How a Jewish-Arab school in Israel copes with war in Gaza

Teenage girls looking at one another
Students at Hand in Hand High School in Jerusalem (HIH)

At her daughter’s Jerusalem school, some families lost relatives on October 7, others in Gaza. REBECCA BARDACH says every morning teachers and kids still show up committed to living together.

When, in the first days of the war, schools resumed in Jerusalem, my daughter’s teacher and I agreed that she should meet with the school psychologist, given the fact of our cousin being hostage to Gaza. 

Except that perhaps it’s less straightforward than that, because she goes to Hand in Hand, a Jewish-Arab school that is part of a network of such schools in the country. They are an exception to the norm, as schools in Israel are tracked by communal lines such that Jews and Arabs, and religious and secular Jews study separately.

And the school psychologist happens to be Arab. Would this make it harder for my daughter to talk about October 7 and what had happened to our cousin? Having grown up at the school that did not occur to her. When she came home from school that day she reported that they had met, the woman was kind, and their talk helpful.

That evening the psychologist, whom I had not met previously, reached out to me:

“My heart is with you. Today I talked with your daughter. I want to share that I am with you. If you would like to speak I am available.”

My heart is with you. These words filled me with tears for days afterwards.

Nor was she the exception. Other Arab colleagues, fellow-parents and friends also reached out to convey their horror and sorrow about our cousin. I know there are those who felt that their inter-faith and inter-communal allies turned away in this moment of crisis, but this was not my experience. I felt profoundly seen. Their empathy was an embrace offering genuine comfort.

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How a Jewish-Arab school in Israel copes with war in Gaza (Haaretz)

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