September 1st, 2016
Samia and Lihi are both mothers in the Haifa Preschool with sons who started 1st grade today. This first grade is the first of its kind in Haifa and will grow into a full elementary school in the years to come. But the road to this day was long, below Samia and Lihi share more about it:
Samia Naffar Abu Raya
"I started the Hand in Hand preschool in Haifa with three other families. I was looking for the best education for my son, so when I met other families who also wanted a shared preschool, I knew we had to do something. We connected with Hand in Hand, recruited 12 families to join us, and we started the gan.
When we talked about opening the first grade, I didn’t believe that it would happen. We worked for years to make it happen and after we got the approval and the papers were signed, all I could do was sit down on my couch and not move. I was shocked, but mostly I was relived. Relieved that we didn’t miss this generation, that my son Arz and his friends will be able to grow up together.
For us, the people who believed and have been working for this for 5 years, there is so much excitement today. We are getting to do something for our city and for our children. It’s hard to believe it’s really happening. But it is. Arz doesn't have to separate from his Jewish friends; we don’t have to tear apart their natural and deep connections. And it makes me realize that our insistence on this school and our unwillingness to give up was all worth it. We learned that if you really believe and work for something - it is possible.
This day is a dream come true. From the day he was born, I knew that figuring out how and where to education Arz would be a challenge. It was really really hard, but I knew I needed to act. We will raise a generation that will know that anything is possible, they will know that there are no boundaries to what they can achieve together.
But this is just the beginning. We don’t want our kids to separate after 1st, 6th, or 9th grade, we want it to go up to 12th, until the end of high school."
"When I moved to Haifa I was sure that the schools here were mixed - I was shocked to find out that they weren’t. I started Or in a regular preschool, but it wasn’t a good place for him, I'm so lucky that I found Hand in Hand.
This past year was a amazing for both of us, we both blossomed and flourished. Or went through some hard things the year before, and Hand in Hand was such a nourishing space for him. The staff care for the kids so deeply - they are so sensitive to his needs, and see him as a person. When Or started here I saw him light up, he was excited to go to school in the morning.
Hand in Hand became an instant community for me as well. I found people who were in the same mindset as me. People who believe that we should educate our kids to be human beings, who beileve in equality for all people, and have faith in our fellow man. It's important to me that I am surrounded by people who believe that there is space for everybody, with our similarities and our differences.
It’s a privelege to be a part of it, it is exciting, moving, and overwhelming to be a part of this historic day for the city of Haifa.