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A Message to the Hand in Hand Community

Dear parents, educational staff, community members and association employees,

Throughout the country, all of us are experiencing difficult and frightening days. For many, our sense of personal security has been undermined, with the streets in some of our cities and villages filled with violence, racism, hatred and fear. The atmosphere is one of war, exacting both physical and mental costs. We at Hand in Hand are also contending with the difficult questions arising from the events of the past few days: issues of identity and belonging in the place where we grew up and where we live, and being part of a large Arab-Jewish community that is accepting, respectful, and egalitarian. These are precisely the times when the collectivity, solidarity and cooperation we have built can strengthen us and our families.

Our role in these times, as the largest and most significant Arab-Jewish community in Israel, is not restricted to our internal support and solidarity. In the face of violence, destruction, racism, hatred and militarism, we must present the public with a different model for Jewish-Arab relations in this country. Many of those responsible for the violence in our region aim to shatter exactly that—the idea of a genuine, equal and just partnership between Arabs and Jews, one that allows for both identities and does not sweep any parts of ourselves under the rug. Our schools, our educational staff, our students, and the Hand in Hand communities, are living proof that the horrific pictures we are all seeing on the news and on social media are not preordained, and that achieving true partnership in our country is both just and essential for our future.

We all hope that calm will be restored to our region as soon as possible. But it is important to remind ourselves and those around us that restoring calm is not, and must not be, our only goal. As soon as calm is restored, the default injustices of daily Jewish-Arab relations, and the inequality between the two nations will once again become reality. Those who insist on their basic rights to their homes, or fight for freedom of religion, will continue their legitimate struggle. Restoring calm is not the same as achieving equality and justice, and we need to underscore this fact. The thousands of Hand in Hand community members throughout Israel are proof that Arabs and Jews can live in equality and partnership, and at the same time they are a reminder that the majority of Israelis live with complete separation between Jews and Arabs, under conditions of discrimination and inequality.

Today, Muslims among us celebrate Eid al-Fitr, and on Sunday Jews will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. At Hand in Hand, this proximity has always been an opportunity for shared celebrations, learning, curiosity, and respect between religions. Despite the tense times and the alarming atmosphere, it is important that we remember who we are, and that we continue to maintain and promote our values and practices.

We wish Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim friends, with the hope that you are able to practice your religious customs and conduct prayers in peace, and with the dignity your faith deserves. Let us hope that next year the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr looks completely different, and that we will all be able to enjoy the precious values and customs of Ramadan and the holiday in peace and security.

To the Jews among us, we wish a happy Shavuot, and hope that the spirit of this optimistic holiday, which among other things celebrates the giving of the Torah, will overcome the winds of destruction raging around us.

May we all be blessed with equality and peace in our shared country.

Dani Elazar and the Hand in Hand management team

Click here to read the original statement in Hebrew and Arabic.


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