"I want to study something that will help me make change": Alma, alumna of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School
At Hand in Hand’s annual community gathering, held last month in Ben Shemen Forest, we got the chance to sit down with several members of the community to speak about the role Hand in Hand plays in their lives.
What have you been doing since graduation?
I’m 20, which in Israel is around the age that you either go into the Army or do national service. I chose to do national service, which is like a volunteering position, and I work at a shelter for young women who have been through trauma, usually of a sexual kind, or who have been through a really hard life and are now living in the shelter.
What are your plans for the future, and how has Hand in Hand shaped them?
I think that my decision to do national service, and specifically to work with girls and youth, is really connected to my school experience at Hand in Hand.
My school taught me how our life here, and the reality in Israel, makes a lot of people feel unsafe and unprotected here. And I’m lucky that that’s not the case for me. I’ve felt unsafe and unprotected in various moments, but in general, my life is fine, and I live in a nice house, and I’m Jewish, and everything around me is made for me and I’m living in it and it’s good. But I know that some of my best friends, some of my classmates in Jerusalem live in the same city I live in, they do the same stuff that I do, but they feel unsafe and they feel not protected. And the people who are supposed to protect me—the soldiers, the army, the police officers—they make them feel unsafe. And this is really unjust to me. That’s the kind of reality that my school taught me to open my eyes to. And I know that a lot of people here choose to stay in the blindness, choose to not look those things in the eyes, and choose to just be fine wherever they are. But this is one of the things that we’re supposed to feel as humans. And as civilians in the state of Israel.
I really want to go to University to study [after national service]—maybe here, or maybe abroad. I want to study history or law or something that will help me make a change in Israel.
How do you explain Hand in Hand to people who don’t know what it is, or why it’s important?
First of all, Hand in Hand is my school. The second thing is, it’s an alternative reality. From a really young age, I was taught how to live with people who are different from me, but who are really just the same. In every situation, I always think about all of the perspectives around it, and I think that was something that this school taught me. To think about the people around me, the people who live in the neighborhood beside mine—to see people for who and what they are, and to talk and make dialogue and conversation.
Lots of people think we are naive—that our school is just a bubble. But I think this is the most NOT naive way to live. To live naively and in a bubble is to live in a way that only acknowledges people like ME and people who have my opinion. But our school teaches you to open your eyes to people who are outside of your bubble. To learn to speak about really NOT naive things. Who else in the 7th grade was already talking about the war in Gaza? I know that my friends who went to Jewish school didn’t talk about these things. It’s not a naive thing to do. I think people try and call us naive because it threatens them to see that we succeed—we live together, we talk, we make friends. It’s a defense mechanism. I think that people are used to living in fear in Israel. It’s what they’re used to. And wherever people live in hope rather than fear, it’s a threat to them.