Hand in Hand Graduates its First Class of Seniors

The first graduates of Hand in Hand's bilingual, integrated school system received their high school diplomas at a festive ceremony on June 29, 2011.  

The 14 students were the first to complete 12 years of formal education at the high school in Jerusalem. They were part of a school body of 530 students. 

These were the pioneers, many who began in kindergarten 13 years ago and advanced each year as the school grew. The graduation ceremony held at Jerusalem’s YMCA paid tribute to them and their families.  

“Hand in Hand, from its inception, aimed to create an educational framework through the 12th grade," said Principal Raeif Omari. "You, the graduating students, have fulfilled the dream.  The values that you have lived by at the school will help influence generations in the future.”

During the intimate and moving ceremony, students  spoke, performed songs written for the occasion, and recited poetry.  

Graduate Dana Jawad Boulus said that her education at Hand in Hand extended way beyond lessons in the classroom. "It has taught me about acceptance and tolerance," she said, "and I will always carry that with me."

One of the guest speakers at the ceremony was Danny Bar Giora,  director of the Jerusalem Educational Authority. He was was active in the creation of the school, and his children have been students there. He has served as the chairperson of the Jerusalem school’s board and on the Hand in Hand Israeli board.  “Those who have studied at Hand in Hand demonstrate that the world can be different," he said.  "The people of my generation did not grow up with such schools. It is hard for many people my age to understand how Jews and Arabs can attend the same school. But you, the graduates, prove that it is not a dream and that society can improve and change. "
Shuli Dichter, Hand in Hand's executive director in Israel, proclaimed that the graduates and their families had made history not only for themselves but for an entire community. 

“You are the first ones to fulfill a great vision," he said. "As with all parents of first-born children, your parents learned to be parents together by raising you. You received all of the enthusiasm and resources that were available at this beginning, and you were also exposed to all the difficulties that are naturally found in the beginning.

"The vision of Hand in Hand is still developing," Shuli continued,  "and you will have the right to see the changes in the next 10 or 20 years when you will be involved as adults and perhaps even as parents yourselves. We hope to continue to see you in the circle of activists in the future.”

Many of the speakers mentioned the seemingly impossible dream that Hand in Hand cofounders Amin Khalaf and Lee Gordon shared and were able to bring to fulfillment. The official ceremony ended with a farewell to Amin, who left his position as executive director late last year, and who is the proud father of one of this year's graduates. 

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