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Meet Sally and Bar, Two Hand in Hand Alumni

Our network of alumni is an integral part of Hand in Hand’s culture, staying connected through events, holiday festivals, trips, and meet-ups. Alumni programming is a multifaceted platform for graduates to continue taking part in shared society activities and actualizing the values of their education as they embark on their adult lives. Graduates from across the country come together for events like celebratory Iftars, hikes, educational tours, and our flagship program – the Hand in Hand University Student Community (a yearlong dialogue, learning, and social action).

We’re excited to introduce two very special graduates, Sally and Bar, who will be traveling to the United States in May 2024 to hold speaking engagements. Public events will be held around Washington DC, please find the details below.

Meet Sally

Sally Karaja, 24, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Part of one of our earliest cohorts, Sally began at  the Hand in Hand Max Rayne Jerusalem School at the age of 3 and continued through 12th grade. After completing a degree in dentistry from Kharkiv National Medical University in Ukraine, she returned to Israel, where she participated in international programs that connect Palestinians and Israelis in meaningful ways. Sally is an active member of the Hand in Hand alumni network, and is passionate about promoting understanding and bridging divides.

Meet Bar

Bar Itamari, also 24, is a Jewish citizen of Israel. She studied at the Hand in Hand “Gesher” School in Wadi Ara from 2004 to 2010, and has remained active in the Hand in Hand alumni network ever since. Bar is studying neuroscience at the Open University, works as a training manager in a local startup, and devotes a lot of time to dancing.

Even though Sally and Bar went to Hand in Hand schools in very different parts of the country, they had similar experiences at school which have stayed with them throughout their lives. Though Sally and Bar first met in 2024, they felt like they had known each other for years. Here are a few words from both of them, lightly edited for clarity:

How have your lives been shaped by your time at Hand in Hand?

Bar: Because I learned to understand Arabic at Hand in Hand, it’s helped me feel more at home and comfortable in the area I grew up in (with many Arabic speakers). It was tough to go to a different school after my experience at Hand in Hand. I adjusted, and my life went in different directions, but it was always important to me to stay involved. I stayed in touch with my classmates and attended seminars and meetings as much as I could. Hand in Hand takes care of my sanity! When I meet other graduates, I always feel at home with them. We share values, we grew up like this and chose to live like this. It gives me strength especially during these difficult times. This is how life should be, and I really see myself as part of this way of life.

Sally: My parents were conflicted about sending me to Hand in Hand; they are from different areas and had different feelings about integrated education. It was hard for my dad to understand Hand in Hand, but the school always helped us. They welcomed us, and said, we need you and you need us. It’s a place where no matter where you come from, you always have a home. And those are the values that I have today. I wouldn’t be the same person if it wasn’t for Hand in Hand. The school taught me to accept and respect everyone, and that our voices are important.

How has being part of the Hand in Hand alumni network impacted your lives?

Bar: The alumni network makes me feel like I belong. I have a space to share my opinions and be understood, because we have a genuinely unique outlook on life which only people that studied here really understand. We grew up with two perspectives, and it challenges and changes the way we see the conflict in Israel. Even if I have different opinions from someone else here, I can still share all of myself. If I didn’t have the alumni network, perhaps it would have faded out my life, especially since we didn’t have a Hand in Hand high school in my area. But the alumni network keeps me connected.

Sally: Being an alumnus gives me the power to reflect my experiences to others, and to be a bridge. When I came to an alumni event after being abroad for several years, it really felt like I was coming back home. I have the power to effect people in a positive way. We met for Ramadan this year, and even though we were a small group this year, we sat and talked. There were some people sitting in that circle who hadn’t been able to speak since October 7. So being a graduate helps you face all these real-life events, while also having a safe space to share your feelings and still be accepted.

What are your hopes for the trip to the US?

Sally: We’re going to meet people and share our story, telling them why Hand in Hand is important and why the world needs Hand in Hand. I hope that people will understand that I wouldn’t be the same person without Hand in Hand. And we’ll hopefully be able to help raise money for the organization. I couldn’t have studied at Hand in Hand without scholarships that donors across the world contributed to, and now I have the opportunity to help the next generation of Hand in Hand students by helping raise new donations for them.

Bar: We’ll meet donors and people who are interested in Hand in Hand. The process of preparing has been very interesting, because we’re diving into our own personal stories and thinking about how Hand in Hand changed our lives. It’s really amazing to learn that my story is powerful and that it can impact people. My biggest aim for the trip is to bring hope, and bring a bit of light in all this darkness.

What do you see in your future as alumni of Hand in Hand?

Bar: I always feel like I want to do more and be closer to Hand in Hand. I hope this trip will help me understand how I can contribute more. I always liked talking with people who come to visit the school, and I hope this trip will be a chance to make a difference.

Sally:I hope that people will believe that building a community that respects each other and wants to live in peace is important. I’m not living next to Bar, I’m living with Bar. This is important. I want to show that Hand in Hand is much more than a school education. It’s part of our lives forever, and we truly believe in the values we share.

Sally and Bar’s May 2024 public events include:

May 17, 2024 – 5:45 PM

Washington Hebrew Congregation

3935 Macomb Street, NW

Washington, DC

http://www.whctemple.org/…/shabbatwhc-2023-05-26-2023…/

May 18, 2024 – 12:30 PM

Congregation Beth El

8215 Old Georgetown rd

Bethesda, MD

www.bethelmc.org/events/israel-0518/

(rsvp requested at link)

May 19, 2024 – 6:30 PM

JxJ Festival (screening two episodes of “Madrassah”, based on HIH schools)

The Edlavitch DCJCC

1529 Sixteenth Street, NW

Washington, DC

http://www.edcjcc.org/…/the-21-the-lives-of-arab…/

Tickets: www.edcjcc.org/jxj/book-online/230005/

For any questions, please write to Leah at leah@hih.org.il.

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