The recent slaughter of four rabbis in Jerusalem has left our community shaken. The events have led to a variety of responses, some sadly more predictable than others. Our outrage as a people is clear, as is our sorrow for the lives of those so brutally cut down. But we continue to believe in the prospects of peace for all inhabitants of Israel. Jewish Federation of St. Louis is committed to fostering a safe and secure Israel, whether through our humanitarian efforts during this past summer’s crisis to our promotion of a democratic, pluralist society.
In response to the attacks of last week, Yael Shapira, our representative in Israel, reached out to “Hand in Hand” a Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, and a recipient of Federation support. Hand in Hand is an integrated school that provides Jewish and Arab children a shared learning environment that promotes understanding and tolerance one child at a time. The response from Rebecca Bardach its Director of Resource Development, gives you some sense of the important work going on today, and the importance of our support for this work.
We pray for a time of peaceful coexistence for Israel even as we work hard day by day, “hand in hand” to make that a reality.
As each day seems to bring more blood, violence and hatred and drive Jews and Arabs further apart, we at Hand in Hand, like everyone else, must find our way to cope with it. Like others, our students and teachers are shocked by the horrors of what is happening. The fact that we are a Jewish-Arab framework means that we are keenly aware of the difficulties and fears experienced at the human level in both communities with each day’s events.
What is striking is that with all the terrible events occurring around us we have had some significant experiences with governmental partners. Following the recent price tag attack at our school in Jerusalem, the school staff hosted elementary school teachers from around Jerusalem to grapple with intolerance in their schools. This may launch a series of such workshops which will be hosted and lead by Hand in Hand.
Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the council of higher education, conducted a learning visit at our school which deeply impacted upon him and he is eager to extract lessons for the overall system.
As part of President Rivlin’s efforts to understand and reach out to the Arab sector, our CEO Shuli Dichter conducted a study tour for Rivlin’s staff in Wadi Ara, concluding with a great visit at our school there.
And two days ago the Director General of the Ministry of Justice held a workshop for our 10th graders on civics, justice and due process. She shared with them the means that the justice system provides to respond to violence and racism, and came away impressed at how open and articulate our students are.
All these events take place while we continue in the day to day of classes and community activity, absorbing and discussing within our different frameworks what is happening around us and finding ways fitting to Hand in Hand to express our opposition to violence.
What we have learned is that it is better not to focus on whether any one event makes us feel more optimistic or pessimistic about the overall situation. Best to stay focused on the work to be done and continue to work together to build a viable alternative and bring more and more people in to join us. Yes, the conflict is between Jews and Arabs, but it is also between those who want to find a way to live together and those who do not, and there are many Jews and Arabs who want to find a way to live together. We are providing the framework and tools, values and practices to do this. The growing focus on our frameworks reflects a realization that the solution requires change that is ongoing, deeply rooted and widely embracing. We are so glad that the St. Louis Federation is with us in this effort.
We’ll send out a highlight that captures some of the governmental visits we have had early next week, and we have been updating Hand in Hand’s website and facebook with latest news and events as well.
Thank you and Shabbat shalom,