PHOTO: Hand in Hand has seven multi-cultural schools in Israel. Jewish, Muslim and Christian students study together learning each others' cultures as well as Hebrew, Arabic and English. Graduates are tri-lingual by the time they graduate high school and are well poised to encourage tolerance and pluralism in college, the military and society in general.
BY DEBORAH MOON
Hand in Hand, a network of integrated schools in Israel co-founded by Portlander Lee Gordon, won the 2021 Global Pluralism Award for its work promoting a more inclusive and pluralistic society in Israel. The award was presented Feb. 23, 2022, in a virtual ceremony. (Learn more about Hand in Hand March 13 – see below).
Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, Namati Kenya and Professor Puja Kapai from Hong Kong received the third biennial award from the Global Centre for Pluralism. Nearly 500 organizations and individuals from 70 nations were nominated for the award. Other finalists include a global LGBT+ movement and groups from Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Kosovo, India, Canada and Malawi. The three winners each received a grant of $50,000 (Canadian) to further their work for pluralism.
“This award reflects pluralism in action,” says former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, the chair of the Global Pluralism Award Jury. He added the winners “demonstrate the power of working cooperatively to effect change.”
Award jury member Bishop Precious Omuku praised the tenacity and vision of all the finalists. “Ordinary people can affect the world. These finalists have made a remarkable contribution to society.”
Meredith Preston McGhie, the Secretary General of the Global Center of Pluralism, hosted the award presentation, which was held virtually for the first time. She noted that during the pandemic, pluralism has been increasingly under threat around the world.
Before the winners were announced on the livestream on Facebook, Gordon said, “I feel proud that Hand in Hand has been selected as a finalist for the Global Pluralism Award, sponsored by the Global Centre of Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada. In the midst of what seems like a never-ending conflict, Hand in Hand’s Jewish and Arab students, parents, teachers and community leaders are creating on a daily basis a model of equality, partnership and peace. We hope that this model will have a growing impact for shared society in Israel.”
When interviewed following the ceremony, Gordon said the $50,000 prize will go to support Hand in Hand’s programs in Israel. Hand in Hand has created a growing network of integrated bilingual schools across Israel, serving Israeli Arab and Jewish children, families and the wider community. The integrated multi-cultural schools are equipping a new generation to live together in cooperation and respect. In these schools, Hebrew and Arabic languages have equal status, as do both cultures and national narratives. More than 2,000 students in seven schools are supported by a community of active citizens who come together in solidarity and dialogue working to build a shared, inclusive society.
Gordon added that over the past year, Hand in Hand began to offer teacher training and resources to two communities where Jewish preschools are also serving Arab students. “There was no Arab content or language for those students, and the Jewish kids don’t get exposure to Arab culture.” With Hand in Hand’s help, those schools have hired assistant teachers who speak Arabic and can share that culture with all the students. Using multicultural curriculum developed by Hand in Hand, all the students gain a pluralistic experience.
He noted this effort is a small side project. “Our focus is still on our schools.”
One parent and community activist described the experience her children receive at Hand in Hand school as a gift.
“This is the community for me,” said Lena Turel, a Hand in Hand parent. “The community where I can most be myself, living my values and being embraced by others for doing so. I love Hand in Hand because what our people really care about is how you treat others. Here it is about inclusion, equality and respect. We are a community modeling this way of life for our children and educating them to prioritize these values. I can think of no better environment in which to educate my own children.”
Hand in Hand takes Israel360 spotlight on Zoom March 13
Israel360 hosts two leaders of Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel at 10:30 am, March 13, on Zoom.
Shada Edris Mansour works to build Hand in Hand communities, including building relationships with local municipalities, the Ministry of Education and a variety of organizations. She also has a daughter attending a Hand in Hand School. She is an optometrist and is working on her M.A. in public policy at Tel Aviv University.
Noa Nammer is an American-born educator, activist and musician who has lived in Israel since 2003. Noa shares the Hand in Hand story with thousands of supporters in Israel and around the world in visits, workshops and online. She is also the Youth Program Director at Heartbeat, a music dialogue organization for Israeli and Palestinian youth. Noa’s activist work includes dialogue facilitation with Israeli and Palestinian youth, working in a treatment center with Ultra-Orthodox girls with eating disorders and volunteering in a rural village in Nepal. She has a B.A. in psychology and Jewish history and an M.A. in gender studies.
Housed at Congregation Neveh Shalom, Israel360 is a series of programs that consider many aspects of Israel. The sessions this year focus on Israel: Resilience, Renewal and Realities.
To register, visit nevehshalom.org/israel360/.