For years, Jerusalem’s bilingual school gave an entire community reason to believe in hope and partnership. In Israel of today, it is nothing short of a miracle.
Today is the first day of September, the first day of school in Israel. Putting aside the years we lived abroad, this is the first time in 13 years that we are not sending our daughters to the Max Rayne “Hand in Hand” bilingual school in Jerusalem.
The process of deciding which school to send one’s child begins at a very early age. As young parents, it was clear to us that we didn’t want anything “special,” and that it would be best to send our girl to the neighborhood preschool, since this was her natural environment and it was important for her to learn about it. At the end of the year, after fundamental disagreements over the need for four year olds to prepare packages for Israeli soldiers and questions on who is authorized to teach them about Jewish holidays, we began looking elsewhere.
There are some schools of thought that argue that schooling and education are far less critical than what we tend to think. Perhaps this is true. Our entire family — not just our daughters — would not be who we are today without the bilingual school.
It is difficult for me to speak nostalgically, since not long has passed since we parted, and because we will remain part of the school’s community. And yet, as I write these words memories come flooding back — moments of overcoming and laughter, as well as pain and frustration. The singing in Hebrew and Arabic — full of hope and light — at the beginning of every school year, the first words they learned to write in both languages, the infamous arson, the hateful graffiti repeatedly spray-painted on the walls, the joint Iftar meal, the tours to destroyed Palestinian villages.
There were also, of course, the astonished/worried/angry responses we received when we signed up our older daughter, including the question that seemed to repeat itself over and over: “What will happen if she marries an Arab when she grows up?” to which I would always answer: “I’ll learn how to make maqluba for Friday night dinners,” and so I did. Others wanted to know whether she and her sister would grow confused over their Jewish identity.
That question seems so baseless now. In their years at the school, my...Read More