|April 9, 2019 should be an optimistic day for Israeli citizens. 5.8 million Israeli citizens have the right to vote to elect the representatives of the 21st Knesset and determine Israel’s path for the coming years. But for many citizens the feeling in Israel isn’t one of optimism. These elections have been characterized by poisonous political rhetoric that pits Jewish and Arab citizens against one another in an attempt to deepen social divisions and delegitimize the Arab population. Coming from a traditional Jewish background myself, I found it deeply distributing that racist politicians have been brought into the mainstream through their partnership with the Religious Zionist parties – with the encouragement of the Prime Minister.Despite this, I am filled with hope by the progress towards shared society on the grassroots level, and in the last months I have seen sprouts of inspirational leadership flourish in Hand in Hand’s circles. Our students are growing up with strong values that they are putting into practice in their schools – leading protests against discrimination and initiating projects for women’s rights. Our alumni are taking leadership positions on campus and launching initiatives in their communities.
A few weeks ago, 150 Hand in Hand parents, community members and alumni came together for a leadership retreat to discuss how to organize local initiatives in each of our communities. At the retreat, one of our graduates, Sarah Sheikh, shared her thoughts with the group. These were her exact words: