Throughout Israel, few opportunities exist for meaningful interaction between Jews and Arabs. 

Dana is Jewish and lives in the German Colony, a few miles away. Waard is Muslim and lives in the nearby neighborhood of Beit Tzaffafa. Best friends since the first grade, they tell JTA that they were talking about Wednesday's upcoming school ceremony to mark Remembrance Day and Independence Day.

"It'll be Wednesday for both of us, but it doesn't mean the same thing to us," Dana explains. "One of my great-grandparents died in the War of Independence. And he was fighting people that Waard's great-grandparents probably knew. Maybe he killed some of them. And on Independence Day, I'll be happy because there's a Jewish state."

"And I'll be sad because of the Nakba," Waard says, using the Arabic word for "catastrophe" to refer to the military loss and displacement that resulted from Israel's War of Independence in 1948.

"We're really OK with this," Dana says. "We're friends and it's chill." 

"You don't have to think the same to be friends," Waard adds

"Pedagogically and ideologically, this is a difficult time," Kinani says. "But in truth, we prepare for these days all year in everything we do -- with our vision of equality and understanding, by teaching our children to ask questions, with our pedagogical methods, and by emphasizing that we can deal with differences in a respectful, nonjudgmental and nonviolent way."

Suha, an Arab-Israeli lawyer and mother of a sixth-grader, who preferred to give only her first name, sees the impact that joint programming can have. As a child, she says, “I was resentful of how the Jews seemed to always justify everything they do because of the Holocaust. Because my son goes to school here, I understand much more now. I don't always agree with the politics, but I understand and deeply respect the pain."

This is why, she explains, the Hand in Hand schools have devised the separate and then communal ceremonies that Dana and Waard describe. "We are not avoiding the differences. We are teaching our students to acknowledge and respect them," Kinani says. 

Kinani concludes, "Some people accuse us of living in a bubble. But I think that the rest of the world is in a bubble and we are living reality, because reality is that Jews and Arabs cannot avoid our differences and we cannot continue to avoid each other."

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