurture a generation of young leaders, based on models developed in one of the top U.S. technological institutions. The curriculum (conducted in English) is heavily project-based, with students working together on lab assignments that culminate in large software engineering projects.

For teenagers, technology is a natural common ground.
— Noa Epstein

MEET’s program was founded in 2004 by three MIT graduates: Anat Binur, her brother Yaron Binur, and their friend Assaf Harlap. As of 2016, more than 300 students have graduated from the program (as the MEET website proudly notes: “50% girls, 50% boys; 50% Palestinians, 50% Israelis”), and student recruitment takes place throughout the country. According to Noa Epstein, one of MEET’s CEOs:

For teenagers, technology is a natural common ground. They share an interest in technology development, in mobile applications, in all things innovative and new. Additionally, in the twenty-first century, regardless of if you are going to be a computer scientist or not, there is a basic set of technological skills that you need to have. We believe that by providing a medium and skill set that [are] useful for leaders, our students can go onto careers in government, the humanities or technology. No matter what they do, it is good for them to have this training.

L. Rafael Reif, the president of MIT, adds: “The genius of MEET is that it challenges Israeli and Palestinian students to work together to solve hard technical problems. And as they collaborate, they build a foundation of trust and respect that they can use later, to help solve the much, much harder problems that divide their people.”

Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET) >

 

MEET: MIT’s Program for Young Engineers of the Middle East

Educator Karen Tal.  Still from the film   Strangers No More

Educator Karen Tal. Still from the film Strangers No More

Karen Tal’s ideas about how to educate have taken hold in a far-reaching way, in Israel and beyond. Having led the Bialik-Rogozin school to solid footing, she was confident that the school would continue on its successful path when, in September 2011, she stepped into a new role as founding director of an initiative called Tovanot B’Hinuch (Education Insights). This program oversees and supports schools and principals throughout the nation, with a holistic view of schools as “educational, therapeutic, and social centers.” Funds and resources are located for creative new curricula, summer camps and classes, parent-education, youth centers, and volunteer mentoring programs.

Children are inherently good, loving, and collaborative. All we need to do is to foster and channel those qualities.

Among the many initiatives supported by Tovanot B’Hinuch are several geared toward strengthening the education opportunities for all in Israel. Recently, for example, it sponsored a Big Sisters program inaugurated at the ORT Arab High School for the Sciences and Engineering in Lod. In May 2016, Tovanot B’Hinuch was the centerpiece of a TedX Youth conference in Tel Aviv. The following month, a delegation of educators from Harvard University visited one of its affiliate schools: Almostakbal Elementary, in the Arab town of Jaljulia. To date, Tovanot B’Hinuch is linked with some 20 schools in Israel's urban and geographic periphery, with a total of 11,500 students. The schools include nine elementary schools, ten secondary schools (middle schools and high schools) and a K-13 campus. And Karen has no plans to stop at the border.

Karen Tal makes a simple presumption: that children are inherently good, loving, and collaborative. All we need to do is to foster and channel those qualities, and we might end up with a future of peace.

Tovanot B’Hinuch > 

 

Innovator Karen Tal & Tovanot B’Hinuch: Rethinking Education as a Tool for Peace

Johannes, an Ethiopian student learning Hebrew at Bialik-Rogozin school, South Tel Aviv. Still from the film Strangers No More

Teaching, learning, and questioning have always, of course, been integral to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions and practice. Some of Israel’s earliest and most grounding enterprises were in the realm of education.

Education must be something deeper and more extensive than schooling.

The film Strangers No More tells the story of an extraordinary school named Bialik-Rogozin, located in the struggling Florentine neighborhood of South Tel Aviv, where children from dozens of countries, and of many ethnicities and faiths, gather to play, learn, and grow together. Former principal Karen Tal has won the Chalres Bronfman Prize for her work with the school. And Bialik-Rogozin itself was awarded Israel’s National Education Prize.

Bialik-Rogozin is a genuine tool for promoting peace—allowing youngsters to do what they do naturally—playing with one another, loving one another. The film takes us into the lives of some of the school's young students, many of whom are recent arrivals in Israel, as they encounter a new place, a new language, and new peers. It is inspiring to see how the school provides a community and a nurturing home for them.  

Directed by Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman and produced by Lin Arison, the film had a major impact, receiving an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary in 2011.

These film stills are from the film Strangers No More, available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel.

Strangers No More >

Bialik-Rogozin Instagram >

Tovanot Bhinuch >

The Film: "Strangers No More"

Hossam Haick, making major strides in nanotechnology at the Technion 

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology Professor of Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology, Hossam Haick on being an Arab Nanoscientist in Israel.

We have a tradition in the Arab sector that immediately after high school you go to university [unlike most Jews in Israel, who do their military or other national service first], without any experience in life, without any experience with science, or with what is going on in universities. Sometimes this is problematic, so I decided that I would not do it that way. I found work as a waiter. I worked in a fish restaurant for thirteen hours per day . . . and that’s when I started to see that home and school are very nice places! When you work, you interact with people, you start to see the conflicts—not from the news, but rather in reality. Those were the most useful years of my life.

We need to increase the number of role models in our society, otherwise we will not advance anywhere.
— Hossam Haick

Two years later, I started at Ben-Gurion University for chemical-engineering studies, and later took my Ph.D. at the Technion. And then I decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. My wife and I spent two years in the United States, and then we faced a dilemma: Should we move back to Israel? We had several offers from leading universities in the United States to join the faculty. In terms of salaries, they could offer more than the universities in Israel, also social benefits, great students—everything was much better.

But after a lot of thinking, we realized that if a scientist does not translate his work to society, then he will not deliver the main message expected from a scientist. And we thought that our contribution to society could be much better in Israel, because we know the community here, we know the conflicts between Arabs and Jews, we know the difficulties of the students. . . . So we decided to come back to Israel, to the Technion. The Technion is of course a leading technological institute, and that was the main thing. But the added value is its location in Haifa, where there is a mix of Arab, Jewish, Druze, Russians, everybody. We thought that maybe, under the umbrella of science, we could help to make a kind of network among all these people.

On Mentoring the Next Generation of Arab-Israelis

Today, about 25 to 30 percent of my time is devoted to going into high schools and communities. When I do this, I am often asked: “How do you feel as an Arab in Israel?” These questions are not necessarily connected to my scientific work but rather to the social part of who I am. And I like to hear them, because I want to answer them.

The major thing I want to convey is this: in the Arab society, there is a belief that, as an Arab, you never can succeed in this country. You shouldn’t go for a Ph.D. or graduate studies, because you will not find any place to work. I try to educate the new generations, saying: Try to excel in what you do, in your studies. If you have truly excellent achievements, you won’t need to look for places to work; they will look for you.

I travel all over Israel, starting with the Bedouins in the South, up to the North. And I don’t focus my efforts only on Arab schools; every week, I give talks at Jewish schools, too. The Jews need a new role model, too.

With the primary school kids and with Arab Ph.D. students—I don’t teach them only about research in science and technology. I let them know they have to contribute to society at the same time. We need to increase the number of role models in our society, otherwise we will not advance anywhere, and the gap between the Arabs and the Jews will get even bigger. I am grateful for every effort that is done to raise the level of the Arab sector, because this helps the whole country. I am trying to change perceptions on both sides. We cannot make changes on one side only.

Learn more about Hossam's innovative work to sniff out disease.

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology > 

Nanotech superstar Hossam Haick

The Nanose device, developed at the Technion, analyzes breath in order to detect diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s, even in their earliest stages. Photo courtesy and copyright © LNBD Group

If there is such a thing as a science superstar, it might be Hossam Haick, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. Born and raised in Nazareth, he left Israel after receiving his Ph.D. to study in the United States for a few years; he then returned to the Technion, where he is currently a professor of chemical engineering and nanotechnology. 

By analyzing breath we can discriminate between different types of lung cancer, early stage from late, and most important, the benign from the malignant.
— Hossam Haick, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology

Haick has been working on what he calls the “Nanose” since 2007. This remarkable device is designed to “sniff out” cancer and other diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, gastric ailments, and more. Haick is a respected and successful scientific researcher who has received major scientific awards from all over the world, and has managed to raise huge sums of money in support of his work. (“You can do nothing without funding!” he says.)

We know that disease has a pattern of molecules in the breath. If you can detect these molecules, then you can associate them with a given disease. Dogs have a very sophisticated olfactory system; it’s ten thousand times more sensitive than ours. The “Nanose” started out as an idea to try to imitate the olfactory system of the dog—exactly on the same principles—and to make real-world applications with it. One of these applications is to smell disease through the breath.

In our lab, we take the two main parts of the dog’s olfactory system, the receptors and the brain, and try to imitate them in an electrical way, using nanotechnology. The ultimate device is known as the Nano-Artificial Nose—the Nanose.

Initially, in clinical studies, we had success detecting advanced-stage lung cancer, and we published our findings. But very soon we realized that the most important application of this technology is early-stage detection—before the patient himself or herself is feeling the disease, which is usually not until the advanced stages. And even further: if you can predict whether a healthy person is at high risk to get cancer, you can begin taking preventive measures. So right now, we are working on detecting, with exhaled breath, whether a person is at risk to have cancer in the future.

Some advantages of our technology are that it’s portable, noninvasive, and faster than the CT scan. We can detect cancer even before you can see it in the CT. Moreover, by analyzing breath we can discriminate between different types of lung cancer, early stage from late, and most important, the benign from the malignant. And we can do it with a very high accuracy rate.

Ultimately, we want our device to be easy to use. In twenty years, we hope to have a device that is portable or can be integrated with a smartphone. And it should work. But the most critical part of this project is cost. So we are working hard to make the device inexpensive; we hope to bring it to the order of a few hundred dollars. Then it can be provided not only to hospitals but to family doctors and pharmacies where the tests can be part of routine examinations.

There are a lot of risks in this project. Inventive projects usually are risky. But we are taking these risky steps without going against the stream—and we are able to show results. We are advancing good science, which can help society.

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology > 


The “Nanose”: Sniffing out Diseases

Still from the film " MICHA: A unique kindergarten for hearing impaired Jewish and Muslim children", courtesy the Jerusalem Foundation

Still from the film "MICHA: A unique kindergarten for hearing impaired Jewish and Muslim children", courtesy the Jerusalem Foundation

Just as certain topics seem to be of interest to young people across the board, there are difficulties and challenges that do not acknowledge ethnicities, creeds, or borders. MICHA (the Society for Deaf Children in Israel–National Council), a school and rehabilitation program for hearing-impaired infants and young children, operates in Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Haifa, and Tiberias; its principal purview is the sector of the nation north of Hadera, a population that comprises Jews (including new immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia), Muslims, and Christians.

Enabling hearing-impaired youngsters of any background or creed to enter Israel’s regular school system

Given this cross section of students, MICHA’s activities are conducted in both Hebrew and Arabic. Their goal is to enable hearing-impaired youngsters of any background or creed to enter Israel’s regular school system when they become of age. This includes educating parents about how to address the needs of their hearing-impaired children, and ensuring that they are aware of their rights and of new legislative developments as they arise.

MICHA > 

The film "MICHA: A unique kindergarten for hearing impaired Jewish and Muslim children", courtesy the Jerusalem Foundation

MICHA, Teaching Young Hearing-Impaired Students

Yeshayahu (Ishi) Talmon photo by Miki Koren courtesy Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

Yeshayahu Talmon is a chemical engineer and former director of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI) at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. A frequent spokesman for the industry, he answers even laymen’s questions patiently and lucidly, and offers positive news about Israel as a “nucleus” for nanoscience.

Some Basics about Nanotechnology

Collaborations among the various scientific disciplines are crucial.
— Yeshayahu Talmon

Nanotech is all around us and inside us. Our cells are enclosed within membranes that are about five nanometers thick. Nanotechnology can involve either organic or nonorganic materials. Some of our foods have nanoparticles that are organic. Many of our body liquids—blood, for instance—have nanoparticles. 

Nanoscience is the science of everything that happens on that very small scale. Now, technology is being developed to take that science and apply it.

One example of applications we are working with at the Russell Berrie Nanotech Institute is carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are only one to two nanometers thick, but the single particle is extremely strong. And in some forms, they are very good electrical conductors, and they are lightweight . . . so in principle they could be the material of the future. However, in most cases, we cannot use them as single nanoparticles, so somehow we have to spin fibers out of them, and this is a challenge. (Sometimes, although it all works very well on a basic scientific level, when you try to make it into a process, things become more complicated.)

Another example of how the technology is applied is graphene sheets. Graphite, of course, is what you have in your pencil. However, when graphite is dispersed into single layers of carbon atoms, it has mechanical and electrical properties that can be used to make interesting coatings, like for touch screens, for instance. All touch screens now have some kind of conductors in them, and by using graphene, you can potentially make better, cheaper, longer-lasting coatings. In 2010, the Nobel Prize in Physics was given to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two scientists working on graphene, so this field suddenly became even more exciting than before.

There is also a very important interface between medicine and the nanosciences, starting with intelligent, sophisticated sensors, all the way to drug delivery. At the Technion, we try to bring people from our faculty of medicine together with people from engineering and the basic sciences, in some cases to advise graduate students jointly, and to work on a medical or biological problem where scientists and engineers can help. Collaborations among the various scientific disciplines are crucial here.

The Technion’s Role in Nanotechnology

Israel joined the nano community early on. And the Technion formed the nanotechnology center in 2005, two years before anybody else here. I played a part in its formation, but the effort was primarily led by Professor Uri Sivan of the physics department, who was the first director of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute. (I took over in 2010.) In a way, it was a pioneering effort not only for the Technion, but for the entire country, because it formed a model on which all the other institutes were formed, not so much in the structure, but much more in the emphasis and in the way they are supported.

We have recruited many new faculty members at the RBNI; each of them is excellent. Many of them spent a good number of years in the United States or in other places, but most are originally Israeli. There is a lot of talk about bringing back Israelis from abroad. We’ve had to lure them from places like Boston University, Stanford, UCLA—it’s competitive. And then, when they’ve made the decision to come to Israel, we have to compete with the other Israeli universities: the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, and so on. Our government is trying to reverse the “brain drain” that we have experienced most acutely in the sciences, of course, because these are the people who are most sought-after by institutions outside Israel.

But there is a kind of “snowball effect”—although we scientists prefer to call it a “nucleation process”! Once you form a nucleus, it grows and attracts more material to form a crystal. Good researchers are attracted to a good nucleus. 

Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute >  

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology  >  
 

Further Resources: 
Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative >  

Nano Israel >  

Tel-Aviv University Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology >  

Weizmann Institute of Science >  

Yeshayahu Talmon on Israel’s Contributions to Nanotechnology

Campus Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Foltin courtesy Google Tel Aviv

Among the many multinational companies that have shown confidence in Israel is Google, which set up shop here in 2006. Google has become a key force in the country’s startup community, offering entrepreneurs and newbie companies countless resources—such as a “hack space” and “device library,” where users can test out new tech ideas on a variety of platforms; and “Google Launchpad,” a two-week boot camp for early-stage startups, to help with product strategies and technology, marketing, business development, and more. In keeping with the company’s well-known employee-friendly mindset, Google’s new Tel Aviv and Haifa headquarters—designed by Camenzind Evolution, with Setter Architects and Studio Yaron Tal—can only be described as fun.

Google has become a key force in Israel’s startup community.

The Tel Aviv offices, which opened in late 2012, are divided into eight floors of the city’s Electra Tower. The workspaces are designed as riffs on Israeli locations and themes, from the undulating wooden boardwalks of the Tel Aviv Port to the orange groves near Jaffa to the rocky swells of the Negev Desert. One level is devoted to Campus Tel Aviv, which hosts "Google for Education" workshops (for teachers) and "Campus for Moms"  (a baby-friendly seminar for entrepreneur-minded mothers). The campus, the offices, the programming—all are designed to facilitate and inspire communication and creativity among employees. In Israel and elsewhere, Google has demonstrated that success can be gained by breaking the template and trying something new. As a company’s watch-phrase reminds us: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.”

Google Israel >
 

Campus Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Foltin courtesy Google Tel Aviv

Google Israel: A Resource for Startups

HIPPY-trained mother working with her child. Photo courtesy HIPPY

HIPPY-trained mother working with her child. Photo courtesy HIPPY

HIPPY was founded in 1969 by Avima D. Lombard, an American scholar of education who emigrated to Israel. Lombard recognized that Israeli-born children of immigrants from North African and Asian countries were not achieving in school as well as their peers. Her proposal was to take a close look at the homes and family life of the children: “Perhaps we [can] find a way to bring changes into the home that would help prepare children to deal with the demands of school.” In focusing on the home setting, she understood that there were two major areas of concern: “the educational enrichment of the child, and strengthening the mother’s self-esteem through her activities as an educator in the home setting.”

A global institution, involved with thousands of families around the world.

The program that evolved from these observations is HIPPY (known in Hebrew as Ha’Etgar, meaning “The Challenge”). What started as a small pilot study with a handful of children in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood led eventually to HIPPY being sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and other organizations. Today, more than four decades after Lombard’s initial idea, HIPPY has become a global institution, involved with thousands of families around the world, in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Austria, Germany, Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2015, the HIPPY International program was selected by the Lego Foundation as one of thirty pioneering programs around the world that promote play as an essential tool in learning.

HIPPY ISRAEL >  

HIPPY INTERNATIONAL >  

HIPPY on Facebook >

HIPPY: Educating Preschoolers and Their Families

LOTEM participants on a hike. Photo by Itai Aviran, courtesy LOTEM

LOTEM is an Israel-based organization that offers excursions, nature clubs, and creative workshops in nature to people with physical challenges and other special needs. It was founded by Amos Ziv, an enthusiastic outdoorsman who, while hiking in the Israeli countryside, encountered a group of visually impaired teenagers and realized how difficult it must be for them to enjoy outings as he did. He recognized that in order for special-needs hikers to be able to enjoy excursions and activities in rural environments, suitable guidance and trails were essential. In 1993 Ziv founded LOTEM, and soon after teamed up with Sorin Hershcu, a quadriplegic who was wounded during the IDF rescue of hostages in Entebbe in 1976. Today, the organization has centers in Jerusalem and the North of Israel, and serves more than thirty thousand special-needs participants—youngsters with physical challenges as well as women and children living in shelters—every year. Its motto: “Making Nature Accessible.”

Making nature accessible to people with physical challenges.

Among LOTEM’s programs are “Four Seasons” (activities for special-needs people in natural settings throughout the year); “Mother Nature” (outings for women and children who live in shelters); and “Integra-Teva.” This last program brings together Jews and Arabs from all parts of Israel to learn about organic products from the Middle East as well as about ancient agricultural techniques used in the region throughout the ages. Each year, more than six hundred children and adults—all with special needs—take part in Integra-Teva. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze make pita bread over an open fire, grape juice in a wine press, and olive oil in an olive press (all specially designed to be accessible to people with physical challenges). Working together on a common task, despite differences in race, religion, or culture, can create bonds that might otherwise seem impossible.

LOTEM > 

LOTEM on Facebook >

Photo by Itai Aviran courtesy Lotem

LOTEM: Nature Programs for People with Special Needs

Arab and Jewish students working together at Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand

We are bringing hope, success, dialogue, understanding and the ability to live together to a new generation.
— Yaffa Grossberg, teacher, Hand in Hand

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).

Children at Hand in Hand: The Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel 

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.”

Hand in Hand >