An essential ingredient in the Play for Peace model is the partnerships we form on the ground. In Israel, that partner is Hand in Hand, whose mission is to create a strong, inclusive, shared society through a network of Jewish-Arab bilingual schools and organized communities. Currently Hand in Hand operates integrated schools and communities in six locations with 1,320 Jewish and Arab students and more than 3,000 community members. Students are from a broad cross-section of Israel; their studies include both Hebrew and Arabic, as well as the values of Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions. At this time, Hand in Hand Schools offer classes through 6th grade (one school in Jerusalem goes through high school.) This means that students must continue their studies in separate Hebrew and Arabic schools, a very different experience for most of them.
When graduates expressed the desire to continue their strong connections from Hand in Hand, the school was fortunate enough to be able to launch an alumni program just for them. In one school in the Wadi Ara valley in central Israel, the alumni program, in partnership with Play for Peace, is running beautifully. Here the focus is on younger alumni who are being trained to become Play for Peace counselors. The Play for Peace model aligns perfectly with Hand in Hand goals, helping the students create positive bonds in the face of divisiveness. The students are thrilled to have Aura Hammer and Silvia Margia lead Play for Peace activities in Hebrew and Arabic. Since late last year, these 13- and 14-year-olds are working together to bring the values of inclusion and civic action to the world around them. These alumni will then go back to the Hand in Hand school to lead Play for Peace groups. The happy conclusion to this year’s activities was the June 4, alumni graduation.
According to Zohar Sachar, the Hand in Hand community organizer, “It was wonderful to see the kids and their parents come together again. They have such deep relationships. Play for Peace lets them practice peaceful co-existence and inclusiveness. These are the ideals they value.”