Motaz Ershied, Graduate

Interview with MOTAZ ERSHIED, member of Hand in Hand's 2012 graduating class.

Name: Motaz Ershied
In Hebrew: מועתז ארשיד
In Arabic: معتز ارشيد

shown with his Christian best friend Majd (center) and Jewish best friend Jamie (right)

Age: Recently I had my 18th birthday.

What grade were you in when you started at the Hand in Hand school?
I started studying at Hand in Hand when I was 6 years old—that means since the first grade. Twelve years ago.

Do you have brothers and sisters?
I have one sister. She will be 16 years old this October, and she is a student at the Hand in Hand school, going into 11th grade next year.

What part of Jerusalem do you live in, and what's it like?
I live in a Jewish neighborhood. It is called the French Hill, where the Hebrew university is located. The majority of my neighbors are Israeli Jews, but some of my neighbors are Arabs like me. Jewish-Arab relations are kind of quiet, because it is known that this neighborhood is quiet. But like every other place, we have faced some race problems, starting from police in the neighborhood who pick on young Arab guys to teenagers who scream racist phrases.

How do you feel about graduating?
I was very excited before my graduation. It’s unique and special to graduate with students you studied with for 12 years. They are no longer your classmates; they are practically your second family. The bond that has been made this last 12 years between my classmates and I is unbreakable and unshakeable, and there are no other people I would prefer to graduate with than my Hand in Hand classmates.

What has being a Hand in Hand student meant to you?
I was very proud to be a Hand in Hand student. This school opens your mind to so many views. You get to learn and understand the other side. Nowadays if I meet a person in the street, I refuse to judge him before knowing his story. My mind is fully open to any opinion of any person. I may not agree with it, but I'll argue with his opinion is a respectful way, without screaming or shouting and acting in a repulsive way.

Was the school strange or unfamiliar at first?
Well, I was so young, and I didn't understood completely how big of a deal this school was. But as the years went by, we joined our parents in fighting for this school until we graduated. And still, we will fight for the younger classes.

Do you feel that you have been prepared in the same way as your friends who did NOT study at Hand in Hand for life post-graduation?
I feel that I have been prepared for life post-graduation even better than my friends who studied at a different school. Because in Israel, open minds are rare, but this year, 19 open- minded teenagers graduated with excellent Israeli test grades. So I think that we have an advantage over other high school students in Israel. Our minds are open to hear the other opinion, the other side of the conflict. We have developed tolerance and patience, two qualities that are lacking throughout Israel.

What were your favorite subjects and/or activities in high school?
My favorite subject was physics. It’s a little bit nerdy, but it was fascinating to explain natural phenomena by math. It may be a hard subject, but it was very interesting.

What are your plans for this summer and beyond?
This summer I'm resting, then taking a year off while my Jewish friends go to the army for 3 years. In my year off, I'm planning a lot. Maybe not every thing will come true, but here are my plans: In September I'm going to volunteer in a hospital, to help cancer kids from Gaza, to teach them a bit of school material and just be there for them. Then I'll study for the Israeli college entrance exams. And maybe I'll go abroad to study a foreign language.

In 2013, I'm planning to study law and business management at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem or at Tel-Aviv University.

What is your proudest accomplishment as a high school student?
My proudest accomplishment is not high grades or being popular. I'm proud of the friendships I earned and made; I'm proud of the fact that one day, I'll be remembered as one of the graduates that studied 12 years with the "dark side." ☺

I'm proud I was able to put a 60-years-old conflict aside in order to be human and understanding. And that is the greatness of this school.

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