In the News

New Jersey Jewish News
May 14, 2009
Jewish and Arab School Friends Just Get Along
By ELAINE DURBACH

These two Israeli teenagers might have seen each other as enemies: one the grandson of a Jew who was president of his Reform temple in New Jersey, the other the grandson of a Christian Arab woman who fled her home during Israel’s War of Independence.

Instead, Jamie Einstein Bregman, 15, and Basel Eid, 16, are school friends at the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Jerusalem. They came to the United States to raise funds for their school and to provide a glimpse of the harmony Israelis can achieve.
Just hours after arriving on May 8, they met with New Jersey Jewish News at the Westfield home of Jamie’s aunt and uncle, Laurie and Bob Saunders. They were accompanied by Maura Milles, director of the New York Office of American Friends of Hand in Hand, and Lee Jordan, the American who cofounded Hand in Hand in 1997 with an Arab Israeli, Amin Khalaf.
That evening, the boys spoke at the Music Shabbat service at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, where Jamie’s grandparents, Nancy and David Bregman are members.

Since its founding, the organization has grown from two schools to four — in Jerusalem, the Galilee, Kfar Kara, and Beersheva — and 1,000 students and has won awards for its academic excellence.

“We’re one big happy family,” Jamie said, with a hint of a grin.

That doesn’t mean it has all been harmonious. There are no Jewish students in Basel’s class; he said they all pulled out. “Some of their parents didn’t like their children to hear about the right history,” he said. But on the whole, there has been little opposition.

Hand in Hand’s goal, the boys said, isn’t to make everyone love one another or share views. “We learn to listen, and to accept each other,” Basel said.

“We can talk about everything, even if we disagree with each other,” Jamie said. “I really don’t care who people are. We’re all equal. Jewish Israelis need to know Arabs aren’t our enemies, and they aren’t all suicide bombers or construction workers.”
 

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